Democracy and Transparency
34 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2011
Date Written: January 27, 2011
Are democracies more transparent than other types of political regimes? Many people believe that the presence of elections alone is not sufficient for a country to be considered democratic, and that transparency must be included as part of the definition of political regime. We agree that contestability of elections and transparency of policy-making are analytically distinct concepts. Adopting minimalist approaches to democracy and transparency, we ask a basic question: do electoral politics provide incentives for governments to disseminate data? Or, instead, do electoral politics generate incentives to obfuscate information? We thus investigate theoretically the relationship between regime-type and the willingness of policy-makers to provide credible announcements on policy-relevant variables. And we demonstrate empirically that the availability (or absence) of policy-relevant data is correlated with regime type, even after controlling for level of development, participation in IMF programs, country-specific effects, and the effects of time. Democracies are indeed more transparent.
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