Ending Hide and Seek

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

Who’s Afraid of Information?

It has been said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Why is it then that so many who seek wealth and/or power want to hide the process by which they acquire and use it? If there is a cry to hide information from those who can use it to make decisions that affect their lives, can it be that the powerful are afraid of sharing information?

The ongoing battle against transparency is getting more volatile. The Citizens’ United ruling allows wealthy donors to hide their efforts to affect election outcomes. Monsanto and other big food corporations don’t want consumers to know which foods are genetically modified. The government doesn’t want us to read about atrocities (torture,drone killings, etc.) done in our name.

Joseph Stiglitz won his Nobel award in economics based upon the basic notion that without full information even the miracle of markets do not work and that transparency and access to information are essential for consumers to make informed decisions.

          “Transparency is about information, the obligation to provide it, and the right to      access it. As such, it is an important concept in the effort to achieve sustainability in politics, economics, environmental well-being, and numerous other fields. In any field, information is needed for decisions, and informed decisions are likely to be better than decisions made in the absence of good information. Strong transparency policies enhance the availability of information and thus provide the informational framework for good decisions and good practices in both the public and private sectors.”  (William B. T. Black, Professor of Law “Transparency” in Achieving Sustainability: Visions,Principles and Practices (Gale/Cengage, 2014) p. 742.

The stakes of the game are being raised.  Note the recent announcement by Charles Koch that he and his brother David hope to raise and spend nearly $1 billion on the run-up to the 2016 election campaign and most of it will be untraceable. I’m pretty confident that thanks to Citizen’s United the Koch Brothers will not be alone among the wealthiest trying to use their exorbitant wealth to affect the outcome of our supposedly democratic election. At a time when we need to rely on skilled and dedicated journalists and news organizations to do the muckraking that can inform us who is pulling the strings in our society, the daily news organization is decimated.

During the recent fight over a new farm bill, the handful of global corporate giants who control a majority of the food system successfully lobbied to kill stronger requirements even for country of origin labeling on some foods. Senator Barbara Boxer with 13 co-sponsors just introduced legislation (S.511) that would require food that has been genetically modified to be so labeled. If the marketplace is supposed to work, consumers ought to know what they are buying.  It would also be nice if we knew who’s getting rich off who when we make a purchase. Could we post the pay ratio of a business on it’s website or on its door, or perhaps the minimum and median wage of the employees. It would help me make an informed decision when selecting retail establishments.

Regardless of one’s personal views on Ralph Nader, we can thank him for pushing the idea of Freedom of Information, which is now not only a legally transcribed avenue here in the U.S. but in numerous other countries as well.  If we don’t know what our government is up to, how can we hold them accountable. In Michigan we have someone like Rich Robinson

Image result for michigan campaign finance network rich robinson

who has the led the Michigan Campaign Finance Network which has helped provide access for citizens to the money affecting election campaigns in this state.

We have a right to be skeptical when the powerful want to hide information from us. Hiding information from consumers and citizens releases the odor of corruption. As the powerful gather more and more wealth and more and more power, we should demand more transparency, not less. Even glorified markets can’t work without sunshine. Let’s open the curtains!!!

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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