This is the 2nd installment of a blog post looking at the relationship between the tools we use for transparency and accountability and the relationship of these tools to political pressure and discourse.
Talk and Laws
In the first instalment of this blog post the tension between technological tools, such as mobile phones, which can be used for greater accountability, and the creation of those very tools was explored. For example, mobile phones can hold corrupt officials more accountable by crowdsourcing information, such as election results. However, components of these very same mobile devices may be made through abominable labor practices using conflict metals. Thus, raising the question of how can we work toward better laws regarding transparency if the tools we are using are rife with contradictions?
Perhaps, one way to move the debate forward is to understand the necessity for both talk and law. We will not be able to advocate for the laws for greater accountability and transparency without adequate “talk” pressure on legislatures. However, a change is discourse is needed before we can work for greater political pressure. Suggesting, that before we blame our politics for lack of action, we may need to turn to ourselves as individual consumers and re-assess our relationship to our products.
Talk is defined by the discourse within our political and consumer culture that enables individuals to think more closely about where their products come from. Currently, there is a lack of discourse within both our political and consumer culture. Partially stemming from the sheer powerlessness individual consumers may feel if they were to dissect their every product. Consumer’s could easily feel disenfranchised and dissuaded from political engagement if they feel overwhelmed by the options and the potential “dark side” of their products.
The puzzle gets greater when we ask if it easier to change our “talk” or to change our “laws.” Our talk is going to be extremely difficult to change because a change in discourse poses an existential threat to the way citizens interact with a value-neutral free market. However, this change in “talk” is a necessity to put the political pressure on legislators to enforce the laws that make sure that we have the information to act on that concern and to enforce our preferences about those concerns collectively (through trade laws, international agreements, campaigns, negotiated self-regulation, etc.).