You Don’t Reach Deals In Public Committee Meetings

Government secrecy is rarely a good thing, but the vogue for transparency has taken the country in some odd directions. For example, earlier today I read an Elise Foley article about how the deficit super committe is planning to hold all its meetings in public. In part, this just reflects the underlying reality that the committee’s not going to get anything done, but it’s strange that they’re not even pretending they want to get anything done. Or, rather, it’s strange that transparency is such a fad that holding the meetings in public isn’t even seen as a prima facie indication that they’re not serious.

Still, the fact remains that nobody hold negotiations in public. Nor does the demand that members of Congress pretend to negotiate in public have anything to do with government transparency or secrecy in the relevant sense. What transparency requires is that if the committee reaches some recommendations, the recommendations and the budget analysis behind them be put into the public view for consideration. But if you hold the talks themselves in public, then the participants will be speaking to the public and not to each other.