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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

The Transparent Parthenon

by Paul Jacob

Historians know how much it cost to build the Parthenon, but we still don't know what's been spent on this past year's economic recovery packages and bailouts.

Yes, we still have the clay tablets upon which the accounts for building the Parthenon were tallied. What we call “transparency” today was simple common sense in ancient Athens.

Athens was a democracy, and as every small-d democrat knows, it is absolutely essential to make government records public if the people are to make important decisions.

Same goes for a democratic republic, like ours.

Now, I'm not saying that building the Parthenon made sense for Athens. I'm glad we have it now, but it was part of Periclean grandiosity, and the great statesman's next step was to invade Sparta — and that was one war without a good ending for Athens.

By the way, there is a theory of business cycles based on how tall corporate buildings become. You know the boom is ending just when all the businesses are building huge skyscrapers.

Something similar happened in Athens. The Parthenon was finished; next, it was sacked by the Spartans.

As fascinating as it is, we can't live in the past. But we can learn from it. If transparency was required for Pericles, it should be required for Barack Obama.

Oh, and maybe we should be extra cautious about going to war.

Paul Jacob's "Common Sense" is published by the Citizens in Charge Foundation. Their website can be visited at

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