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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  II. OPEN MEETING LAWS GENERALLY In the mid- to late-1960s, The Hawkeye State was but one of many struggling with growing social unease—grounded squarely in political estrangement over the Vietnam conflict and LBJ’s attendant “credibility gap”—that fueled an escalating mistrust of government at the time; so, in undertaking to statutorily impose a measure of transparency and accountability upon its loci of governmental authority, Iowa’s experiences are representative of similar efforts transpiring elsewhere in the country. 7 To be sure, proactive legislation of this nature was most likely long overdue because the malaise of the era was but an inevitable reflex to an intractable and long-lived truth: Governments will always have secrets. One need not have Thomas Hobbes’s view of the world—only a reasonably good grasp on history and current events—to recognize that countries are constantly in competition (if not open conflict) with one another, and there is an abiding need to protect certain types of information from falling into the hands of one's foes. Indeed, even the late Patrick Moynihan, an arch-nemesis of most governmental secrecy, conceded a realm where a government operating in the shadows is both “legitimate and necessary,” 8 and in which precincts it is permissible to erect walls. However, it is generally argued that secrecy is inimical to the effective and proper operation of a representative government. While this proposition is generally taken on faith, the following brief assay of the theoretical foundations for this assertion is nevertheless in order. Having thus established that there is a strong argument to be made for open government, examination will then turn to constitutional law scholarship to see if there is an affirmative requirement for the government to make all—or even some— 7 Given that it can be a bit dicey trying to specify the origin of such a movement with any degree of precision, there nevertheless seems to be a consensus that the flower of open government bloomed in the mid-1960s. Attention is invited to an assessment offered by the First Amendment Center: “Although a few states began enacting open-meetings laws as early as 1898, most states did not guarantee access to public meetings until the mid-20th century. The federal government waited even longer, as meetings of congressional committees and executive agencies were not routinely open until the mid-1970s” (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/press/information/topic.aspx?topic=open_meetings). 8 Daniel P. Moynihan, Secrecy: The American Experience (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 221

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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II. OPEN MEETING LAWS GENERALLY
In the mid- to late-1960s, The Hawkeye State was but one of many struggling with growing 
social unease—grounded squarely in political estrangement over the Vietnam conflict and LBJ’s 
attendant “credibility gap”—that fueled an escalating mistrust of government at the time; so, in 
undertaking to statutorily  impose a measure of transparency and accountability upon its loci of 
governmental authority, Iowa’s  experiences are representative of similar efforts transpiring elsewhere in 
the country. 
 
To be sure, proactive legislation of this nature was most likely long overdue because the malaise 
of the era was but an inevitable reflex to an intractable and long-lived truth: Governments will always 
have secrets.  
One need not have Thomas Hobbes’s view of the world—only a reasonably good grasp on history 
and current events—to recognize that countries are constantly in competition (if not open conflict) with 
one another, and there is an abiding need to protect certain types of information from falling into the 
hands of one's foes.  Indeed, even the late Patrick Moynihan, an arch-nemesis of most governmental 
secrecy, conceded a realm where a government operating in the shadows is both “legitimate and 
necessary,
 and in which precincts it is permissible to erect walls.
However, it is generally argued that secrecy is inimical to the effective and proper operation of a 
representative government. While this proposition is generally taken on faith, the following brief assay of 
the theoretical foundations for this assertion is nevertheless in order.  Having thus established that there is 
a strong argument to be made for open government, examination will then turn to constitutional law 
scholarship to see if there is an affirmative requirement for the government to make all—or even some—
7
 Given that it can be a bit dicey trying to specify the origin of such a movement with any degree of precision, there 
nevertheless seems to be a consensus that the flower of open government bloomed  in the mid-1960s.  Attention  is 
invited to an assessment offered by the First Amendment Center: “Although a few states began enacting open-
meetings laws as early as 1898, most states did not guarantee access to public meetings until the mid-20th century. 
The federal government waited even longer, as meetings of congressional committees and executive agencies were 
not routinely open until the mid-1970s” (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/press/information/topic.aspx?
topic=open_meetings).
8
 Daniel P. Moynihan, Secrecy: The American Experience (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 221


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