This chapter, entitled "Open Government and Open Society," first appeared in the book Open Government: Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation in Practice, edited by Daniel Lathrop and Laurel Ruma and published by O'Reilly Media.
Excerpt from introduction: Enthusiasts of transparency, which most readers of this book are, should be aware of two major pitfalls that may mar this achievement. The first is that government transparency, though driven by progressive impulses, may draw excessive attention to government’s mistakes and so have the consequence of reinforcing a conservative image of government as incompetent and corrupt. The second is that all this energy devoted to making open government comes at the expense of leaving the operations of large private sector organizations—banks, manufacturers, health providers, food producers, drug companies, and the like—opaque and secret. In the major industrialized democracies (but not in many developing countries or in authoritarian regimes), these private sector organizations threaten the health and well-being of citizens at least as much as government. The remedy for this second pitfall is to marshal forces in government and the civic sector into a movement for an open society. The aim of this chapter is not to celebrate the current hopeful moment for transparency, but to draw attention to these blind spots and to suggest some correctives.