Reconsidering transparency as a policy instrument

May 28, 2010, 7:37 p.m.

GWU's Amitai Etzioni argues (PDF) in the Journal of Political Philosophy:

Transparency is a highly regarded value, a precept used for ideological purposes, and a subject of academic study. The following critical analysis attempts to show that transparency is overvalued. Moreover, its ideological usages cannot be justified, because a social science analysis shows that transparency cannot fulfill the functions its advocates assign to it, although it can play a limited role in their service. We shall see that in assessing transparency, one must take into account a continuum composed of the order of disutility and the level of information costs. The higher the score on both variables, the less useful transparency is. Moreover, these scores need not be particularly high to greatly limit the extent to which the public can rely on transparency for most purposes.

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