It seems to me, when government works in the dark, someone is going to stub his toe. The US government more and more hides even it’s most mundane workings from the public. There are obviously grievous examples such as not showing congress what was in the Affordable Care Act, (Obama care) until they voted on it, when Nancy Pellosi famously said, “You have to pass it to see what’s in it.” There are alarming examples like the new Internet regulations that were secret, and concerning ones too, the National Atmospheric Administration hiding it’s correspondence from Congress and by default the public. Unfortunately secrecy has become the norm. Budgets are passed in the dark of night, news dumps Friday afternoon, blatant ignoring Freedom of Information suits and so forth. The workings of government are now almost entirely hidden, which poses a very real risk for our liberty, prosperity and even sovereignty.
Open government is a prerequisite of democracy. Our democratic republic looses it’s democratic function when government treaties, regulations and laws, let alone how they came to be, are hidden from the public. How can people intelligently vote for a candidate if his or her communications, negotiations and even votes are not recorded and available? Imagine working for a company that isn’t allowed to monitor your actions while at work. How can a person decide if government is working for the people or the elite if regulations are not published? Like The recent Pacific trade agreement, negotiated in the dark of night, and now that a draft has been leaked to the public we find that most of it is not about trade. Without knowledge, knowledge that open government provides, people simply cannot judge government, and therefore cannot vote logically.
When government works behind a veil bureaucrats become corrupt. This not only applies to bureaucrats but especially politicians and lobbyists. Think about it for a moment, if your employer was barred from judging your work, talking to you while at work or even monitoring your comings and goings, how long before you started taking advantage? At first you might make personal phone calls, later possibly pad your pay, then you might not even show up but put in for the time…. like many people actually do in government. Stories of Hack jobs for half witted brother in laws are rampant. Hack jobs that pay huge salaries. All made possible by the veil of secrecy.
Darkness undermines accountability. How can a politician, bureaucrat or judge be held accountable for their actions if no one is allowed to see those actions? As I explained above, corruption flows from secrecy in government, the reason is that accountability is lost. All the scandals that government and it’s officials have become embroiled in are all due to their being aired. Had no one heard about the House Banking Scandal, it would still be going on, if Fast and Furious hadn’t been discovered by the murder of Brian Terry, who had been killed by one of those guns, the number of scandals we see are dwarfed by the number that still go on, only because no one can see them.
Your liberty is threatened when government covers itself in darkness. Corrupt officials, lack of accountability and democratic institutions corroded all lead to the loss of liberty. Even as the machinations of government become ever more hidden, government requires every detail of your personal life be open to their ever staring eye. Government officials will say, “If you have nothing to hide why be afraid of government monitoring?” They make the claim they need to monitor our emails in the name of security, so I have to wonder, how is it that government knowing my pork pie recipe effects national security? When one watches another, and punishes them, especially arbitrarily, the watched is the slave and the watcher is the master… Liberty is lost.
If openness applies to us, how much more to a government that is supposed to work for us, but of course government no longer works for us, we work for it. We have to self report our income, they monitor our comings and goings, they keep tabs on every aspect of our lives, while at the same time hide even the most mundane of their own actions. There is only one place such a system can lead, to corrupt, tyrannical and unaccountable government, that works for the elite at the expense of the people. The polar opposite of a democratic republic. Indeed someone does stub their toe… you and I.