Transparency isn’t what keeps government from working

in the Washington Post: “In 2014, a number of big thinkers made the surprising claim that government openness and transparency are to blame for today’s gridlock. They have it backward: Not only is there no relationship between openness and dysfunction, but more secrecy can only add to that dysfunction.

As transparency advocates, we never take openness for granted. The latest example of the dangers of secrecy was the “cromnibus” bill, with its surprise lifting of campaign finance limits for political parties to an astonishing $3 million per couple per cycle, and its suddenly revealed watering down of Dodd-Frank’s derivatives safeguards. And in parallel to the controversy over the release of the CIA’s torture report, that agency proposed to delete e-mail from nearly all employees and contractors, destroying potential documentary evidence of wrongdoing. Openness doesn’t happen without a struggle…..

Academics, such as Francis Fuku­yama, make the case that politicians need privacy and discretion — back-door channels — to get the business of government done. “The obvious solution to this problem would be to roll back some of the would-be democratizing reforms, but no one dares suggest that what the country needs is a bit less participation and transparency,” writes Fukuyama in his newest book. At a time when voter participation is as low as during World War II, it seems strange to call for less participation and democracy. And more secrecy in Congress isn’t going to suddenly create dealmaking. The 2011 congressional “supercommittee” tasked with developing a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction deal operated almost entirely in secret. The problem wasn’t transparency or openness. Instead, as the committee’s Republican co-chairman, Jeb Hensarling, stated, the real problem was “two dramatically competing visions of the role [of] government.” These are the real issues, not openness….
We are not transparency absolutists. Not everything government and Congress do should occur in a fishbowl; that said, there is already plenty of room today for private deliberations. The problem isn’t transparency. It is that the political landscape punishes those who try to work together. And if various accountability measures create procedural challenges, let’s fix them. When it comes to holding government accountable, it is in the nation’s best interest to allow the media, nonprofit groups and the public full access to decision-making.”