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Transparency in government; a teen’s perspective

by Chris Bonham, Castle Pines North Youth Advisory Council Chair

It’s something that we’ve been promised again and again by politicians who claim to be on our side. Congress has even passed laws to protect this invaluable principle. Yet, it always seems to evade us. We’re constantly caught demanding more of it because we feel like the government continues to carry it further away from us.

I’m talking about a simple ideal that was one of the pillars of our Founding Fathers’ beliefs: government transparency.

The problem today is that we’ve lost sight of what that principle really means. Our own government has defined it as openness. Others have defined it as fighting corruption, and still others have used the phrase to mean holding politicians accountable. All of these are great things to strive for in politics, but have we ever considered the root of political transparency or any other kind of transparency for that matter?

Let’s put all political motivations aside for a moment, and look at some of the synonyms for transparency. Frankness, candidness, and forthrightness are some good ones. But even these can be simplified to one simple concept (a concept that happens to be very politically incorrect.): honesty. That’s it. Honesty or truth is what transparency is all about when we strip away the politics, the finances, etc.

So, we have what transparency means. Now, I don’t think that our government is hiding everything from us, but we all know that a lie is most effective when mixed with the truth. That’s why just wanting the truth is not enough. We also need to have the knowledge to combat lies and corruption when they come our way. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and our fourth president, said that “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

This is what makes transparency so important today. People in this country have slowly abandoned truth and knowledge. We need to wake up and begin pursuing information once again. An informed populace is what will allow us to make prudent decisions politically.

More important than anything else, however, we need to demand truth and transparency from ourselves and from each other again, before we ever try demanding those values from our government. In our culture of government dependence and moral relativism, our politicians simply laugh at our demands, because they know that we can’t do anything to them.

I believe we need to start living the ideals that we demand from our government. It may be hard, but a democratically-elected, republican form of government always follows the will of the people. Let’s start pursuing transparency as a nation, and perhaps our government will follow suit.



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