Perhaps the greatest need in achieving effective and just government worldwide is accountability. Those who act in the name of government are given authority to affect our lives, yet the process of holding them responsible is generally weak.

At the best, investigations and accountings are a nuisance for powerful people and organizations; at the worst, they expose conflicts of interest, abuses of power, nepotism, favoritism, cronyism, all the way to intentional corruption, fraud, and embezzlement. For a variety of reasons, therefore, power resists accountability.

Politicians, being masters of governmental power, try to redirect public unrest into political conflict. "You say you're unhappy?" asks the member of the Blue Party. "Well, you better help us defeat the White Party and the Purple Party and the Orange Party - - they're the ones who are causing all these problems." But accountability is a problem no matter which party or parties are in power.

Public efforts to obtain access to information about government activities are often frustrated. Requests for government documents are often stonewalled; government meetings are frequently closed, or so packed with invitees as to be effectively closed. Governments carefully tailor press releases and public disclosures to highlight the information most favorable to the government.

The solution is to continue to demand openness in government with as loud a voice as the people can muster. Insist upon oversight of government operations, not conducted by other government activities, but by independent members of the public. Demand watchdogs specifically tasked to protect the public, and insure that they have power to dig into messy corners and demand that their results be published. Increase the standards of rigor applied to audits and insist upon the independence of auditors. Form and support private associations to promote openness in government. Extend the requirements of openness to government contractors. Glorify and reward the whistleblowers and investigative journalists; set up prizes to reward them and entice more to spill the beans! There should be little expense associated with openness, because there are millions of citizens eager to volunteer their services to observe and report on the workings of governments. But the pressure of the public will continually be required to overcome the natural tendency of governments to shut up like a clam.