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This pattern means that important information is kept secret from citizens. This is useful when hiding corruption, nepotism, money laundering, smuggling, vote buying, tax evasion, etc. When information is kept private there is less chance that malfeasance can be noticed. With Opacity in place, over the years elite business and governments can distance themselves further and further away from any controls on them.

How it works

Keeping things from the public eye can be maintained through laws or through habit. Sometimes when there are transparency laws, a government can designate things to be secret in order to maintain state security.[1] It is widely speculated that government will often classify documents for personal reasons or non-security reasons, but when the government It is interesting to note that even if there is transparency, societal apathy can mean that corruption and other crimes can continue without interruption.

Opacity prevents people from seeing how business and governments actually conduct their affairs. This encourages corruption because there is no oversight.

It can also establish this as a habit which ultimately can be seen as the "natural state of affairs", the way things are actually supposed to be.


Freedom of information laws are routinely challenged by governments around the world. In the US, despite the Freedom of Information Act, official requests for information are routinely denied despite the information falling into categories that are permitted within the FOIA.[2]

In some cases the classified information includes the details about the the workings of a branch of government, as is the case with the Edward Snowden NSA document leaks, showing that the NSA engages in phone tapping and gathers call records from millions of people across the world. Included in this information that they listed as classified is the knowledge that the NSA keeps phone records and engages in wire tapping in the first place.[3]


Corruption and Fraud, Professional Obfuscation, Forbidden Knowledge, Hidden Agendas



  1. The Conflicts Behind Government Opacity. http://www.cityethics.org/node/627, Retrieved March, 7 2014.
  2. Roberts, Alasdair. Blacked out: Government secrecy in the information age. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  3. Greenwald, Glenn and Ewen MacAskill. "Boundless Informant: the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2013.