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Government transparency and policymaking

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  • Justin Fox

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    Abstract

    We argue that making lawmakers more accountable to the public by making it easier to identify their policy choices can have negative consequences. Specifically, we analyze a model of political agency with a single lawmaker and a representative voter. In our model, the lawmaker has better information than the voter about the appropriateness of alternative policy courses. In addition, the voter is uncertain about the incumbent's policy preferences – specifically, the voter is worried the incumbent is an ideologue. Our model suggests that when lawmakers expect their policy choices to be widely publicized, for those lawmakers sufficiently concerned about reelection, the desire to select policies that lead the public to believe they are unbiased will trump the incentive to select those policies that are best for their constituents. Hence, lawmakers who would do the right thing behind close doors may no longer do so when policy is determined in the open. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-006-9103-3
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

    Volume (Year): 131 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 1 (April)
    Pages: 23-44

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:131:y:2007:i:1:p:23-44

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100332

    Related research

    Keywords: Government transparency; Political agency;

    References

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    1. Sumon Majumdar & Sharun W. Mukand, 2004. "Policy Gambles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1207-1222, September.
    2. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2000. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 28, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    3. Bryan Caplan, 2000. "Rational Irrationality: A Framework for the Neoclassical-Behavioral Debate," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 191-211, Spring.
    4. Michael Smart & Daniel M. Sturm, 2006. "Term limits and electoral accountability," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19771, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," Economics Working Papers 0020, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
    6. Bryan Caplan, 2002. "Systematically Biased Beliefs About Economics: Robust Evidence of Judgemental Anomalies from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 433-458, April.
    7. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
    8. James M. Snyder, 2005. "Why Roll Calls? A Model of Position-Taking in Legislative Voting and Elections," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 153-178, April.
    9. Andrea Prat, 2002. "The Wrong Kind of Transparency," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 439, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    10. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. " Rational Irrationality and the Microfoundations of Political Failure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 107(3-4), pages 311-31, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. Prato, Carlo & Wolton, Stephane, 2014. "The Voters' Curses: The Upsides and Downsides of Political Engagement," MPRA Paper 53482, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Kolstad, Ivar & Wiig, Arne, 2009. "Is Transparency the Key to Reducing Corruption in Resource-Rich Countries?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 521-532, March.

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