Posted on May 24, 2016
“Transparency” is an interesting political metaphor. Like any good progressive, I’d like to get all the important information out in the public, but if it were “transparent” like air we’d see through it and see nothing. Perfect transparency is functionally the same as opacity. What we really want is a kind of model or diorama or microscope slide with the key parts analyzed and stained so we can examine them in detail.
But who does the analysis and modeling and slide preparation?
If you want perfect transparency, right-click right now and then hit “view page source.” It will explain in perfect detail how the illusion of the web page you are looking at right now was generated. But of course almost no one reading these words can fully understand the code that generated this page.
Similarly a lot of politics always happens off stage, and must happen offstage. Even if you could watch, the participants would work out a secret language code you do not quite understand.
Open information helps, but there is no substitute for theorizing and modeling if you want to understand politics. This is even true for the inside participants, because they get to have direct information on only a small part of what goes on.