Makemake is about a fifth as bright as Pluto. However, despite its comparative brightness, it was not discovered until well after a number of much fainter KBOs had been detected. Most of the scientific hunts for minor planets are conducted relatively close to the region of the sky that the Sun, Earth's Moon, and planets appear to lie in (the ecliptic). This is because there is a much greater likelihood of discovering objects there. Makemake is thought to have evaded detection during earlier searches because of its relatively high orbital inclination, as well as the fact that it was at its greatest distance from the ecliptic at the time of its discovery--in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices.
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Second, there is the issue of sharing wealth. The Third World wants to redistribute wealth in its favor, and it pursues this end by a combination of moral persuasion and threats of terrorism using weapons of mass destruction. A frontier could make such threats less persuasive. The Third World reaction to a space frontier initiative is unpredictable and possibly violent. This makes pioneering a taboo for Western governments. And that's why they would keep it secret.