“Economic Transparency and Political Stability” with James Raymond Vreeland, Georgetown University
QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS WORKSHOP
Abstract: Activists and advocates for economic development and political reform often call for greater transparency. But what does transparency really mean? And what are its economic and political consequences? This book project examines a specific facet of transparency: the dissemination of economic data. Vital for efficient investment decisions, data-availability varies tremendously across countries and time. Perhaps not surprisingly, democracies – even poor ones – make economic data more available than do autocracies of a similar level of development. They have good reason. Transparency attracts foreign investment and makes democracies more resilient to breakdowns. The calculus for autocrats, however, is different. Autocracies that make economic data more available attract foreign investment at the cost of political stability: Mass-unrest becomes more likely as disclosure rises. Sometimes a democratic transition results, but other times unrest simply brings about a new despotic regime. In still other cases, autocrats use the threat of mass-unrest to unify the ruling elite in order to entrench the regime more deeply. Policy-makers must recognize the transparency trade-offs: Gains in investment in autocracies can be weighed against enhancing the threat of mass-unrest and potential political instability.
James Raymond Vreeland (Ph.D., New York University, 1999) is Professor of International Relations in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He conducts research in the field of international political economy, specializing in international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations. His research explores a wide range of policy outcomes, including economic growth, income distribution, foreign aid, transparency, and human rights. Many of his arguments involve the ways in which governments can use international institutions as scapegoats to launder “dirty” politics.