Freedom, Privacy AND Transparency

I wish to thank ‘Tom-b’ for the following post. It is timely because Transparency International has just released a report revealing that almost 80 per cent of the world’s largest multinationals do not adequately report their finances.

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Transparency is important for freedom. If you don’t know what is going on then you can’t comment on it and definitely can’t make decisions. Transparency allows people to be informed and make informed choices. Today in advanced capitalist countries choices are made based on what the media says or who advertises most.

The president of the USA is decided by who raises the most money. The congressional elections are similar. The recent congress elections were won by the Republicans who until recently had been outspent by the Democrats but this year business was behind the Republicans and gave them in excess of 60% of their donations to the political parties.

It is unfortunate that advertising can move people to vote in a certain way. A proposition in California to monitor insurance price increases was defeated because the insurance companies spent $60 million opposing it. People believe what they read in papers or see on the TV, be it advertisements or opinion pieces.

We can’t be too critical of this occurrence, however, as there is no easy way for people to find out the facts. Everything is hidden in secrecy so you have to assume journalists get it right or politicians are telling the truth. We know neither is true.

We can’t expect people to take responsibility and get involved in decision making if they are excluded from the facts.

Transparency should include everything eventually but needs a starting point. Some people are scared of transparency as they see it as an encroachment on their privacy and freedom. This is a myth created by rich people. If you are not rich you have nothing to hide so should not be so precious about your minimal earnings and wealth. With transparency this fact becomes obvious.

The rich don’t want anyone to know how rich they are and where their money is, let alone the fact that they pay minimal tax, how much money they spend on political parties, etc. Criminals, of course, would not want any transparency.

Income transparency already exists in some countries such as Norway and has for many years. This would be a start. Total transparency of local government could be done now. This would increase efficiency and deter corruption and there is no reason why everyone should not know everything local government does. Government departments, such as health, education, transport, etc, could also be opened up now.

The only people who fear transparency are those who have something to hide!! Unfortunately there are too many people with nothing to hide who think they do have something.

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