Saturday, September 11, 2010

ProPublica: Government Spent $196 Keeping Secrets for Every $1 Spent Declassifying Information

Marian Wang at Propublica publishes excellent investigative reports.
http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/watchdogs-govt-spent-196-maintaining-secrets-for-every-1-spent-declassifyin

This issue of non-necessary classification of government data is not new. Several years back I taught a class on transparency

We read the following 2 books:

Gup, T. (2007). Nation of Secrets. New York: Doubleday.
Florini, A. (2007). The Right to Know: Transparency for an Open World. New York: Columbia University Press.

Both books argued that classification has taken on a life of its own and that all manner of documents and reports are classified for no reason at all.

The culture of classification is fundamentally antithetical to democracy.

It prevents an informed public AND it breeds conspiracy theories, which function to de-legitimize government.

HOWEVER, the real lack of transparency that exists in our society concerns CORPORATE actions and conduct. Corporate financials are supposed to be transparent if they are publicly traded; however, history has demonstrated how fraudulent so many corporate financial statements are
.

More generally, corporations are fundamentally NOT transparent since they are not required to respond to freedom of information requests about their product contents, environmental records, or workplace safety posed by the public. These types of data are supposed to be reported to the government but the public has no direct access.

A discussion of corporate transparency can be found here:
http://pac.org/ethics/a-guide-to-corporate-transparency

I have created a transparency guide that I'm trying to figure out how to post as an attachment. Look for it!

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