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The way to (more) transparent government.

August 9, 2007

I’ve read “Why Congress Needs a Version Control System”. In the post, Tim O’Reilly wrote:

These are really thought-provoking suggestions. I was particularly struck by Karl’s suggestion of a version control system for Congress. They say you don’t want to see either laws or sausages being made, but I think they are wrong. Imagine how much more transparency and accountability our government would have if it were possible to see what changes were made by whom, who inserted extraneous riders into various bills, and generally to track the influence of various interests by the new visibility into their actual control over the knobs and levers of government!

IMO, this is a very interesting idea. Still, I doubt if it’d be practical and would it apply to other governments. I don’t know how things are going in Congress so I wouldn’t give comment on its practicalness in the US. As a citizen of Thailand, I’d like to comment on its practicalness in my home country.

First of all, most of Thais aren’t really care about politics. Currently we’re going to have the referendum on new constitution. (I’d disprove it.) Many (if not most) people haven’t look at it. Even an ex-prime minister said: “I haven’t read it, and I won’t read it. I believe that the draft committee did its best to make a good constitution.” (There’s no citation here because I saw him saying in the TV.) This means even if the version control system exists a few percentage of Thais would care about it.

Second, people of Thailand are likely to overlook any fault as long as they get the stake. Last government, the government of current owner of Manchester City Football Club, had made some questionable actions but most people never complain nor even speak of them. They just keep praising how good the government to them. So, even if the fault is there in the version control system, it might be fixed and nobody would get blame.

Third, the less important member of a party would do anything to please the more important one. And, if the stake is large enough, some would willingly break the law to get it. That’s being said, the important one can always find dummies to take the blame, if it even exists.

The combination of these three factors leads me to believe that the version control system wouldn’t give much more transparency nor accountability to Thai Parliament.

The bottom lines: I like the idea. But I believe the version control system wouldn’t help much in the country which people are less active in politics.

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