A Political Economic Analysis of Transparency in a Digital World


Technological progress and digitalization have led to tremendous changes in the amount and type of information available on politics and politicians. In the future, these changes are likely to continue at an even faster pace. The increasing political transparency that comes with these changes has an impact on the relationship between voters and politicians. Voters can base their voting decisions on personalized information about the different candidates and elect those that represent voter preferences well. Increasingly, politicians are becoming individually accountable to their voters. Such an increase in political competition and accountability is generally seen as beneficial. Arguably, remembering should therefore be the default with respect to transparency in politics. However, as there are certain situations in which more transparency can actually hurt citizens’ interests, the question arises as to the circumstances under which deviations from this default might be appropriate. With the exception of well-defined restrictions with respect to national security and similar issues, transparency rules should be evaluated with respect to their (unintended) incentive effects.

In: Thouvenin, Florent, Peter Hettich, Herbert Burkert and Urs Gasser (Eds.): Remembering and Forgetting in the Digital Age. An Interdisciplinary Approach to a Complex Phenomenon. Springer, Heidelberg, forthcoming