WikiLeaks, transparency, and the responsibilities of citizens

I keep reading about how the WikiLeaks fiasco is good for America because it forces our government to become more transparent to its citizens. One common refrain is, “We need to know what the government is doing in our name.”

I agree, but only if citizens keep their end of the bargain.

The problem with these leaks and with the “good for transparency” reaction is that most of the people demanding transparency and government accountability are terrible citizens. In order for transparency and accountability to work, citizens have to respond, and in more than just how they vote.

This idea of citizen responsibility is huge because so little of it happens in our modern age. The irresponsibility of the average American citizen is responsible for the demise of everything from personal liberty to local community to sustainable economy.

Think I’m wrong?

So, if one of these leaks proves that our government or another government has done something terribly immoral or illegal, what are you going to do about it? No, not “they”, not the government, not your elected representatives. You. What are you going to do about it?

You see, if you could not immediately come up with some sort of answer that involved an act that involved you, you are proving my point. If you want government transparency and accountability, yet you have no idea what you, yourself, will do with those things, then you want nothing more than for your conscience to be sated while the government does exactly what it is going to do anyway.

In order for government accountability and transparency to work, it takes citizens who are willing to work with, or against if necessary, the government when it overreaches itself. Unfortunately, most citizens are so busy investing their well-being in the government, that the idea of doing something themselves is anathema. It is because of this investment, that people need the government to be opaque and unchecked, because without the ability to act in whatever way necessary to fulfill the invested citizen’s demands, the government cannot deliver.

What remains is that citizens seem to want the government to engage in a practice that will cause them harm. Sure, encourage the leaks to continue, then suffer the consequences when you realize you are not going to do anything about what you learn.


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