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Policymaking Transparency and Political Representation Essay

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Updated: May 19th, 2021

Introduction

This article “Full Transparency of Politicians’ Actions does not Increase the Quality of Political Representation” is jointly authored by political-science scholars from Switzerland and Germany, in collaboration with the Center for Research in Economics Management and the Arts (CREMA). The article aims to gauge how transparency in voting among politicians affects both decision-making and voter preferences.

The authors of the article use Switzerland’s parliamentary proceedings as their model for their study. Furthermore, the article is inspired by the pattern whereby political systems around the world insist on instituting transparency in voting. The underlying issues in this system include the need to make politicians accountable for their actions and improve the overall quality of voter representation. Consequently, the article seeks to find out whether this mode of the operation increases the quality of political representation. This paper is a summary and a critique of the study on the quality of political representation.

Summary

The article begins by outlining the motivation behind the study’s theme of political representation in reference to transparency in decision-making. According to the authors, the prevailing world-view is that transparent political agents “foster accountability and align the interests of politicians/agents with voters/principals” (Stadelmann, Portmann, and Eichenberger 17). This view is responsible for most of the reforms that have been instituted by various countries around the world including Switzerland. The article notes that there lack enough studies on the negative effects of transparent decision-making.

The next section of the article is devoted to the institutional setting of Switzerland and the strategies that accompany it. The section also dwells on the two types of representation in Switzerland in the form of the Lower and the Upper Houses. As a methodology for their study, the authors of this article “take the absolute difference between the voter yes-share in a referendum and the yes-share of politicians in their parliamentary decisions in the respective house as a natural and inverse measure of the quality of political decisions” (Stadelmann, Portmann, and Eichenberger 18). In this experimental design, the Lower House acts as a control group because it is yet to embrace transparency in voting.

The data stimulus for the study comes from ninety-one referenda that have taken place in the past between 1999 and 2011. The results of the study indicate that the advent of video streams in Switzerland’s Lower House only changed the divergence of voter preferences by 0.7 percentage points while the Upper House registered a change in voter-preference of about 1 percent. The results of the effects of transparency in decision-making for both test subjects are also examined through different experimental conditions including a reduced sample and instances where there are conflicts of interest.

In the end, the article concludes that “full transparency does not necessarily increase the quality of political representation in the Upper House compared to the Lower House” (Stadelmann, Portmann, and Eichenberger 19). The article concludes by noting that even though the results of their study are ‘surprising’, they are consistent with other experimental endeavors on the subject.

Critique

The authors of this study provide an interesting point of view on an issue that was unanimous. For instance, efforts to adopt transparency in decision-making are currently ongoing within various political systems around the world. The results of this study eliminate the necessity to implement transparent voting systems in houses of representation, a practice that is held in high esteem around the world. However, a closer analysis of this experimental study reveals a number of oversights that make this study too simplistic.

The major strength of this study is the fact that the study’s experimental stimulus is straightforward. Although the results of the experiment are unexpected, the chances of the study having a bias are minimal. Transparency in decision-making is a subject of universal concern and it is unlikely that the authors of this study have conflicts of interest when it comes to this matter. The experimental subjects that are used in the study confirm this lack of bias because they are the most accurate representations of the political decision-making systems. On the other hand, referenda represent high stakes political decisions and their inclusion in the experimental data also strengthens the research study.

One weakness of the study is that it is narrow in nature although it addresses a topic of universal concern. The topic of political decision applies to almost all countries in the world. The experimental design that is used in this study does not reflect its stimulus. For instance, only data from Switzerland is used in the experiment. Switzerland is often considered the ultimate symbol of political stability around the world (Relly and Sabharwal 151).

Consequently, the results of the study might be reflecting the political stability of Switzerland as opposed to the effects of transparency among politicians. In a politically stable environment, politicians have fewer pressures and they tend to represent the interest of the electorate more accurately. The study would have benefited from data from diverse political environments including places such as America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

Conclusion

At first glance, this article appears to offer revolutionary insights into the impacts of transparent decision-making. However, after closer investigation, the article appears to be less universal than its title purports. Nevertheless, the article manages to offer an accurate representation of the political situation in Switzerland and other similar systems. The article also opens various avenues for research among political scholars.

Works Cited

Relly, Jeannine E., and Meghna Sabharwal. “Perceptions of Transparency of Government Policymaking: A Cross-National Study.” Government Information Quarterly 26.1 (2009): 148-157. Print.

Stadelmann, David, Marco Portmann, and Reiner Eichenberger. “Full Transparency of Politicians’ Actions does not Increase the Quality of Political Representation.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 1.01 (2014): 16-23. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Policymaking Transparency and Political Representation." May 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/policymaking-transparency-and-political-representation/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. "Policymaking Transparency and Political Representation." May 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/policymaking-transparency-and-political-representation/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Policymaking Transparency and Political Representation'. 19 May.

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