The Adverse Effects of Sunshine: Evidence from a Field Experiment on Legislative Transparency in an Authoritarian Assembly
Edmund J. Malesky
Duke University, Political Science
Paul J. Schuler
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science
Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)
October 4, 2011
Prepared for presentation at the University of Chicago Conference on Authoritarian Constitutions, October 21 & 22nd.
Indiana University-Bloomington School of Public & Environmental Affairs Research Paper No. 2010-07-03
An influential literature has demonstrated that transparency can improve the performance of political officials in democracies, particularly within elected legislatures. Although the direct causal link for this relationship runs through the incentives created by voters’ responses to the new information, recent donor projects have begun to export transparency interventions to authoritarian regimes under the assumption that NGOs and media can substitute for voters in these systems. These interventions, however, are at odds with an emerging literature, which argues that authoritarian parliaments primarily serve the role of cooptation and limited power-sharing, where complaints can be raised in a manner that does not threaten regime stability. Under these conditions, transparency may have perverse effects. In this analysis, we devise a randomized experiment to test the influence of transparency on delegate behavior in query sessions in Vietnam, a single-party, authoritarian regime. We find that delegates subjected to a high intensity of treatment demonstrate robust evidence of curtailed participation and conformist behavior. In addition, treated delegates are significantly less likely to be re-elected than the control group. These results make us cautious about the export of transparency without electoral sanctioning.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 69
Keywords: Transparency, Authoritarian Institutions, Parliament, Legislature, Experiment, Randomized, Field Trialworking papers series
Date posted: July 19, 2010 ; Last revised: October 4, 2011
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