The American Bear


Freedom of information: my monstrous idea will keep corporate tyrants at bay | George Monbiot

"Privatisation and outsourcing ensure that private business is, or should be, everyone’s business. Private companies now provide services we are in no position to refuse, yet, unlike the state bodies they replace, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The results can be catastrophic for public accounts. […]

If it is true that ‘governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world’, should we not be entitled to know what Goldman Sachs is up to? Is that not the only means we have of preventing its unelected power from becoming tyrannical?”

I’m down with this idea:

In this column I will make a proposal that sounds – at first – monstrous, but I hope to persuade you is both reasonable and necessary: that freedom of information laws should be extended to the private sector.

The very idea of a corporation is made possible only by a blurring of the distinction between private and public. Limited liability socialises risks that would otherwise be carried by a company’s owners and directors, exempting them from the costs of the debts they incur or the disasters they cause. The bailouts introduced us to an extreme form of this exemption: men like Fred Goodwin and Matt Ridley are left in peace to count their money while everyone else must pay for their mistakes.

So I am asking only for the exercise of that long-standing Conservative maxim – no rights without responsibilities. If you benefit from limited liability, the public should be permitted to scrutinise your business.

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