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Whenever some idea attracts anything approaching universal support it becomes the academic's duty and privilege to throw a few rocks at it. That time has come with the notion of transparency in government. The transparency movement boasts a snappy Louis Brandeis slogan - "sunlight is the best disinfectant" - even though that's not quite what Brandeis wrote, and even though it's not really true. Few themes trigger more uniform agreement across the political spectrum. President Obama issued an executive order demanding transparency on his second day in office, and the White House Web site features a sweeping declaration that "government should be transparent," with an equally sweeping rationale: "Transparency promotes accountability." Georgia Republican Phil Gingrey no doubt had a long list of things he loathed about the Obama health plan, but he stressed the one he knew would resonate most widely: "Where is the transparency? The American people need to know!"


Donahue, John D. "Seeing Through Transparency." Governing, February 3, 2010.