By traditional measurement, the United States is 230 years old today. Also today, the Freedom of Information Act turns 40, a fact President Carter discusses in his op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post:
[T]his anniversary will not be a day of celebration for the right to information in our country. Our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy. Obstructionist policies and deficient practices have ensured that many important public documents and official actions remain hidden from our view.
Let's review: throughout history, government transparency has always correlated with freedom. People keep secrets out of fear that harm will come to them otherwise. More secrets means more fear. So to figure out why people keep secrets it helps to figure out what they're afraid of.
The people who run our government are afraid, rightfully so, that if their actions were generally known they would lose power. So they keep more and more secrets, protecting their incompetence, mendacity, theft, and corruption. But secrets begat more secrets, until it takes significant resources just to keep the secrets. And it permeates the culture.
Stalin didn't fear the Germans. He feared his own people. Same with Mao, the junta in Myannmar, Pinochet, Franco, Nixon, and all the other oppressive governments throughout history. Because when the people find out their governments are lying to them and stealing from them, when they really understand this, they get angry.
Fewer than 931 days and 4 hours remain in the Bush administration.