Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency

Cambridge University Press
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Governments in recent decades have employed public disclosure strategies to reduce risks, improve public and private goods and services, and reduce injustice. In the United States, these targeted transparency policies include financial securities disclosures, nutritional labels, school report cards, automobile rollover rankings, and sexual offender registries. They constitute a light-handed approach to governance that empowers citizens. However, as Full Disclosure shows these policies are frequently ineffective or counterproductive. Based on a comparative analysis of eighteen major policies, the authors suggest that transparency policies often produce information that is incomplete, incomprehensible, or irrelevant to the consumers, investors, workers, and community residents who could benefit from them. Sometimes transparency fails because those who are threatened by it form political coalitions to limit or distort information. To be successful, transparency policies must place the needs of ordinary citizens at centre stage and produce information that informs their everyday choices.
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About the author

Archon Fung is Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. His research examines the impacts on public and private governance of civic participation, public deliberation, and transparency. He has authored three books, including Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy (2004); three edited collections; and more than fifty articles appearing in journals such as the American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Journal of Political Philosophy, Politics and Society, Governance, and Journal of Policy and Management.

Mary Graham is a Research Fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her research focuses on the use of information strategies to foster social change, the politics of public information, innovative approaches to health and safety regulation, and new trends in environmental policy. She is the author of Democracy by Disclosure (2002) and The Morning After Earth Day (1999). Graham has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Financial Times, Environment magazine, Issues in Science and Technology, Brookings Review, and other publications.

David Weil is Professor of Economics and Everett W. Lord Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Boston University School of Management. His research spans the areas of labor market policy, industrial and labor relations, occupational safety and health, and regulatory policy. He has published widely in these areas and has also served as advisor to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and other government agencies. He has written two other books (including the award-winning A Stitch in Time: Lean Retailing and the Transformation of Manufacturing, 1999) and his articles have appeared in numerous journals including the RAND Journal of Economics, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Harvard Business Review, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Mar 5, 2007
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Pages
35
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ISBN
9781139465137
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Law / General
Political Science / American Government / General
Political Science / Comparative Politics
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The collapse of the financial markets in 2008 and the resulting 'Great Recession' merely accelerated an already worrisome trend: the shift away from an employer-based social welfare system in the United States. Since the end of World War II, a substantial percentage of the costs of social provision--most notably, unemployment insurance and health insurance--has been borne by employers rather than the state. The US has long been unique among advanced economies in this regard, but in recent years, its social contract has become so frayed that is fast becoming unrecognizable. Despite Obama's election, the burdens of social provision are falling increasingly upon individual families, and the situation is worsening because of the unemployment crisis. How can we repair the American social welfare system so that workers and families receive adequate protection and, if necessary, provision from the ravages of the market? In Shared Responsibility, Shared Risk, Jacob Hacker and Ann O'Leary have gathered a distinguished group of scholars on American social policy to address this most fundamental of problems. Collectively, they analyze how the 'privatization of risk' has increased hardships for American families and increased inequality. They also propose a series of solutions that would distribute the burdens of risks more broadly and expand the social safety net. The range of issues covered is broad: health care, homeownership, social security and aging, unemployment, wealth (as opposed to income) creation, education, and family-friendly policies. The book is also comparative, measuring US social policy against the policies of other advanced nations. Given the current crisis in America social policy and the concomitant paralysis within government, the book has the potential to make an important intervention in the current debate.
“Decades go by and nothing happens; then weeks go by and decades happen”. This apt saying encapsulates the dramatic convulsions taking place across the Arab world that first erupted in 2011 in Tunisia and which rapidly spread to other countries. These events have affected the lives of ordinary citizens in many more ways than had been intended when the ‘Arab Spring’ broke out, with the endgame still not very clear as demonstrated in countries like Egypt, Syria and Libya.

By comparison, with some exceptions, the six countries comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council have been relatively unaffected by the general turbulence and uncertainties lapping around them. However, geopolitical shifts involving global superpower rivalries, combined with revolutionary breakthroughs in the non-conventional hydrocarbon energy sector are threatening to challenge the importance of the Arabian Gulf as the world’s leading suppliers of energy, putting their economies under fiscal stress. The author examines such challenges by:

• Providing the first in-depth statistical analytical assessment of the GCC countries using monthly data over the period 2001 -2013 for the three risk categories- economic, financial and political risks- and their sub –components so as to enable policymakers enhance components with low risk , while addressing components with perceived higher risk,
• Assessing FDI and capital inflows and outflows before and after the “Arab Spring” , and how to encourage FDI inflows,
• Inter –Arab and GCC trade and synergies in power transmission , transportation links and establishing new hubs of centers of manufacturing excellence ,
• Exploring private sector-led growth models to reduce forecasted unemployment.

Being complacent is not an option for the GCC. The aim of the book is that having a better understanding of each of the GCC countries’ individual risk parameters will enable the GCC meet future challenges and reduce the chances of a negative ‘Arab Spring’ occurring in the region.

Mohamed Ramady is a Visiting Associate Professor at the Department of Finance and Economics, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. His main research interests are the economics of the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular, as well as money and banking He also held senior positions with international financial institutions in the Arabian Gulf and Europe.

In December 1999, the Institute of Medicine shocked the nation by reporting that as many as 98,000 Americans died each year from mistakes in hospitals--twice the number killed in auto accidents. Instead of strict rules and harsh penalties to reduce those risks, the Institute called for a system of standardized disclosure of medical errors. If it worked, it would create economic and political pressures for hospitals to improve their practices. Since the mid-1980s, Congress and state legislatures have approved scores of new disclosure laws to fight racial discrimination, reduce corruption, and improve services. The most ambitious systems aim to reduce risks in everyday life--risks from toxic pollution, contaminants in drinking water, nutrients in packaged foods, lead paint, workplace hazards, and SUV rollovers. Unlike traditional government warnings, they require corporations and other organizations to produce standardized factual information at regular intervals about risks they create. Legislated transparency has become a mainstream instrument of social policy. Mary Graham argues that these requirements represent a remarkable policy innovation. Enhanced by computers and the Internet, they are creating a new techno-populism--an optimistic conviction that information itself can improve the lives of ordinary citizens and encourage hospitals, manufacturers, food processors, banks, airlines, and other organizations to further public priorities. Drawing on detailed profiles of disclosure systems for toxic releases, nutritional labeling, and medical errors, Graham explains why the move toward greater transparency has flourished during a time of regulatory retrenchment and why corporations have often supported these massive raids on proprietary information. However, Democracy by Disclosure, sounds a cautionary note. Just as systems of financial disclosure have come under new scrutiny in the wake of Enron's collapse, systems of social disclosure deserve careful examination. Behind the seemingly simple idea of transparency, political battles rage over protecting trade secrets, minimizing regulatory burdens, and guarding national security. Like other forms of regulation, disclosure systems can be distorted by narrow scope, flawed metrics, minimal enforcement, or failure to adapt to changing markets and public priorities. Graham urges designers of future systems to heed lessons from early experience to avoid misleading the public.
In the bestselling tradition of The World Is Flat and The Next 100 Years, THE ACCIDENTAL SUPERPOWER will be a much discussed, contrarian, and eye-opening assessment of American power.

Near the end of the Second World War, the United States made a bold strategic gambit that rewired the international system. Empires were abolished and replaced by a global arrangement enforced by the U.S. Navy. With all the world's oceans safe for the first time in history, markets and resources were made available for everyone. Enemies became partners.

We think of this system as normal-it is not. We live in an artificial world on borrowed time.

In THE ACCIDENTAL SUPERPOWER, international strategist Peter Zeihan examines how the hard rules of geography are eroding the American commitment to free trade; how much of the planet is aging into a mass retirement that will enervate markets and capital supplies; and how, against all odds, it is the ever-ravenous American economy that-alone among the developed nations-is rapidly approaching energy independence. Combined, these factors are doing nothing less than overturning the global system and ushering in a new (dis)order.

For most, that is a disaster-in-waiting, but not for the Americans. The shale revolution allows Americans to sidestep an increasingly dangerous energy market. Only the United States boasts a youth population large enough to escape the sucking maw of global aging. Most important, geography will matter more than ever in a de-globalizing world, and America's geography is simply sublime.

Every month in every neighborhood in Chicago, residents, teachers, school principals, and police officers gather to deliberate about how to improve their schools and make their streets safer. Residents of poor neighborhoods participate as much or more as those from wealthy ones. All voices are heard. Since the meetings began more than a dozen years ago, they have led not only to safer streets but also to surprising improvements in the city's schools. Chicago's police department and school system have become democratic urban institutions unlike any others in America.

Empowered Participation is the compelling chronicle of this unprecedented transformation. It is the first comprehensive empirical analysis of the ways in which participatory democracy can be used to effect social change. Using city-wide data and six neighborhood case studies, the book explores how determined Chicago residents, police officers, teachers, and community groups worked to banish crime and transform a failing city school system into a model for educational reform. The author's conclusion: Properly designed and implemented institutions of participatory democratic governance can spark citizen involvement that in turn generates innovative problem-solving and public action. Their participation makes organizations more fair and effective.


Though the book focuses on Chicago's municipal agencies, its lessons are applicable to many American cities. Its findings will prove useful not only in the fields of education and law enforcement, but also to sectors as diverse as environmental regulation, social service provision, and workforce development.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of Earth Day (the first of its kind was April 1970), congressional debate about environmental protection often remains paralyzed and polarized. But across the country, environmental pragmatism is gaining ground. The Morning after Earth Day explores how policymakers, business executives, and citizen groups are fighting novel political battles and sometimes making peace with surprising compromises. After a generation of progress in reducing large sources of industrial and municipal pollution and in improving management of public lands, today's environmental conflicts are more complex. They involve controlling pollution caused by farmers, small businesses, drivers of aging cars, and homeowners, as well as minimizing ecological threats on private land. Remedies often lie in politically treacherous territory--persuading ordinary people to change their daily routines rather than ordering big business to adopt new technology or government officials to manage land differently. As Mary Graham shows, practical approaches are resolving immediate disputes and providing clues for future policy. But core dilemmas remain. They include how to reconcile environmental protection with respect for private property, how to balance federal and state authority, and how much to rely on behavioral versus technological change. Only by reclaiming the debate about these dilemmas from extremists and confronting them head-on will the nation build a solid foundation for the next generation of environmental policy. Copublished with the Governance Institute
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