Transparency, Legitimacy and Trust

June 16, 2014

Federal Times

By John Kamensky

[...] Licht says there are some policy decisions that involve what are called “taboo tradeoffs.” A taboo tradeoff, for example, would be making budget tradeoffs in policy areas such as health care and environmental quality, where human life or well-being is at stake. In cases where more money is an implicit solution, the author notes, “increased transparency in these policy areas might provoke feeling of taboo, and, accordingly, decreased perceived legitimacy.”

Other scholars, such as Harvard’s Jane Mansbridge contend that “full transparency may not always be the best practice in policy making.” Full transparency in decision-making processes would include, for example, open appropriation committee meetings. Instead, she recommends “transparency in rationale – in procedures, information, reasons, and the facts on which the reasons are based.” That is, provide a full explanation after-the-fact.

Licht tested the hypothesis that full transparency of the decision-making process vs. partial transparency via providing after-the-fact rationales for decisions may create different results, depending on the policy arena involved. More»

Jane Mansbridge is is an affiliated faculty of the Ash Center.