Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jun/09

24

Politics & the transparent society

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The Mark Sanford affair is all over the news right now. Additionally, a newspaper in South Carolina has released the first batch of emails of private correspondence between Sanford and his mistress. How would you like your personal romantic correspondence indexed on Google News? A few years ago I talked to a CEO of a firm which was developing software for corporations that allows for total transparency in the work place. One of the issues that came up was that most people who clock in for 8 hours of work in the office goof-off a fair amount, from the bottom to the top. If a better accounting of real worked hours could be had the argument is that the work day could be shortened so that time wasted at work could be allocated to a wide range of leisure activities. The short of it is that I’m sure that transparency of personal information is going to go much further than we have today. Consider this story of a robbery solved via Google street view.

What does this have to do with politics? From what I am to understand in the past people in power were allowed to project a public persona which was at some variance with their private life. This disjunction has been melting away over the past generation.  If you are going to extol bourgeois probity, it seems likely that you’re going to have to walk the talk. Various sexual scandals involving politicians have indicated to some that their power allows them to satisfy their sexual appetites in a manner which would otherwise not be possible, but in an age of radical transparency this temptation and fringe benefit might be sharply diminished. Or perhaps public norms will shift in terms of what is demanded of their political leaders? The transparent society will effect public figures first, but we’ll all have to deal with it sooner or later.

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8 comments

  • Conspirama · June 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Secular Right » Politics & the transparent society…

    Or perhaps public norms will shift in terms of what is demanded of their political leaders? The transparent society will effect public figures first, but we’ll all have to deal with it sooner or later. ……

  • hanmeng · June 25, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Bourgeois probity”? This suggests that morality is exclusively the concern of the property-owning classes. But even if the aristocrats lack morality, there’s a certain amount of pretense towards moral behavior. And the workers are usually social conservatives.

  • John · June 25, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Are public and private personas similar enough that it is appropriate to look at one in analyzing the other? Is a person who has an affair significantly more likely to break a campaign promise? Is a person who neglects job duties more likely to neglect his kids? I see a future psychology thesis.

  • Susan · June 25, 2009 at 9:48 am

    The interesting thing to me about the Sanford affair isn’t the affair itself–I don’t think politicians in general are avatars of sexual fidelity–but the sheer nuttiness of Sanford’s behavior. His wife tosses him out of the house, so his response is to take off to Argentina to console himself in the arms (or some other part) of his mistress. He didn’t even bother to prep his staff with a halfway plausible excuse for his absence.

    We all know that a stiff penis has no conscience. In Sanford’s case, at least, it doesn’t appear to have any brains, either.

  • Ken_K · June 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

    This “Le affaire Sanford” currently in the news again illustrates (as did those involving Sen.s Vitter, Craig, Ensign, et. al.) the problem with making the Taliban-wing of the religious conservative movement a major part of the American conservative coalition. Secular conservatives should move toward building a “leave me along coalition” for people who desire privacy,liberty and limited government rather than be (secretly hypocritical) scolds for the religious right with all the problems that it entails.

  • kurt9 · June 28, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I agree with Ken_K 100%. These people talk all about family values and all of this other stuff. Yet, when push comes to shove, they are unwilling to live up to the standards that they seek to impose on others. If these people themselves are unable to live up to their own self-proclaimed lofty standards, what’s the point of promoting these standards in the first place.

    As the libertarian around here, I get told again and again how libertarianism cannot work because most people lack the capacity to live up to its standards. It seems like the same argument applies to social conservatism.

  • asdf · June 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    If these people themselves are unable to live up to their own self-proclaimed lofty standards, what’s the point of promoting these standards in the first place.

    It’s the January 1st phenomenon. Everyone knows it’s good to exercise, everyone gets all het up about it on January 1st, and then they lack the willpower to follow through. Doesn’t mean exercise is a bad thing. And doesn’t meant remaining faithful to your wife is a bad thing.

  • Derek Scruggs · June 29, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Remaining faithful to your wife is not a bad thing. Making it legally impossible to marry the one you love is.

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