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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  observers is that most official business is transacted by a class of anonymous, largely unelected, individuals. Since these people are not accountable at the polls, if follows that they need to make their dealings transparent to the public so that effective oversight of decisions and polices might be effected. Of course, none of these arguments are necessarily dispositive in the case of bona fide national secrets held by officials, but this ushers in the next point, which is that the quest for open government is not directed at these types of sensitive matters, but at, as Moynihan describes it, the "symbolic secrecy" of government. As related by Richard Gid Powers, Moynihan drew upon the thoughts of Emile Durkheim to postulate that there is a ritual dimension to what now constitutes the system by which material in control of government is classified. 15 Moynihan said that the identifying and keeping of secrets is a way by which officials designate who is "in" and who is "out"; who can be trusted, and who must be denied. 16 As a corollary, Moynihan noted how secrets then become the "coin of the realm" of the bureaucracy being traded for other secrets or favors as the holders of classified material see fit. 17 The affront to democracy, in Moynihan's eyes, was patent. Public servants are in the employ of the people who entrust them to discharge their duties in an efficient and professional manner. Playing tedious games with, and developing wasteful cliques through, nominally sensitive material is antithetical to their obligations. Making government more accessible to outside oversight would, Moynihan contended, help minimize such shenanigans. In addition, as expounded by Powers, an obsession with symbolic secrecy leads to conspiracy theories. 18 In the wake of government stonewalling over an issue that seemingly poses no threat to national security, people may come to conclude that something bigger is afoot. What ensues are sensationalized hypotheses that tend to make the government out as a devious villain and which, in turn, can erode confidence in the institutional order of things. (In this vein, one could consider the fallout from the government's reluctance to reveal some material relating to the JFK assassination or the supposed UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico.) Further, symbolic secrecy 15 Moynihan, 12. 16 Ibid, 168. 17 Ibid, 169. 18 Ibid, 22.

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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observers is that most official business is transacted by a class of anonymous, largely unelected, 
individuals.  Since these people are not accountable at the polls, if follows that they need to make their 
dealings transparent to the public so that effective oversight of decisions and polices might be effected.
Of course, none of these arguments are necessarily dispositive in the case of bona fide national 
secrets held by officials, but this ushers in the next point, which is that the quest for open government is 
not directed at these types of sensitive matters, but at, as Moynihan describes it, the "symbolic secrecy" of 
government.  As related by Richard Gid Powers, Moynihan drew upon the thoughts of Emile Durkheim 
to postulate that there is a ritual dimension to what now constitutes the system by which material in 
control of government is classified.
  Moynihan said that the identifying and keeping of secrets is a way 
by which officials designate who is "in" and who is "out"; who can be trusted, and who must be denied.
As a corollary, Moynihan noted how secrets then become the "coin of the realm" of the bureaucracy being 
traded for other secrets or favors as the holders of classified material see fit.
The affront to democracy, in Moynihan's eyes, was patent.  Public servants are in the employ of 
the people who entrust them to discharge their duties in an efficient and professional manner.  Playing 
tedious games with, and developing wasteful cliques through, nominally sensitive material is antithetical 
to their obligations.  Making government more accessible to outside oversight would, Moynihan 
contended, help minimize such shenanigans. In addition, as expounded by Powers, an obsession with 
symbolic secrecy leads to conspiracy theories.
  In the wake of government stonewalling over an issue 
that seemingly poses no threat to national security, people may come to conclude that something bigger is 
afoot.  What ensues are sensationalized hypotheses that tend to make the government out as a devious 
villain and which, in turn, can erode confidence in the institutional order of things. (In this vein, one could 
consider the fallout from the government's reluctance to reveal some material relating to the JFK 
assassination or the supposed UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico.)  Further, symbolic secrecy 
 Moynihan, 12.
 Ibid, 168. 
 Ibid, 169.
 Ibid, 22. 

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