Fourth Branch-Money Trail
For a long time, the fourth branch of government has been an independent media, reporting on corruption, conflicts of interest, and criminal violations, but usually reporting after-the-fact, and after the damage was done. Author Kim postulates creating a new fourth branch of government that handles all financial transactions in a clear and transparent way, and reporting them all on the Internet for viewing by everyone. While that may seem an extreme solution, the last few years of scandal and scams, not to mention the rise of anonymous donor-funded super-PACs influencing American elections calls for something different than business-as-usual.
Kim uses examples mostly from the U.S., China, and Korea in the book to illustrate problems that have happened and how greater transparency could have prevented them sooner, before hundreds of millions, if not billions, were misappropriated, stolen or lost. Kim also explores the relationship the trust citizens have of their government to the success of democracy and how increasing the ability of citizens to know what is actually happening with their money (tax, investment, and general funds) increases the stability of the government. Additionally, Kim covers potential improvements to the social safety net, health care, and education–all of which he suggests major overhaul to existing institutions to make them more efficient or cost-effective.
Much of Fourth Branch-Money Trail reads like a dissertation, not overly academic, but filled with theory and ideas never yet tried outside of a classroom. Kim’s writing style is clear and easy to read, though in places could have used another round of copy editing. He should have included an index and better references to events and facts he discusses. But even after all consideration of the concept, one phrase comes to mind – “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or “Who watches the watchmen?”
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