Monday, September 29, 2008

Transparent Bail Outs

So here is the bail out bill.

Wired asked:
Doesn't transparency amount to more than just posting a bit of legislation up on a Sunday, giving the public a few hours to wonder what it says, and then rushing to approve it in congress?

In 2002 Dame Onora O'Neill, president of the British Academy, gave the Reith Lectures on "trust".

There has never been more abundant information about the individuals and institutions whose claims we have to judge. Openness and transparency are now possible on a scale of which past ages could barely dream. We are flooded with information about government departments and government policies, about public opinion and public debate, about school, hospital and university league tables. We can read facts and figures that supposedly demonstrate financial and professional accountability, cascades of rebarbative [forbidding] semi-technical detail about products and services on the market, and lavish quantities of information about the companies that produce them. At the click of a mouse those with insatiable appetites for information can find out who runs major institutions, look at the home pages and research records of individual scientists, inspect the grants policies of research councils and major charities, down-load the annual reports and the least thrilling press releases of countless minor public, professional and charitable organisations, not to mention peruse the agenda and the minutes of increasing numbers of public bodies. It seems no information about institutions and professions is too boring or too routine to remain unpublished. So if making more information about more public policies, institutions and professionals more widely and freely available is the key to building trust, we must be well on the high road towards an ever more trusting society.

This high road is built on new technologies that are ideal for achieving transparency and openness. It has become cheap and easy to spread information, indeed extraordinarily hard to prevent its spread. Secrecy was technically feasible in the days of words on paper. But it is undermined by easy, instantaneous, multiple replication-and endless possibilities for subtle or less-than-subtle revision.

These lectures are a key moment in modern definitions of trust.

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