Quotations about   transparency

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For virtue, not secrecy, is sought by good men.

[Honesta enim bonis viris, non occulta quaeruntur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 3, ch. 9 / sec. 38 (44 BC) [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:
  • "For good men desire to be virtuous and honest, and not to be secret, that so they may sin without danger." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "What is honorable, and not what is concealed, is the object of pursuit with wise men." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "For it is right things, not hidden things, that are sought by good men." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
  • "For good men aim to secure not secrecy but the right." [tr. Miller (1913)]
  • "Honorable things, not secretive things, are sought by good men."
Added on 2-Nov-20 | Last updated 2-Nov-20
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BERNARD: But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know.
SIR HUMPHREY: No. They have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity in guilt; ignorance has a certain dignity.

Jonathan Lynn (b. 1943) English actor, comedy writer, director
Yes Minister, S1E1 “Open Government” (25 Feb 1980) [with Anthony Jay]
Added on 25-Feb-20 | Last updated 25-Feb-20
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The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.

Samuel Adams (1722-1803) American revolutionary, statesman
Letter to James Warren (4 Nov 1775)
Added on 19-Jul-16 | Last updated 19-Jul-16
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A decent and manly examination of the acts of the Government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged.

William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) American politician, military officer, US President (1841)
Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1841)
Added on 21-Jun-16 | Last updated 21-Jun-16
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Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)
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Paraphrase: "The people have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge -- I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers."
Added on 16-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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If someone knows of a problem and conceals it from me, I get more upset from that than from the problem itself. I tell our people time and time again: Bad news first.

Donald Regan (1918-2003) American financier, government executive
In Bernard Weintraub, “How Donald Regan Runs the White House,” New York Times Magazine (5 Jan 1986)
Added on 7-Mar-16 | Last updated 7-Mar-16
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It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist Papers, #62 (Feb 1788)
Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, American Newspaper Publishers Association (27 Apr 1961)
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Added on 25-Aug-14 | Last updated 25-Aug-14
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The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, American Newspaper Publishers Association (27 Apr 1961)
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Added on 18-Aug-14 | Last updated 18-Aug-14
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Govern thy Life and Thoughts as if the whole World were to see the one, and read the other.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, # 417 (1731)
Added on 20-Jul-11 | Last updated 26-Jun-14
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I believe that the public temper is such that the voters of the land are prepared to support the party which gives the best promise of administering the government in the honest, simple, and plain manner which is consistent with its character and purposes. They have learned that mystery and concealment in the management of their affairs cover tricks and betrayal. The statesmanship they require consists in honesty and frugality, a prompt response to the needs of the people as they arise, and a vigilant protection of all their varied interests.

Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) American President (1885–1889, 1893–1897)
Letter accepting Democratic nomination for President (8 Aug 1884)
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Added on 13-Dec-10 | Last updated 3-Nov-20
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Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter (23 Jan 1861)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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