Government Transparency and Policymaking


Justin Fox

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Fox, Justin (2007) "Government Transparency and Policymaking." Public Choice, 131(1-2): 23-44. DOI 10.1007/s11127-006-9103-3
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.
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