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Posts Tagged ‘Openness’

Back when victory in the Cold War was still a gleam in Ronald Reagan’s eye, analysts had some fixed ideas about why the conflict endured, and why it would be nearly impossible to end. One idea was the arms race, along with the fear and distrust those large arsenals caused. Another idea was the continued occupation of Eastern Europe, which the West saw as the original cause of the conflict. A third idea was that when two great powers face each other like that, neither one will back down.

Ronald Reagan offered an explanation of his own, one that showed his understanding of the way people and groups interact when they fight. He said that we could never trust the Soviet Union while they maintained a closed society. How can we have confidence in what they say, he asked, if they do almost everything in secret? Reagan pointed out that was true not only for the Soviets’ international behavior – the government kept almost everything secret from its own citizens as well.

Not so long after Reagan’s observation, glasnost – openness – became the leading edge of Mikhail Gorbachev’s initiatives for change. He apparently agreed with Reagan: no one would trust the Soviet regime without openness on its part. No adversaries within or without the Soviet Union could make peace with its leaders unless the leaders could create some degree of trust. Trust begets good will; good will begets peace. Distrust fosters conflict because it’s the deepest form of alienation.

I wanted to record these thoughts because our government has become more and more like the Soviet government in matters of secrecy. Governments, including our own, have always guarded information carefully for various reasons. Our government, however, has moved strongly away from openness and toward secrecy during the last decade. The evidence for this change is everywhere, most recently in the government’s atrocious war on whistleblowers.

This move toward secrecy is 9/11’s clearest effect. 9/11 destroyed our democracy – it did so by making our government a closed organization. As a result government has alienated citizens from itself. Alienation always results in conflict, and that is just what we find in the relationiship between citizens and government in our country. We cannot trust our government when most of its acts occur in secret, when it lies to cover its crimes, and when it acts in multiple ways to conceal its motives. Secret organizations with power cannot coexist in peace with other groups. They must be at war.

The Cold War ended, and this war between our government and the rest of the country can end, too. It can only end with openness on the government’s part.

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So a few of us – namely Paulie, George Donnelly, Mike Seebeck, and myself, along with a few others who have expressed an interest, have been talking a lot about forming an LP Transparency Caucus.  At this point, we’re sure that we’re moving forward with this, so we thought it a good time to start soliciting thoughts and ideas from the community at large instead of just talking amongst ourselves.  We’ve got the internet site stuff set up, and just needs some design/content/etc – anyone interested in helping out, please let us know.

Here’s what we’re thinking so far: The LP Transparency Caucus is completely non-partisan in terms of reformers, radicals, etc.  All we do is try to bring greater openness to the LP.  This includes everything from the LNC (we plan to push for live video from every LNC meeting from now on) to bylaws and platform committees, etc.  We will be putting out reports or pushing to have reports put out in as timely a manner as possible.  We want as much information as feasible to be available to the entirety of the LP membership without in any way compromising the goals of the LP.  Certain things are supposed to be public – and we’ll always be lobbying to make sure they are.

Beyond that, we’ll be sending candidates for internal positions such as the LNC and various committees surveys.  We will publish the results of these surveys, as well as endorse the best candidates.  Once elected, we will help to ensure that these candidates comply with the campaign promises made in terms of transparency and a culture of openness within the given committee.  We believe that this will foster such a culture by encouraging candidates to take up pro-transparency positions as well as stick to them once in office.

So have at it – what other ideas and suggestions do you folks have?  What else can be done?  Keep in mind that bonus points are awarded for doers, not for talkers.  Over the coming months and years, we’ll be putting our boots on the ground to try and achieve the goals we’re working on here.  If you want to help by doing stuff, don’t hesitate to say so!  All are welcome, and we hope you’ll find this idea worthwhile.

Thanks, Matt

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