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PART III - WHY DISCLOSE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2018

James R. Hollyer
Affiliation:
University of Minnesota
B. Peter Rosendorff
Affiliation:
New York University
James Raymond Vreeland
Affiliation:
Princeton University, New Jersey
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Summary

A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.

Dalai Lama, The Telegraph (May 13, 2012)

The journey of this inquiry now turns to a question that has been with us from the beginning: why do some governments disclose data while others do not?We have assumed throughout this project that governments have a natural inclination toward opacity. They may better accomplish their priorities in office when not subject to the insistent glare of the population. There may also be financial gains from governing under obscurity. The bright light of transparency makes all sorts of corrupt practices more difficult – bribery, extortion, gombeenism, patronage, graft, embezzlement, and so on. What economic and political benefits might transparency hold for leaders to sacrifice governing in the shadows?

For democratic regimes, Part II reveals benefits of transparency in terms of stability. But do these benefits translate into electoral gains that outweigh the potential for rent-seeking under opacity? Will democratic leaders choose transparency when tempted by the financial gains to be had when the population is left in the dark about the economy?

Turning to autocracies, we have a real puzzle: transparency can lead to unrest. So why would an autocrat ever gamble by disclosing more data? What political benefits does transparency hold for autocrats?

Part III addresses these questions in three steps. Chapter 8 examines the economic benefits of transparency focusing narrowly on investment – both domestic and foreign. The next two chapters address the political rationale to disclose – first for democratically elected leaders (Chapter 9) and then for autocratic leaders (Chapter 10).

In Chapter 8, we argue that transparency brings economic returns in the form of increased investment. Even an autocrat fearing mass unrest may be lured by the sirens of the material gain promised by transparency. As Chapter 8 demonstrates, however, these economic returns are systematically lower for autocrats than for democrats, even as Chapter 9 contends that autocratic leaders care less about these economic gains than do democratic leaders. We conclude that economic benefits may only constitute part of the story of why autocrats would disseminate data.

Type
Chapter
Information
Information, Democracy, and Autocracy
Economic Transparency and Political (In)Stability
, pp. 215 - 216
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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