Transparency, Accountability, and Competency: An Essay on the Obama Administration, Google Government, and the Difficulties of Securing Effective Governance
35 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2012 Last revised: 14 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2011
This Essay, a contribution to a symposium on the Obama Administration and the Administrative State, considers in some detail the Obama Administration’s transparency and open-government initiatives. Since taking office, the Obama Administration has worked assiduously to advance three general principles in the operation of executive departments and administrative agencies: “transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” Although process values are certainly important, at the same time citizens want and expect a competent, effective, and reasonably efficient federal government. Indeed, in some important respects, a focus on substance, rather than process, recommends itself as the primary metric for judging the performance of federal agencies. To date, however, the Obama Administration seems more interested in and concerned with matters of process, and particularly with initiatives aimed at making the business of the various agencies of the federal government more open to the general public in conjunction with efforts to encourage citizen engagement with the federal government in agency decision-making. Whether these process-based goals will lead to better governance, however, remains a point open to debate. The essay examines and critiques the successes and failures of the Obama Administration’s transparency initiatives and also considers the potential utility – and limits – of transparency and open government to securing effective, competent governance.
Keywords: constitutional law, separation of powers, federalism, disaster response, FOIA, Obama Administration, politics, Katrina, Deepwater Horizon, oil spill, transparency, open government, state secrets doctrine, democratic deliberation, democracy, constitutionalism, government structure
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