The battle over the disclosure of the memo on the Russia investigation prepared by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes has been analyzed mostly in narrow partisan terms, but it has much larger significance for the health of American democracy. A key weakness of the U.S. democratic system, and indeed all democracies, is the paradox of secrecy: voters need to know what the government does in order to evaluate it but the government needs secrecy to effectively serve the public. As parties have polarized, the tensions inherent to that paradox have become increasingly impossible to ignore.
These tensions now demand some attempt at a resolution, even if any such answer will inevitably demand sacrifices from current stakeholders. The most plausible solution may be one that nobody in the political establishment has yet seriously contemplated — the creation of a system of public audits for government secrets.
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