The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
12 Points

This House Would Force All Governments to Become Totally Transparent

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/18/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,963 times Debate No: 8341
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
Votes (3)




Before I begin my arguments, I'd like to thank my prospective opponent for accepting the con side of the resolution. I would also like to point out to all you Americanos that 'this house' is merely a way of introducing a resolution, similar to 'be it resolved.'

I would define 'this house' as the United Nations, 'all governments' as U.N member states and 'force' as to strongly encourage in a peaceful fashion, which could include but is not limited to termination of U.N membership, cancellation of any/all diplomatic agreements and/or the implementation of trade embargoes.

I would loosely define 'totally transparent' as the sustaining of a system where the average citizen has full and immediate access to ALL government documents, transactions, history, legislation, etc. The only information that shall not be made available to the public should be documents that, if exposed to general circulation, could be adequately proven to cause direct physical harm to citizens of any given nation, which will be determined by an impartial U.N council.

I would also add the qualifications;
-Countries will be given sufficient time to make the transition to transparency based on their level of democracy and internal stability.
-The Western countries (North America, Europe) must establish full transparency within a decade so as to set a precedent for the rest of the world.
-The IMF and WTO shall encourage investors to help establish the infrastructure for the release of the information; be it by internet or otherwise.


Today we live in a world where access to information is essentially unfettered in the Western world. We sift through terabytes of information a year, some of it important and relevant and some if it is not. We are beginning to think that we know all and that the world is at our finger tips, but exactly how in-the-know are we? Today I'm arguing that we must be allowed to find out. It must be acknowledged that democratic governments mus work for us, the people, therefore we have a right to know what our employees are doing. Are they stealing from their tills? Are they working to their full potential?

Today I intend to prove that fully transparent governments are absolutely vital in today's society and I will use examples of situations where transparency has benefited society and a lack thereof has hurt it.

My first argument is that of true democracy. The Western world prides itself on being a shining beacon of openness and democracy, yet how can we ever inspire third world countries to adopt progressive, democratic reforms unless we first practice what we preach? Too much is classified and locked away. This sort of secrecy makes it impossible to conduct an accurate, informed election and thereby undermines the constitutions of most countries. Since the available information will always be skewed towards the ruling party, how can any election be declared truely democratic?

The second is that of accountability. It is fine to say that elections are a way of getting rid of the bad and bringing in the good, but how true is that really? For every scandal that has plagued the developed world in past 50 years, how are we to know that there have not been two more hiding in the darkness? One would assume the situation would be worse in the developing world where corruption runs amok. How are we to know that Watergate was not the worst of Nixon's crimes? How many more Elliot Morleys are there in hiding? While I understand that the police often do tremendous jobs of exposing these scandals, but they cannot possibly catch every single one.

My third and final point is that of world security. If all, or most, of the UN nations were to adopt full transparency, there would be two major geopolitical ramifications; countries would no longer need to play the spying game and countries would think twice about engaging in overt or subversive conflicts.

I look forward to my opponent's response.


1. The resolution demands revocation of inherent human right to privacy. Medical records and performance reviews of government employees would be revealed.

2. Gag orders in the criminal cases would be overridden, resulting in prejudicial publicity and needless harm to the reputation of those being investigated and ultimately found innocent. This undermines the system of justice.

3. Divorce and lawsuit settlement agreements would be revealed, causing unnecessary financial harm and damage to the reputations of both parties.

4. Juvenile crime records would be revealed, causing permanent damage to young people who may have made a single mistake.

5. Trade secrets disclosed to the government as part of government bidding process would be revealed. Bidders would either deny government access to the best technology to the latest technology or withhold evidence that the technology works.

6. Private financial records related to business strategies and operation, disclosed during investigations and regulatory actions, would be revealed. This will cause capital flight to small countries happy to renounce UN membership in return for the influx of capital.

7. Since all advice given to government would be revealed, advice would either be withheld or rendered impotent in the name of political correctness. For example, an economics expert might advocate a policy that he believes would be good for the economy overall, but hurt Group A in the process. The expert would tend to withhold the advice for fear of unnecessarily provoking retribution from Group A. Without candid expert opinion, the executive functions of government would be impaired.

8. There is no such thing as an "impartial UN panel." Pro might as well demand that the decisions be made by impartial Norse Gods. The "impartial" panel on Human Rights was chaired by the Sudan, the only nation that practices slave trading. The UN is dominated by dictatorships, theocracies, and small dysfunctional nations. They would consistently rule that disclosing any information that damaged their ilk could be withheld as harmful, while information that damages free nations through 1-7 must be revealed.

9. The dysfunctional nations in the UN would demand that the military secrets of democratic nations all be revealed, claiming that doing so was harmless, while the military secrets of authoritarian regimes could be kept secret on the grounds that revealing them would be harmful. Iran would get the plans for ICBMs and nuclear weapons, but would never have to reveal what they are doing with them.

10. Loss of UN membership or imposition of UN trade sanctions is not a significant threat. Major UN sanctions were imposed on Saddam. France and Germany ignored them, trading conventions munitions, a million tons worth, for oil. Not only did the sanctions fail, but France and Germany suffered no adverse consequences, let alone expulsion.

11. Citizens of free nations would demand immediate withdrawal from the United Nations in order to maintain their privacy rights. Now that all medical records are going to be digitized at government behest, it means that the medical records as well as the tax returns of all citizens would be made public. A majority would find that unacceptable in comparison to withdrawing from the UN. Whatever good the UN does in distributing aid and occasional peacekeeping would then be obviated.

12. Revealing historical documents contrary to the conditions under which they were obtained would effectively prevent the future disclosure of valuable information. For example, war records reveal which commanders screwed up, the personal opinions of political leader X about leader Y, and so forth. Records are kept with the understanding that they won't be reveal for 50 years, when all the principles are long departed. Knowing that that anything put in government hands would be immediately revealed, sensible people will avoid writing anything down officially.
Debate Round No. 1


I will do a point-by-point deconstruction of my opponent's flawed points.

1. It is not an infringement of policy. If I, the taxpayer, am paying for their government pension plan, healthcare plan, dental plan, etc. I have the right to know how much it cost. Naturally there should be exceptions to this where the government does not have access to their information. This could be such situations where the government employee pays out of pocket for a private clinic. This would encourage government employees to more frugal with our money.

2. If one is found innocent, they should have nothing to hide. The truth is that all of us have something to hide, and in a society where secrecy is held above all, leaking any sort of private information can be damaging. However, in a transparent society where truth and openness is held above all, admitting to your own life should not be a scary thing. If one does seek to keep some things private, they are well within their rights. It would merely be advisable that they A. do not commit a crime and B. be honest with the police if accused of committing a crime.

Furthermore, this would help to break down inter-judicial barriers that limit police and security services. Right now there is a mess of red tape that bar different services in different jurisdictions from sharing information. If we move forward today, it will help make our streets safer.

3. I do not accept that sharing information from civil decisions will hurt anyone financially.

4. The natural solution to protect young criminals would be to not commit the crime. This would work as an excellent deterrent.

5. I do not accept this point, please elaborate.

6. Great. While I do not suggest we apply similar transparency standards to private business, I think if a company is subject to regulatory action, they have given substantive reason for the investigation. Assuming they are guilty; the market will take care of them. Assuming they are innocent; they will be vindicated. I do not assume, as you do, that businesses still contain special 'trade secrets.' You also forget that the capital flight would be made impossible due to the U.N impose trade embargo I have stipulated.

7. You are speculating. 'Advice' given will be regardless of political correctness, the only difference is that the people will have access to this advice.

8. I never said that the panel would be chaired by countries. I would argue that the U.N secretary general has remained more-or-less impartial, as has the director of WHO. I think that a panel of experts could remain dispassionate as possible.

9. You do not seem to recognize that truth is a 2-way street. If Iran gets plans for America's ICBMs (which I would argue presents an immediate threat to human life, but I will continue regardless) then I would argue that America will know exactly what Iran does with them. This will eliminate this guessing game of foreign policy and allow U.S military decisions be based on concrete fact.

Furthermore, dysfunctional nations such as Iran will not be able to survive in this world. The population will not allow the government to continue if they know the nitty gritty details of their authoritarian governments.

10. This is a different situation. If given the choice between transparency and begetting massive trade or secrecy and sparse trade, I imagine most countries will choose the former.

11. Again, if everybody has access to everyone's tax returns; who cares? You can find anyone's phone number, do you advocate destroying telephone books? I would argue that no one cares enough to actually look up another's tax returns. If it is a serious threat, any country may consider other means of protecting citizens' privacy.

12. Or, if one was to be optimistically inclined, commanders would act knowing that they are changing their immediate legacy. I believe you are debating on assumptions, semantics and overextensions.

You are ignoring the monumental p


Pro bears the burden of proof in supporting his resolution. Most of his responses amount to an assertion that whatever the problem is, he just doesn't consider it be a problem. He should provide references in each case to historical precedent or other evidence to support his claims. Pro denies that there is any such thing as right to privacy. This contradicts, for example, the Supreme Court assertion of a right to privacy as a basis for the Roe v. Wade decision. The resolution advocates overthrowing democracy by force in order to enforce authoritarian rule. Pro must therefore show why democracy is wrong and the force of authoritarian rule is right.

1. The costs of various government benefits are known by category. The question is whether the public has a right to know the individual medical treatments. With all health records set to be digitized, this would include detailed information about abortions, fertility treatment, erectile dysfunction, hormone deficiencies, birth defects, genetic predispositions to illnesses, and so forth. Congress has seen fit to protect all of this information. Pro must show why it would be beneficial to override the will of the people to make it public.

2. Gag orders have been found necessary by the Courts to protect the rights of a defendant to an unprejudiced jury pool, and to protect the reputations of innocent parties before they are cleared. "Because the Supreme Court has faulted judges on several occasions for failing to control out-of-court statements by lawyers, trial judges are likely to limit lawyers' comments in highly publicized cases. Police who investigated a crime may be barred from commenting on evidence as well." Pro must show why the right to a fair trial, as determined by the Supreme Court, should be overruled.

3. Pro merely denied that revealing sealed settlements causes harm, without evidence or argument. "Attorneys note that while the courts have long protected children in divorce cases by sealing records, they are now doing the same for companies, treating trade secrets, assets, stock values and executive salaries as valuable, sensitive information that needs special protection."

4. The legislatures of virtually every state have seen the wisdom in sealing juvenile records in certain cases. Pro asserts that juveniles should not commit crimes. That is not relevant to the issue of whether minor crimes in youth should be allowed to be expunged from the records. Pro gives no reason why democracy should not prevail on this matter.

5. Trade secrets are disclosed to the government as part of the bidding on government contracts. Suppose a company has methods for improving a communications satellite. If their secrets must be revealed, they may choose not to bid on a government contract to avoid disclosure. Revealing the secrets guarantees that the government will gets uncompetitive technology. "From the perspective of a contractor, the most critical aspect of [intellectual property] is protection of competitive advantage from disclosure to its competitors."

6. All business are subject to regulatory action, every single one. The government investigates to see if all of their regulations are being obeyed, regardless of whether any infraction has occurred.

7. Executive privilege has been upheld by the Supreme Court for the reason stated. It isn't speculation.

8. All members of the UN come from countries. The US secretly tapped a Soviet undersea cable during the cold War. That would have to be revealed to the UN for judgment as to whether revealing it would be harmful. The secret would then immediately be revealed. Reviewing all secrets will require tens of thousands of "impartial" staff.
Debate Round No. 2


I have wasted one round trying to counter his fallacious assumptions based on rare cases that will, assuming this bill is passed, only marginally inconvenience or embarrass a small minority. By ignoring these I am absolutely not admitting their validity or their poignancy, on the contrary I am stating their irrelevance. What I asking for today is the recognition of the benefit to the majority; to the taxpayers, to the voters and to those seeking justice. I will expand on these ideas in just a moment.

First I must contradict the inherent error in the logic of my opponent. He wishes to defeat my case by getting me, the debater, and you, the voter, wrapped up in the minute details. If we are to step back and analyze the entire situation, we find that these details are utterly insignificant. If this new standard for which we conduct ourselves helps to thwart even one terrorist plot by means of facilitating the inter-agency and inter-governmental flow of information, isn't that much more preventing Joe Schmo's friends from knowing he has erectile dysfunction? If this openness allows police agencies look at the juvenile record of a suspected serial killer (puberty, by the way, is when most violent offenders exhibit first signs of deviant behavior) and stop him before he kills again, isn't that more important than protecting Microsoft's secret formula for data chips when bidding on a government contract? And isn't it more important that I, the taxpayer, know if my representative has been implicated in sexual crimes against children than protecting the details of a couple's divorce? I think these questions have very obvious answers.

My opponent would have you believe in the ridiculous, albeit admirably ideological, idea that privacy must trump one's safety or well being. And what's more, this plan would not destroy the privacy of everyday Jack and Jill, far from it. Democracy means that we, the taxpayers and voters, are part of the government. Those who we vote for are merely pawns for our wishes, therefore why should they be allowed to keep secrets from us? By extension, it is not as though the government is looking into our homes, we are merely able to look out from our windows. WE, my friends, are the government and we must not let the politicians forget that.

I think it is absolutely obvious that this is time for an open-source government. The technological-based movement of open-source software has given us free and amazingly functional programs that have greatly proliferated the exchange of technology through the internet. One of the results of this has been wikileaks ( ) a website dedicated to passing on government information to the people. This has resulted in backlash from many governments, especially that of Germany. ( ) I would ask; what are they so afraid of? The government is attacking US for wanting to know more. I would suggest that my opponent is the Big Brother of this debate.

Through this law, we will have a very clear and precise way of tracking our tax dollars, we will be able to know exactly how much is going to pave roads and how much is lining the pockets of our so-called 'representatives.' It will allow us to further catch criminals and deter crime. It would benefit doctors in treating patients by giving them full access to vital information. Most importantly; it will save lives.

Perhaps my opponent still wants facts and figures, but I refuse to see what I could offer. In a society of secrecy and deception, am I truely able to offer anything without first wondering if it is truely the full story? The 9/11 Commission report given for public consumption was edited for classified material. The CIA's 'Family Jewels' is missing several diamonds due to government paranoia. I cannot give proof because it has never happened before; I am arguing for a new way of life. I ask my honorable opponent; what are you so afraid of?


1. Pro's defines "'all governments' as U.N member states and 'force' as to strongly encourage in a peaceful fashion, which could include but is not limited to termination of U.N membership, cancellation of any/all diplomatic agreements and/or the implementation of trade embargoes." Thus the resolution does not apply to terrorist organizations, since they are not member nations. Any state not wishing to comply can withdraw from the U.N. to protect their secrets.

2. The resolution abolishes the right to a fair trial, the right of privacy, the right to protect children from disclosure, the right to protect any intellectual property disputed in court, and the right of independent democratic rule. Pro believes all such rights are trivial, however no democracy will trade civil rights for UN membership. UN membership is not worth much; Switzerland, for example, gets by nicely without UN membership.

3. Nations wishing to conceal military plans may simply withdraw from the UN. Nations like Iran and North Korea would withdraw.

4. Secrets that would lead to loss of human life may be preserved, according to Pro's proposal. To determine which secrets qualify, all secrets must be submitted to the UN to be judged as to whether they qualify or not. In the US, the National Security Agency alone has about 10,000 employees collecting and analyzing intelligence data, the bulk of it related to detecting and tracking down terrorists. All CIA sources, methods, and agent information would have to be disclosed to the UN to determine what qualifies for secrecy. The UN must therefore provide tens of thousands of reviewers. It is not remotely plausible that such a large UN agency, having an international staff, could maintain the secrecy of, say, the identities of covert agents infiltrating terrorist organizations. The US would withdraw from the UN to protect its intelligence. The latter is likely.

5. All designs of weapons systems, including nuclear weapons, as well as encryption codes, launch codes, and security techniques would have to be disclosed to the army of UN bureaucrats to determine what might be kept secret. The US and virtually every other nation would withdraw from the UN rather than comply. If the US did comply, Botswana would get nuclear secrets in return for disclosing nothing of interest.

6. There are no examples of unbiased behavior by UN bureaucracies. Slave traders were put in charge of human rights. Pro's idea of having the Secretary General examine the many millions of documents is preposterous. Tens of thousands of biased and corrupt staff would be involved. Even if Iran were to remain in the UN, the likely outcome is that the UN bureaucracy would chose to reveal that the US must reveal everything, while Iran had nothing important to reveal.

7. UN sanctions are completely ineffective. France and Germany sold a million tons of explosives to Saddam in return for oil, completely ignoring UN sanctions. Nothing of consequence happened to France or Germany. The resolution has no "force" even for those who choose to remain members.

8. Pro claims, "The Western world prides itself on being a shining beacon of openness and democracy, yet how can we ever inspire third world countries to adopt progressive, democratic reforms unless we first practice what we preach?" Pro obviates rights of privacy, fair trials, self-defense, democracy, and self-government. Submitting to authoritarian control by corrupt bureaucrats is a poor example. There is absolutely no history of "openness" of the sort Pro advocates. On the contrary, the history is one of privacy and individual rights.

9. Pro asks how elections can be truly democratic if, medical records, etc., are kept secret. The answer is that there is always a large powerful opposing Party eager to reveal scandals and material that aids them. How do we preserve democracy by surrendering major rights to authoritarian rule?
Debate Round No. 3


My opponent has no understood my arguments. He continues to attack the candlesticks without considering the entire home, let alone the dining room or anything else.

The fact of the matter is that there will be sacrifices; we must choose between a new, better way of life and the one we have now. To get there we may have to alter our core values in exchange for a more efficient, open and informative way of life. No more will politicians stand before us and lie to our faces. No more will we go to war without knowing the facts. No more will big business influence our governments to choose profit over people.

The people have spoken; ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

What of the CIA? The secretive organization has been nothing but a roadblock to democratic reform throughout the world for a half century. He talks about the danger of nuclear proliferation, despite me already informing him that this is against the definitions introduced initially. Even so, just having non-vital details of weapons programs will help open the diplomatic dialog and even reducing arms, as would be the case with North Korea's nuclear program. As it is, as present, nothing more than a diplomatic bargaining chip based on the inconclusiveness of evidence collected by Western intelligence agencies. How could Kim Il Jung play off Western fears when their knowledge of his program is crystal clear?

But there is one vital point my opponent makes; why should countries stay in the U.N? Simple; because their residence would accept nothing less. There is such an untapped torrent of longing for an open society free of corruption and political deception that people would be egar to remove any politician that stands opposed to such an obviously beneficial measure.

What have we discussed in this debate? We have compared apples and oranges. My opponent has sold you both, but has not told you that inside they are rotten. I have offered you half of each; you can see inside the fruit and know its quality. I have told you the benefits of truth, of the logical extension based on freeing information that we have a right to. My opponent has chosen to attack inconsequential manifestations of this measure rather than address the fundamental shortcomings of his position.

When deciding who to vote for, remember that clarity always beats black-outs. Truth always beats lies. Accessibility always beats red tape.

Thank you.


Pro claims, "My opponent has no understood my arguments. He continues to attack the candlesticks without considering the entire home, let alone the dining room or anything else." I believe that I understand Pro's arguments better than Pro. Pro has put forth what he claims to be a practical resolution, but it would not accomplish what Pro claims. Beyond that, Pro claims his completely pointless violations of human rights should be ignored. What is the argument for revealing medical records and court settlements as a necessary step towards some greater good? Pro never says why such abuse is important, only that it should be ignored.

The major "force" behind the resolution is expulsion from the UN. I argue that this sanction is too weak to accomplish anything of substance. Pro rebuts "why should countries stay in the U.N? Simple; because their residen[ts] would accept nothing less." So, for example, if North Korea were threatened with UN expulsion for failing to become transparent, the citizens of North Korea would rise up to force Dear Leader to comply. They have not risen up in protest of being totally deprived of human rights, so it is absurd to suppose than UN expulsion would produce an uprising. In a totalitarian state, expulsion would be posed as one more reason for the populace to rally around Dear Leader to protect the country from foreign intervention.

In democratic countries, citizens would not tolerate being stripped of their rights of privacy, self-defense, and democratic self-government. Pro makes the general argument that citizens would so strongly favor trading their rights and self-government for transparency that they would demand it. However, Pro's targets seem to be mainly the CIA and amorphous "business influence." But these specific goals, and any other specific goals for transparency, could be achieved by legislation passed democratically, but Pro finds democracy unacceptable. But if there little support for the narrow objectives, there is no reason to suppose that there would be overwhelming public demand to remain in the UN so that vast intrusions on privacy could be imposed as well.

Democratic countries gain very little from UN membership. The citizens of Switzerland have not risen up to even demand membership in the UN, and they have suffered nothing of note as a consequence. The UN performs useful functions, such as distributing aid to poor countries, and occasionally in performing peacekeeping operations when all the major powers agree. But when all the major powers agree, having the UN as mechanism for carrying out the agreement is not vital.

The UN's track record of impartiality is non-existent. They put slave-traders in charge of human rights. The UN bureaucracy is notoriously corrupt. UN sanctions are routinely ignored with no penalty for ignoring them. The UN could not even pass a resolution condemning genocide in Rwanda, let alone doing anything about it. So Pro's resolution would trade lesser corruption under democracy for near-universal corruption of an undemocratic international bureaucracy.

Pro hopes that a benevolent omniscient higher power will impose wonderful things upon democracies. The belief is untrue and impractical.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Maikuru 9 years ago
Given the traffic on this bad boy, you'd expect more votes. In any case, arguments and sources go to Con. Pro presented an interesting concept but was inadequate in his defense of its numerous shortcomings.
Posted by MistahKurtz 9 years ago
Shoot. The final word should be 'positives.'
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
Good point, in the future I'll refrain from making comments about the substance of a debate until it is well underway or concluded. I had though it might encourage someone to take the challenge, but I think you're right that it is in fact discouraging. That's probably more the case when the Con is fairly obvious, like this debate.
Posted by JBlake 9 years ago
Actually, Roy, I was going to take up this debate until I saw you had outlined a similar argument in the comment section to the one I was going to make. It kind of takes out the fun of debating a topic when someone else already makes your argument.
Posted by RoyLatham 9 years ago
I thought this challenge would be snapped up almost immediately, but it wasn't, so I decided to accept it. The 4000 character limit means it will take a couple rounds to present all the Con arguments.
Posted by thisoneguy 9 years ago
Well if the Lisbon treaty can't be understood, which is the EU equivalent of the US constitution, what chance have we got ?,, they added 8,000 words and brought the words closer together making it 30 pages less, everything has to be cross-referenced, do the US really think that the American people voted in 2 members of the Bush family, as well as Obama whom is related to 6 previous Presidents ?, If governments were to be totally transparent then the US would be seen as the Murderers they are, and the same goes for the UK, and whilst I'm at it the Vatican, would be seen, well I may have said enough thus far without going into that side of things. Just say no to NWO and ID cars folks.
Posted by MistahKurtz 9 years ago
Actually, it was merely a matter of age. It has been adjusted.
Posted by MistahKurtz 9 years ago
wjmelements, I added that because I wanted a reasonably intelligent person to debate. Failing that, you'll do.

I kid! But seriously, if you want to take opp, I'd be honoured to make this between us.
Posted by fresnoinvasion 9 years ago
According to his "about me" this fool is a Soviet spy, It's clear he just wants to know the secrets of the USA to give the soviets a hand up on us :-0
Posted by wjmelements 9 years ago
"You cannot accept this challenge because you do not match the Instigator's age and/or rank criteria."

Are you kidding?
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by Volkov 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by Maikuru 9 years ago
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