Cheap talk or incredible commitment? (Mis)calculating transparency and anti-corruption

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39 Scopus citations


Why do “tainted” politicians in high-corruption countries adopt transparency and anti-corruption policies that risk exposing their wrongdoing? Using the cases of freedom of information and public asset disclosure in Romania, we assess three explanations: that these policies are meant to be mere window dressing, facilitate bottom-up monitoring, or ensure access to information for the ruling party if it loses power. We find that decision makers adopt transparency and anti-corruption policies because they want to signal their integrity and because they underestimate their consequences. Because they assume they will be able to control implementation, decision makers discount the potential costs of damaging information being released. Sustained political competition can keep corruption and lack of transparency on the public and political agenda, shifting attention from policy adoption to implementation and leading to increased compliance. Since politicians miscalculate the consequences of their actions, signals that are intended to be cheap can end up being quite costly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-430
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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