Democracy and Transparency
Swiss Political Science Review, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 99-112, October 2006
51 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2007
Corruption, resource extraction and waste by policymakers are endemic to any polity, and are often a source of poor economic performance. Voters in democracies can reduce this dissipation by revoking the authority of their elected officials at election times, but only if they have the information necessary to allocate responsibility for poor economic performance to this corrupt and inefficient leadership. This paper investigates the incentives of policymakers to provide this information about their actions and behavior, and investigates the differences in this willingness to be transparent across regime types. Key to understanding a policymaker's willingness to be transparent is his/her susceptibility to unfair eviction. If a policymaker can be tossed out of office when aggregate conditions are poor (which is observed by the voters directly), but waste and corruption have not been excessive (but these are not directly observed), this policymaker may be unfairly evicted from office. In order to avoid such a fate, a policymaker may provide more transparency-enhancing institutional devices to avoid such an outcome. Since democratic executives are more susceptible to unfair eviction, they are more likely to be more transparent when compared to autocratic policymakers.
Keywords: Transparency, Corruption, Elections
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