James Vreeland announces Information, Democracy, and Autocracy: Economic Transparency and Political (In)stability

Wednesday, Oct 31, 2018

James Vreeland, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, and his co-authors James Hollyer, Associate Professor in Political Economy at the University of Minnesota, and Peter Rosendorff, Professor of Politics at New York University, have released a new book entitled "Information, Democracy, and Autocracy: Economic Transparency and Political (In)stability,"

While advocates for economic development often call for greater transparency, the authors examine what transparency really means, and what are its consequences. This breakthrough book demonstrates how information impacts major political phenomena, including mass protest, the survival of dictatorships, democratic stability, as well as economic performance.

The book introduces a new measure of a specific facet of transparency: the dissemination of economic data. Analysis shows that democracies make economic data more available than do similarly developed autocracies. Transparency attracts investment and makes democracies more resilient to breakdown. But transparency has a dubious consequence under autocracy: political instability.

Mass-unrest becomes more likely, and transparency can facilitate democratic transition - but most often a new despotic regime displaces the old. Autocratic leaders may also turn these threats to their advantage, using the risk of mass-unrest that transparency portends to unify the ruling elite. Policy-makers must recognize the trade-offs transparency entails.

More information related to this work can be found on the HRV Transparency Project website: http://hrvtransparency.org/.