Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Back to the future of self-governance: the promise of the Open Gov movement

Feb. 6, 2013, 12:45 p.m., Posted by Mark Meckler

Last week we announced the first News Challenge of 2013 will focus on Open Gov. To help get folks thinking, we asked a handful of people to share their hopes for open government. Below, Mark Meckler, President of Citizens for Self Governance and co-founder and former National Coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, shares his insights.  

The Open Gov movement holds great promise for the dawn of a new day in American governance.  It holds the promise of a return to self-governance by the American people, which is the original and intended state of governance set forth by the founders of this nation so long ago.  

We’ve drifted far from the model of self-governance practiced in 1778, when the Constitution was ratified.  At that time, most government in America was local, and it was practiced and participated in by average citizens on a regular basis. Since most decisions were made locally, the information needed to make decisions was readily available to average citizens. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

Today, most government decisions that affect our daily lives are made far away, either in Washington DC, or in the state capitols. A disconnected ruling elite often makes these decisions, and regularly does so without input from or knowledge of the citizens they will affect.

Sometimes those making the decisions that affect our lives are our elected representatives.  But more often than not they are unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats and lobbyists who write the rules we must obey. The information that they use to make their decisions is rarely accessible to the average citizen, and rarely do any of us have input on those decisions before they are made. The Open Gov movement presents us with the promise to change all this.

As technologies are developed which allow citizen access to volumes of information unimaginable only a few years ago, government is brought closer and closer to home. Even decisions made far away in D.C., and the information behind them, are brought closer by electrons traveling the information superhighway. And the more people learn about the decisions being made far away, the more they will demand that those decisions be made at home, in their own communities.

From a political perspective, I reside toward the right side of the spectrum.  I am a religious, gun-toting, bible carrying tea partier. Yet I have friends all across the political spectrum.  Wherever they reside, and whatever their ideology, I have faith in them to work and debate with their neighbors, in their own communities, to make most of the governmental decisions that affect their lives. 

So in addition to providing access to the information that citizens will need to make these decisions, I believe the Open Gov movement has the capability to drive the move back toward local governance.   We the People in charge of our own government: it’s a vision that the Open Gov movement actually brings within reach.

Related: "The end of the beginning, lessons from open government so far" by Anil Dash on KnightBlog