Maybe don’t let the ‘sunshine in’

Today, David Brooks’ column is not particularly memorable, as his often are. He is asking why we no longer trust the ‘elites’ in our culture. It’s a good question. And he offers a few good reasons (although the column overall is pretty thin).

I was surprised to see him address something I’ve thought for some time. Whenver I’ve tried to articulate it in front of others, I’m nearly shunned. Here’s what he says:

Fifth, society is too transparent. Since Watergate, we have tried to make government as open as possible. But as William Galston of the Brookings Institution jokes, government should sometimes be shrouded for the same reason that middle-aged people should be clothed. This isn’t Galston’s point, but I’d observe that the more government has become transparent, the less people are inclined to trust it.

I would add I think transparency is a disincentive to problem solving. Posturing becomes more important than exploring real solutions.

Here where I live, an out of town partisan brought a lawsuit against the City Council for breaking Florida’s ‘sunshine laws’. They apparently had emailed each other from personal computers and personal email addresses, the very act of which broke the law. After spending nearly a million dollars to defend the suit, and huge chunks of lost time by City staff, the litigant lost his lawsuit..

And so did the weary embattled City. These laws are overly broad and can impede progress. Brooks is right.

4 responses to “Maybe don’t let the ‘sunshine in’

  1. You know, these things are expressed so beautifully in Yes, Minister and The Wire. One satirical, one realistic. It’s not a question of moral, but the neutral dynamics of politics.

    One silly example; should a president create panic with dire honesty, or prevent chaos with fake reassurance. Which might determine the outcome of things.

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  2. Talk and politics,
    If the public trusts a president, then I feel that it should be within his or her arena of powers to make that decision on a situational basis. If, like Bush, the cover up is not for public good…
    And of course, Moe, you know how I feel about the elite. A person can do great harm or great good with power. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

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  3. I’ve served on a few boards – non profits, not businesses. And no matter how honest our dealings, there were always people who were sure we were ‘cooking up’ something, although I never could figure out exactly what. When those people did attend our meetings – because they’re always open if someone wants to come – they do the same thing. They accused us of, again, very unspecified things.

    I think it ends up a damned if you do/damned if you don’t thing. And you get a LOT more done in closed meetings.

    Someone said (Brooks?) that when abuses occur, instead of changing the way the rest of us do things, we should go after and punish the abusers. Makes sense to me.

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