|Frontispiece to Hobbes' Leviathan /|
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
|John Locke / Wikimedia Commons|
[It should be noted that the typical American use of "liberal" and "conservative" is really a misnomer - liberal, as we use it, typically refers to progressive liberals, while conservative refers to conservative liberals, the key difference being that progressive liberals insist that political institutions may be used to correct immoral, inefficient, or ineconomic characteristics of society and economy while conservative liberals distrust political engineering of society and economy and prefer political institutions to reflect the naturally evolving qualities of thereof, what we might call "tradition."]
In order to achieve this liberals insist on the adoption of institutions of competition-within-rules - what we might call bounded competition. Socially this includes freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of conscience. Economically this generally means some form of capitalism - free competition of consumers, free competition of employers, and free competition of markets. Politically, of course, this refers to variant forms of democracy, usually today democratic-republicanism of either the presidential or parliamentary forms.
Competition with rules. Liberal politics are the politics of a game - a point which makes it hardly surprising that the liberal world is obsessed with sports and games to a degree that no other civilization has approached. In every sphere liberal polities, economies, and societies allow individuals to make many, many discrete decisions that then affect political, economic, and social outcomes - we vote, we buy, we listen.
But not all decisions by individuals are considered to be of equal quality - liberals do not ignore the Greek and Roman warnings (nor those of the Renaissance and Enlightenment) to fear the mob, the emotional, uninformed, masses. Rather, liberals insist that rational individuals, to make good choices, need simply good information - a proper education and good information about the relevant factors, issues, and metrics involved in the decision they are about to make.
Professors rarely form mobs (though when they do, woo-boy, look out).
Thus the need for transparency. If we are to make good decisions we need good information, accurate and timely (years or decades after the fact information becomes mere trivia). If we want to evaluate decisions of our state and decide, based upon the proper criteria (not do they play the saxophone or would they be a pleasure to fish with) we need the proper data - data on performance, data on the real disposition of domestic and global events. Otherwise we will respond to bad data with bad decisions. This, argues liberal theory, is an essential truth, and trust in the state, while necessary, becomes unhealthy if it stretches to such a degree that it obviates oversight of the state.
Put simply, you can have capitalism and democratic-republicanism without transparency but neither will work in its absence.
And this, friends, presents a problem.
To be continued in Part IV / Defining Secrecy and Conceptualizing Associated Problems