Transparency: Not a Moderate Principle

Personally, I think the WikiLeaks furor should be sufficient evidence that unfettered transparency is not a moderate good. While transparency has often been equated with “good government,” that presumption usually comes from the left.

To an extent, the liberals have a point. If every legislative meeting were held in secret and every decision reached without public debate, how could we maintain a representative government? The lead up to the Iraq War, when only hand-picked intelligence was made public and many of those with access to more failed to investigate properly, serves as a cautionary tale. On the other hand, sometimes real compromise and progress can only be reached when those involved (temporarily) step outside the glare of the media, close the door, and work through complicated issues in a quieter setting. I think this is why Supreme Court deliberations are largely kept outside of public access between oral arguments and decision announcements. Their initial vote on each case occurs in a closed room with only the nine justices present, an excellent example of this need for private deliberation.

I was reminded of all this by a Time article (featured on Yahoo! News) about the latest Senate “Gang of Six” (why do we use this label for groups of U.S. Senators?). They’re working on a real deficit deal and working in secret. Joe Klein (I think rightly) suggests that this is a good sign of their seriousness. None of them is serving on the president’s joint panel, which I’d say is also a good sign that they’re trying to maintain a separate space in which real deliberations can take place free of the latest political wind until a responsible compromise is forged. Sometimes, less transparency in the short run can be a good thing.

One Response to Transparency: Not a Moderate Principle
  1. kaahl
    August 3, 2011 | 4:32 am

    “Gang of Four” is a term from the Cultural Revolution in China, though I am sure you know that. On the bright side, the people that came into power next sentenced many of that “Gang of Four” to death. What’s past is prologue?