Sue's Blog

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Secrecy and the Consequences - Dunderdale vs. Stiglitz

I will over the next couple of days take excerpts from a lecture given by Joseph E. Stiglitz- Economist.

Below you will find some information about this professional followed by Exerpt 1 of the lecture. 

As a public - the current "secrecy" bill before our House of Assembly - should be frightening. You and I need to be very afraid of what the Dunderdale government is doing and why.


University Professor. Teaching at the Columbia Business School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Department of Economics) and the School of International and Public Affairs

Co-founder and Co-President of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)

Co-Chair of Columbia University's Committee on Global Thought

Chair of the Management Board, Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester

Member, CFTC-SEC Advisory Committee on Emerging Regulatory Issues

President of the International Economic Association, 2011-2014

A Modest Proposal for International Monetary Reform, paper presented at the June 

2008 meeting of the International Economic Association, Istanbul.

Sharing the Burden of Saving the Planet: Global Social Justice for Sustainable Development, Keynote speech at the June 2008 meeting of the International Economic Association, Istanbul (see the powerpoint here).

Co-Chair of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.

GDP Fetishism, Project Syndicate, September 2009.

GSP Seen as Inadequate Measure of Economic Health, by David Jolly, New York Times, September 14, 2009.

Towards A Better Measure of Well-Being, Financial Times, September 13, 2009.

Chair of the Commission of Experts of the President of the United Nations General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System

One Small Step Forward, The Guardian (UK), June 28, 2009.

Recommendations for Immediate Action, a statement from the first meeting of the Comission of Experts, January 4-6, 2009, New York.

West urged to increase aid to poor nations, article about the Commission by Heather 

Stewart, The Guardian (UK), January 11, 2009.

UN Panel Calls for Council to Replace G20, by Harvey Morris, Financial Times, March 22, 2009.

Dollar Reserve Reform Urged, by Harvey Morris, Financial Times, March 27, 2009.

Final Report of the UN Commission of Experts, released September 21, 2009

Excerpt 1

To me, the most compelling argument for openness is the positive Madisonian one: meaningful participation in democratic processes requires informed participants. Secrecy reduces the information available to the citizenry, hobbling their ability to participate meaningfully. Any of us who has participated in a board of directors knows that the power of a board to exercise direction and discipline is limited by the information at its disposal. 

Management knows this, and often attempts to control the flow of information. We often speak of government being accountable, accountable to the people. But if effective democratic oversight is to be achieved, then the voters have to be informed: they have to know what alternative actions were available, and what the results might have been. Those in government typically have far more information relevant to the decisions being made than do those outside government, just as management of a firm typically has far more information about the firm’s markets, prospects, and technology than do shareholders, let alone other outsiders. Indeed, managers are paid to gather this information.

The question is, given that the public has paid for the gathering of government information, who owns the information? Is it the private province of the government official, or does it belong to the public at large? I would argue that information gathered by public officials at public expense is owned by the public— just as the chairs and buildings and other physical assets used by government belong to the public. We have come to emphasize the importance of intellectual property. The information produced, gathered, and processed by public officials is intellectual property, no less than a patentable innovation would be. To use that intellectual property for private is just as serious an offense against the public as any other appropriation of public property for private purposes.

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