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April 04, 2007

Hacking government

I am, at heart a hacker, and it doesn't stop with software and the web. I love innovative, out of the box solutions to what seem to be intractable problems.

So here is one that I've had in mind for a while.

It seems right now that at least in the U.S and Australia, but I suspect it is an endemic issue, there are some serious issues with elected officials, and to a similar extent senior public servants being, in that wonderful phrase "economical with the truth", across a very broad range of issues, with at times catastrophic consequences.

But what to do about it? Raise the cost. Right now, the only cost is electoral, where politicians may be held accountable several years down the track by the electorate, provided of course people remember. News cycles being what they are, it's likely (and often this is a strategic consideration) that no matter how significant, what ever issue precipitated the mendacity, sorry, economy with the truth, has become old news.

So, in essence, the cost is reasonably low, at least if you are clever enough.

So how to raise the cost? Here's a thought.

If you are a witness or otherwise appear in court to provide testimony, you are under oath. If you lie under oath, you have committed an offense. So the cost of lying is high.
My suggestion is that all elected representatives (and those running for office), their employees, and possibly senior public officials (to stop politicians hiding behind their employees and others) are in effect under oath when they make public pronouncements in their official capacity. Whether being interviewed, in parliament, in public meetings with their constituents, if you knowingly or recklessly say something untrue in a public capacity, it's a criminal offense.

Then we'll doubtless see even more highly paid, important, intelligent people suddenly having trouble recalling, but I suspect we'll see more considered, and frankly more honest public discourse by people, who afterall, we pay pretty damned well to in theory represent our interests.


April 4, 2007 | Permalink


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John, I think you are dreaming a good dream. The whole point of elected representatives able to "misinterpret" factual information is for the greater good of the electorate. Although I disagree that they should be able to do this, the political process has creates rights (e.g. parliamentary rights) to say what they want.

Posted by: Benson Low | Apr 4, 2007 3:13:59 PM

John, what you've written reminded me of The Truthmaker - http://truthmaker.com.au/details.php - not quite the same, mind you. And I do like what you've suggested.

Posted by: Pat Allan | Apr 5, 2007 7:18:49 PM

I can't think of any reasons *not* to implement this.

Posted by: Tim McCormack | Apr 20, 2007 7:23:27 AM


'cept the people who would have to implement it would then be bound by it!

In the US, it could be added to some state constitutions by referendum, bypassing politicians altogether - now there is an idea!

Posted by: John Allsopp | Apr 21, 2007 1:33:42 PM

I can't also think of reasons *not* to implement this. But in this year is all possible,

Posted by: Marc | May 27, 2007 2:39:26 AM