Sweden’s Open Society
Under the slightly misleading title WikiLeaks: Could an Open Society Become a Reality?, TIME gives a nifty little overview of the characteristics of Sweden’s openness in regards to information and its free flow (which, having family in Sweden, I have been fascinated with for long):
The torrent of confidential U.S. government documents posted to the WikiLeaks website may have slowed over the Christmas holidays, but diplomats and military officials across the world continue to count the cost of the leaks — and question their long-term effects on governance. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his organization’s goal is to force governments into total transparency by making all official documents available to the public. But just how transparent would governments be under such forced scrutiny? Would the publication — or threat of publication — of everything they put to paper force officials to be more honest? Or would it just compel them to make more decisions off the record?
Such questions have been a source of speculation in the U.S. following WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, but there’s one country where official openness is not just a hypothetical way of governing. Sweden operates closer to an “Assangian” state of absolute transparency than any country in the world, and has long debated whether the policy has the potential to backfire. Swedish sunshine laws are the most far-reaching ever created. Almost every government document — including all mail to and from government offices — is available to the public, save for a small number relating to international relations or national security. At the same time, the country goes to great lengths to ensure whistleblowers are protected: should a secret be leaked to the media, for instance, government officials are legally prohibited from investigating the source of the material.