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Transparency and Accountability in Government

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We deserve a transparent government made and ran for the people, by the people and with the people.

Many people, companies, and politicians would like to have policies in place that force their colleagues to be transparent. This transparency would bring accountability to every sector of the government in question.Transparency in government is a goal that even the “elites” would like to reach. Julian Assange was quoted to say “I mean there’s enormous pressures to harmonize freedom of speech legislation and transparency legislation around the world – within the E.U., between China and the United States. Which way is it going to go? It’s hard to see.” I believe Mr. Assange was stating that we need more transparency yet even though countries have said that they would promise to be more transparent, it has not been put into practice.

In a democratic or a socialist nation-state a mere thought or hint at government, transparency sparks the public’s trust and theories on accountability. In Lauren Ann Pacek’s scholarly article, Transparency in Government: Public Information Requests, she states “There seems to be an innate entanglement between governmental transparency and legal accountability. Transparency is valuable to democratic government in that it allows the citizens to hold their government accountable.” I believe this to be ever true in this murky world.

The thought of transparency goes much further than just accountability; it strides as far as a simple trust for the government and associated organizations. Lauren Ann Pacek goes on to quote Senator John Cornyn “I believe that we have to recognize that achieving the actual consent of the governed requires something more than just holding elections. What America needs is informed consent. And informed consent is impossible without both a free, responsible press and an open and accessible government.” (Cornyn, 2005). This excellent example of how governments and that some persons involved do want to strive for a more transparent government but, they can not, due to government regulations and laws.

“Accountability has long been both a key objective and key problem for the constitutional law analysis of the British state” said Colin Scott (Journal of Law and Society Volume 27, Number 1, March 2000 ISSN: 0263–323X, pp. 38–60 Accountability in the Regulatory State). I believe Mr. Collin Scott meant was that the responsibility in the British Parliament and the government was not there. That they could virtually do what they pleased, and no one would know. Accountability in government means more than just the citizens of a particular nation will be able to hold what their governments do against their leaders; it opens the possibility to the people of the world to look into a government’s working and pick apart what is wrong with it. We need to be able to do this to stop or slow down corruption and scandals. The openness and transparency we deserve would leave no possibility for the government or our elected officials to lie, cheat, rig elections, or do things and write a policy that does not help the people of that nation or the world. In Anne-Marie Slaughter’s work “The Accountability of Government Networks.” (Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, 2001, pp. 347–367.) She states “By 2000, public doubts and suspicion about the activities of at least certain international organizations had increased sharply, often due precisely to the perception that elite train governmental interactions were taking place within them”. People want accountability, the people of most any nation want to know what is happening behind closed doors. They would also like to know what is in laws and, more importantly, who is putting these clauses in the laws. This is among the pinnacles of government transparency– the law.

A way that governments in the western world make their policies laws and regulations more opaque and confusing is through master wordsmithing, done by professional legislators and lawyers. The government makes laws and statues so complicated and lengthy that an individual would need to receive their Julius Doctorate and have countless hours to be able to comprehend and understand the laws, policies, regulations or statutes that are up for approval. “We Canadians are bound by law, of course. And we should understand that law. And we should be able to read it and understand it. And it should be in a lot more plain English so we can understand it.” – Ian Waddell, former New Democratic Party Member of Parliament. The citizens from around the modern western world have been trying to pass laws since the early 1970s but, to little avail. In 2010 President Barack Obama (USA) had enacted the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PUBLIC LAW 111–274—OCT. 13, 2010–124 STAT. 2861) declaring that every federal law that was passed would have to be compiled and shortened for public viewing. In the new law, it is written: “To enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing that Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly.” This statement shows that the country is moving in the right direction to more transparency, even though it is not clear on what is evident and shortened. In Dorney, Jacqueline M. “ERIC/RCS Report: The Plain English Movement.” (The English Journal, vol. 77, no. 3, 1988, pp. 49–51) Dorney Jacqueline states, “The current plain English movement is affecting many areas of our society. It favors the interests of the reader and consumer over the private or organizational interests of the writer.” Jacqueline’s statement shows that people do care about this. It makes the laws that we have to abide by more transparent and easier to follow. Dorney Jacqueline Explains this very well in his work ERIC/RCS Report: The Plain English Movement. He goes on to explain how this movement had started with the Nixon Administration. Dorney quoted President Richard Nixon saying (1972) “The Federal Register be written in “Layman’s terms.” I believe that a leader would want the laws pushed through the legislative branch to be in plain English so they can gain public trust easier.

It is easy to say we need to have a more transparent government, and it is easy for political leaders to say we need to be more open and clear. The part that the parties seem to have an issue with is going through with what they say. The transparency in certain countries in the western world (Canada and the United States of America) is well done and has a structured system in place. Then you have the EU, which has stated that they would be more transparent and are currently (2016) drafting mandatory transparency laws. The European Commission issued a press release, and in that press release, it stated: “The European Commission is proposing a mandatory Transparency Register, based on a new Interinstitutional Agreement covering all three EU institutions – the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.” This statement shows that there is real hope for more transparency in Europe, even if most people believe that it will not go through.

After all of this, there is one point that is certain, even if a government promises “mandatory transparency” it will still be shrouded in secrecy. The dealings, laws, and conversations that happen between nations or politicians will still be secret and opaque. All we can do as citizens is be aware of this. We can try our best to elect leaders that will dissolve the paths to secrecy that are currently in place. Ivan Krastev was famously quoted saying, “Transparency is not about restoring trust in institutions. Transparency is the politics of managing mistrust.”

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ryanparada View All

Ryan M. Parada
Student/Investor/Writer
Ryan.Parada@Rutgers.edu
The Rutgers Honors College
Concentration in Political Science, Philosophy and Homeland Security

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