COPS members may be interest in this talk, sponsored by the OSU Center for Ethics and Human Values.
"Transparency, Corruption, and Democratic Institutions"Presented by the OSU Center for Ethics and Human Values as part of the COMPAS Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society.
Professor Graham Hubbs, University of Idaho Friday,
September 13, 2013
347 University Hall 3:30 pm
ABSTRACT: Proponents and critics alike have denied that Wikileaks’s releases of state secrets count as the work of a democratic press. A central goal of this paper is to produce an account of the press that is adequate for analyzing this view of Wikileaks’s activities. My account does not focus on the typical subject matter of discussions of free speech, such as its value, potential harms, and limits. Instead, I focus on the institutional role of the press in a well-functioning democracy. I give an account of institutions in general, and I develop this account in the context of Joshua Cohen’s recent work on democratic institutions. Cohen discusses this in the final chapter of his book Rousseau: A Free Community of Equals—I follow him in articulating my topic in Rousseauean terms. With this framework in place, I turn my discussion to the role of transparency in deterring institutional corruption. The basic thought here is perhaps unsurprising: to ensure that an institution is serving its public function and not being manipulated for self-interested gain, its activities must be subject to public scrutiny, and so these activities must be transparent to the public. While this transparency is important to any democracy, it is especially important to deliberative democracy, for, as Rousseau notes, a people cannot deliberate well if it is not properly informed. Saying this makes the role of transparency in a well-functioning democracy clear, but it does not settle how transparency is to be realized. This paper argues that transparency can be realized in a democracy only by an extra-governmental institution that has several of the familiar features of what we commonly call “the press.” It further argues that in its design and in many, though not all, of its activities, Wikileaks provides a contemporary example of such an institution. A full analysis of Wikileaks is beyond the scope of this paper, but the brief discussion that is provided highlights some of the challenges, both practical and theoretical, with institutionalizing transparency to minimize corruption in democracy.