Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The New Transparency of Government

During the presidential campaign of 2008, Barack Obama promised a new era of transparency in government. He said that bills would be debated in the open, even on CSPAN. Everyone would have their due input and the public would be able to witness the process from beginning to end. Well, it hasn't exactly gone down that way, but thanks to ever progressing communication and information technology, the motives and character of our elected officials has never been more transparent.

2009 was the year of the crisis. Every major piece of legislation was an emergency. So much so that they had to be written behind closed doors by a handful of chosen legislators and policy makers. When they were finally released, there was no time for debate, or even for most members of Congress to read the bills before voting on them. Stimulus, bail outs, climate change and health care were all deemed way too important to be subjected to the whims of the common citizen.

This approach may have worked in the past. There was a time, not so long ago, when there were only three major television networks. Each had a half hour of national news per night, airing at roughly the same time. The average American was provided perhaps ten minutes of information per day on what was happening in Washington D.C.. Today, you can literally keep tabs on our elected officials 24/7. Deals might be made in private, but the fact that the deal making is happening is as plain as day. Whether its scientists fudging data to promote their pre-conceived conclusions or Congress members getting huge paydays for their states in exchange for their votes, the public is fully aware and tuned in and none too happy about it.

Big government proponents are embarking on a power grab agenda. The plan was to rush everything through so that, by the time Joe Six Pack realized what was happening, the deals would be done, the game would be changed, and eventually we'd all get used to the idea that the government is going to tell us what to do and when and how to do it. The problem they're having is that tactics that worked even 3 or 4 years ago, no longer work today. Releasing an important piece of news on Friday evening no longer means it wont garner major scrutiny. You can't just make ridiculous statements like the center of the Earth is "millions of degrees" or the polar ice cap is going to "disappear within 7 years" and not expect people to take 5 minutes on Google to check your facts. You can't just tell people "Relax, we know what we're doing" and hope we don't ask for details. Technology has made it possible for government to disseminate information to almost everyone in real time, and we want to know exactly what they're up to.

Despite their best efforts, our government is becoming more and more transparent. They are currently promoting government by the state, of the state and for the state. This aggression will not stand. George Orwell had it backwards. Big Brother, we're watching you.

No comments: