GRE Issue Essay 81
It is often necessary, even desirable, for political leaders to withhold information from the public.
This is a very controversial issue. There are two viewpoints, which explain this statement more clearly. Broadly speaking, in a democratic system, a political leader should not withhold any information from the public. It is public’s right to know everything about the leaders and the government. However, sometimes it becomes necessary to hide some information from the public for public’s interest itself. Nevertheless, we must not allow our political leaders undue freedom to withhold information.
In politics, complete forthrightness is a sign of vulnerability and naivety. In politics, a would-be leader has to withhold information to first gain and maintain political power. They have to keep their personal matters secret, otherwise they will not be able to win the public’s trust and respect. For example, if all politicians will fully disclose every personal foible, character flaw, and detail concerning personal life, there will be very few honest politicians that would be elected. In history, we have many cases where personal scandals have damaged the political career of many powerful politicians; thus, I think this view is realistic. For example, President of America, Nixon, when his role in the Watergate scandal opened up, had to resign. In his case, it was wrong on his part to hide such an important information from the public. It was not in the interest of the public.
However, sometimes there might be many circumstances wherein it is politic to restrain information and prevent it from dispersing to other parts of the country to maintain peace and harmony. For example, in a multi-cultural country like India, many cases of communal violence have arisen. In such situations, political leaders have to make an effort to avoid the incident from spreading to other parts of the country, otherwise, the communal riots may diffuse to the entire country, and then it would be difficult to control the situation.
In addition, there might be situations during a war when it is often necessary for the government to conceal the defense strategies and secrets from the public. Such information should not be accessed by the public. There might be some elements in the society who might be spying for the enemy and can leak the information to the enemy. Similarly, politicians cannot disclose strategies and specific plans of the government to seize an international terrorist or a drug trafficker, otherwise those strategies would surely fail, and the public’s health and safety would be in danger. Sometimes, withholding information is also necessary to avoid public panic.
However, political leaders should not take undue advantage of the public’s trust and hide information that is the right of people to know. People must be aware of major policy decisions taken by the government related to the development of the country like education, health and other fields. The media and police should make sure that the leaders who are involved in scandalous activities be exposed to the public. The leaders like Hitler who lack forthrightness and maintain power by brute force must be abhorred. Such demagoguery must not be allowed in a democratic society.
Hence, while sometimes it becomes necessary to hide certain information in the public’s interest, such behavior should not be common characteristic of a politician. A political leader should be committed to his principles, which will truly contribute towards a better nation.