The Political Economy of Transparency: What Makes Disclosure Policies Effective?
48 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2005
Date Written: December 2004
Regulatory transparency - mandatory disclosure of information by private or public institutions with a regulatory intent - has become an important frontier of government innovation. This paper assesses the effectiveness of such transparency systems by examining the design and impact of financial disclosure, nutritional labeling, workplace hazard communication, and five other diverse systems in the United States. We argue that transparency policies are effective only when the information they produce becomes "embedded" in the everyday decision-making routines of information users and information disclosers. This double-sided embeddedness is the most important condition for transparency systems' effectiveness. Based on detailed case analyses, we evaluate the user and discloser embeddedness of the eight major transparency policies. We then draw on a comprehensive inventory of prior studies of regulatory effectiveness to assess whether predictions about effectiveness based on characteristics of embeddedness are consistent with those evaluations.
Keywords: transparency, information disclosure, regulation
JEL Classification: L51, K32, I18, D80, D82, G18, J28, M41, M45
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