chapter  10
14 Pages

The Morality of Open Government

ByPeter Barberis

Open government has become a hoorah term. Alongside other notions such as freedom, liberty, justice and democracy with which it is sometimes closely associated it is seen by many as a fundamental ‘good’, a ‘virtue’ and a ‘right’, or entitlement. To call it into question is to swim against the tide of modernity – or so it would seem. But tides can turn. The crest of one wave can become the backwater of another. If open government is a cause to be valued then it behoves its supporters to ensure that the foundations are firm. As will be seen below, the case for open government rests in part upon the apparent virtues of the open society, one of the most distinguished champions of which was Karl Popper. And in the open society the day is never done, so to speak. Even the most cherished principles should be exposed to critical re-examination. Thus Popper (1959: 78-92) was also famous for his insistence that a hypothesis should be subjected to rigorous testing and, if found wanting, discarded or modified. If that dictum applies to the canon of the scientific method, then similar principles of scrutiny must surely apply no less to notions such as open government.