Secret Lawmaking

Is the general population too stupid to understand legislation that’s coming down the pike? Do you think that people should be kept in the dark because they wouldn’t understand a bill if it were right before their eyes?

Woodrow Wilson gives his Americans more credit than that. In the following excerpt from his book The New Freedom, he explains that bills should be simple to understand and right out in the open, where everyone can see them. If only the Trans Pacific Partnership were so available to the general public! If only we were given the bullet points to the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, both bills that brought on the financial crisis of 2008!

But there is no public debate over the finer points of the Trans Pacific Partnership. Ask your congressman and senator specifically what he likes or dislikes about it to see if he knows what it entails. Then find out for yourself what the TPP is all about here: Old Dog Blog.

Here’s what Woodrow Wilson says about the excuses lawmakers use to defend the deliberate obfuscation of the law:

“I know how some of these gentlemen reason. They say that the influences to which they are yielding are perfectly legitimate influences, but that if they were disclosed they would not be understood. Well, I am very sorry, but nothing is legitimate that cannot be understood. If you cannot explain it properly, then there is something about it that cannot be explained at all. I know from the circumstances of the case, not what is happening, but that something private is happening, and that every time one of these bills gets into committee, something private stops it, and it never comes out again unless forced out by the agitation of the press or the courage and revolt of brave men in the legislature. I have known brave men of that sort. I could name some splendid examples of men who, as representatives of the people, demanded to be told by the chairman of the committee why the bill was not reported, and who, when they could not find out from him, investigated and found out for themselves and brought the bill out by threatening to tell the reason on the floor of the House.

“Those are private processes. Those are processes which stand between the people and the things that are promised them, and I say that until you drive all of those things into the open, you are not connected with your government; you are not represented; you are not participants in your government. Such a scheme of government by private understanding deprives you of representation, deprives the people of representative institutions. It has got to be put into the heads of legislators that public business is public business. I hold the opinion that there can be no confidences as against the people with respect to their government, and that it is the duty of every public officer to explain to his fellow-citizens whenever he gets a chance,—explain exactly what is going on inside of his own office.

“There is no air so wholesome as the air of utter publicity.”


Wilson, Woodrow. “Chapter 6/Let There Be Light.” The New Freedom; a Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People. New York and Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1913. 130-31. Print.

This entry was posted in Money In Politics, Bookmark the permalink.