Is Transparency the Best Disinfectant?

16 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2016

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Date Written: February 12, 2016


Transparency is a highly regarded value, a precept used for ideological purposes, and a subject of academic study. The following critical analysis attempts to show that transparency is overvalued. Moreover, its ideological usages cannot be justified, because a social science analysis shows that transparency cannot fulfill the functions its advocates assign to it, although it can play a limited role in their service. We shall see that in assessing transparency, one must take into account a continuum composed of the order of disutility and the level of information costs. The higher the score on both variables, the less useful transparency is. Moreover, these scores need not be particularly high to greatly limit the extent to which the public can rely on transparency for most purposes.

Suggested Citation

Etzioni, Amitai, Is Transparency the Best Disinfectant? (February 12, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 4058
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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