The Possible Diminishing Returns of Government Transparency
When looking at the changes to the Sunshine Laws (link via Combest) that have been proposed in Missouri House Bill 316, it brings to mind Harry S. Truman, who once jested about his desire for a one-armed economist.
I’m referring to the trade-off that one must face when looking at an expanded transparency in government, and how far it can go before excessive red tape leads to a decreased efficiency of government officials that outweighs the value of another marginal increase in transparency. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid supporter of government transparency and accountability. At the same time, I think that there is a very fine balance between the level of transparency within a government agency and its ability to operate efficiently.
One alternative to the proposed public meeting rules that could satisfy both worlds could be the use of web broadcasts, which would allow municipalities more freedom when scheduling meetings, while still making the content of these meetings available to the public eye.
I don’t think that this particular bill is pushing government transparency too far — in fact, I think the bill is a step in the right direction — but efficiency is definitely a factor to consider in our new age of government transparency. While everyone can agree that increased transparency has positive returns, one has to keep in mind that it is possible — if not likely — that at some point, these returns diminish marginally. It’s just difficult to tell where that point may lie.