Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Times They are A Changin'

As you may recall, one of Obama's central themes throughout the election was about transparency in Government - the notion that the people have a fundamental right to watch their leaders at work. This is more than happy talk and far more than a "nice to have" - meetings that are conducted in secret, committees made up of secret members, late night undercover negotiations, all of these things make it far easier for an administration to put in place policies that benefit the few rather than the many. There was a polic reason why Dick Cheney wanted his energy task force to remain secret - why he even went as far as the Supreme Court to avoid even listing the names that made up this group - and that reason was that they wanted the option of pursuing policies that would benefit a narrow group of oil executives rather than the wider collective of the public.

Now, there will often be cases where our policy discussion requires us to weigh conflicting costs and benefits to teh population at large - for instance, weighing the benefits of job growth from a new factory opening with the cost of its pollution. But it's important that our public discussion be kept at that level: what will achieve the maximum good for the most people. Genuine transparency and openness, combined iwth an informed and active electorate is one way that we can help ensure our politicians have their priorities in order.

All of which is by way of saying that I hope the Obama Administration will continue to You Tube it's meetings - and I further hope that they will make full meeting transcripts available as much as is reasonably possible.

And by the way, cynically, this isn't just a way of keeping the politicians honest - it also goes for the corporate interests and lobbyists. If they want to argue that their commercial interests outweigh the needs of the rest of us, let them do it openly for all to hear. If they want to argue against environmental protections, let them put that on the recortd - not whispering in their Senator's ear about rolling back clean air legislation then running a commercial about their commitment to clean energy. Bring on the change, I say!

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