The problems and promises of transparency
I'm conflicted over C-SPAN's request to televise all negotiations related to the merging of the House and Senate bills. On the one hand: Transparency! How can you be against that? Particularly compelling is their promise to "archive all of this video for future generations to study in the C-SPAN video archives." That's a serious public resource.
On the other hand, if you open the negotiations to C-SPAN, the result isn't just that C-SPAN televises the negotiations. It's that the negotiations change. No one says a word that could be taken out of context and used against them at some future point. What you'll get are kabuki negotiations in which legislative leaders make carefully planned statements about the awesomeness of the bill while staff works in a back room to haggle out whether, say, we should tax rich folks or expensive insurance plans. What C-SPAN is offering isn't transparency. It's the illusion of transparency.
And maybe that's good enough, or better than nothing, or something. On the other hand, there's real value in occasionally letting legislators work through this stuff outside the glare of the cameras. The fact that government should be held to higher standards than other institutions doesn't mean the people in it work differently than the people at other institutions. No business would decide to televise or webcast all of its meetings, and for obvious reasons. Televising all of the government's meetings means, in practice, that more of those meetings are informal and there's less assurance of broad representation.
Update: I'd also recommend Igor Volsky's take.
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