Transparency and Trust - Mastering a Crisis Deliberatively


  • Tassilo Stiller



In this section I will analyse the relationship between governmental transparency and public trust. In doing so, I want to figure out under which circumstances transparency can lead to an increased trust in government. Answering these questions will be of utmost importance for the way we organise politics as a society. Do we want a clear distinction between governors and governed? Or do we rather wish a conception of politics in which every citizen can participate? Whether we decide for the first or the second of these options will in turn also determine our expectations with regard to transparency. Transparency is not a monolithic concept and it occurs in many different forms (cf. Heald, 2006). In this paper I will attempt to develop an understanding of transparency which is embedded in the framework of deliberative democracy (Held, 2006; Warren, 1999). This means that transparency cannot stop with the retrospective provision of governmental information. Indeed, policy-makers seem to have acknowledged the potential of expanded transparency. In an attempt to comply with the demands for increased transparency, governments have launched freedom of information legislations (Birkinshaw, 2006; Relly & Sabharwal, 2009). In 2005, the German government, too, has set up such a law. According to this act “[everyone] is entitled to official information from the authorities of the Federal Government” (Freedom of Information Act, 2005, art.1). However, the exceptions from this general rule included in the law prevent that the citizen enjoys transparency which enables him to better monitor governmental working. These exceptions comprise for instance drafts and working papers of governmental institutions. Jeannine Relly and Meghna Sabharwal conclude that freedom of information laws do not suffice to improve the public’s perception of transparency (Relly & Sabharwal, 2009). Further, this implies that the notion of transparency implicit in such pieces of legislation (i.e. retrospective delivery of information) does not encourage citizens to trust their government.


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