Secrecy is a Problem, but Information is a Solution


            Marble Falls       Let’s face it.  The wannabe autocrats and corporations have real problems with transparency.  It all seems like a case of “methinks they protest too much.”  What exactly do they have to hide and why?

Take corporations and disclosures about greenhouse gas emissions, for example.  The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed a new rule that would require companies to report on these emissions.  This is not radical stuff.  The European Union and the United Kingdom already require such reporting.  Companies and their conservative lackeys whine and carry on about such mandates as burdensome, unfunded, and a pain in the south side, but researchers have found such reporting is fundamental since “reliable measurement of GHC emissions is the foundation of any meaningful policy to restrict emissions.”  I kind of think we have the answer to the corporate complaint right there in that one sentence:  reporting is the key to restrictions.  These big boys are drowning in data, so reporting is really a strawman.  Reducing emissions to deal with climate change, well, that’s another manner.  That costs money and requires a change in behavior.

Closer to home, we have the recent absurdity of Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempting to cut the longstanding state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  She tacked this last second maneuver onto a call for a special session.  She masked her real interest, claiming she was worried about the security for her family, as if constant guards by the state police at the capitol and the governor’s mansion that exceed anything any other Arkansan might dream of weren’t enough.  Despite having been former President Trump’s early communications director, she ended up revealing her real interest despite her training.  As many will remember, she was a press secretary who largely didn’t call press conferences and could hardly abide the press.  Her real aim, she admitted, to simply block Arkansas residents from access any information, saying “They want to waste taxpayer dollars [and] slow down our bold conservative agenda….”  Her solution to this so-called problem was hoping to block access by the public to the release of records related to policymaking and discussions of legal strategy.  Even the publisher of the state’s very conservative newspaper, The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, was clear that Sanders’ proposal had “nothing to do with protecting human lives and everything to do with protecting state government from public scrutiny.”  In scarlet red Arkansas, this was all a bridge too far, with the Republican Party also dissing the security claim and the legislature amending the cloak-and-dagger desires of the governor out of the bill in a piece of rare resistance.

We see this everywhere.  We’ve sued the State of Montana to gain access to the list of registered voters, which despite their very good FOIA law, we’re now facing an appeal to the state’s supreme court in order to lower the price and make it accessible.  They aren’t alone of course, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Arizona, and others jack the costs up to the moon, all in defiance of the National Voter Registration Act.  Globally, all of this is still child’s play next to the maze required to utilize the access laws in India under the current Prime Minister Modi.  Such secrecy and lack of transparency is in fact a foundational requirement for crony capitalism and corruption all over the world.

If you have nothing to hide, why not let everyone be the judge of that, when it is valuable information for the public and investors.  In the modern world, information is critical for good decisions, even if there are some who want to run the world for only their ideology or profit.