The effect of “sunshine” on policy deliberation: The case of the Federal Open Market Committee

John T. Woolley and Joseph Gardner in The Social Science Journal: “How does an increase in transparency affect policy deliberation? Increased government transparency is commonly advocated as beneficial to democracy. Others argue that transparency can undermine democratic deliberation by, for example, causing poorer reasoning. We analyze the effect of increased transparency in the case of a rare natural experiment involving the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

In 1994 the FOMC began the delayed public release of verbatim meeting transcripts and announced it would release all transcripts of earlier, secret, meetings back into the 1970s. To assess the effect of this change in transparency on deliberation, we develop a measure of an essential aspect of deliberation, the use of reasoned arguments.

Our contributions are twofold: we demonstrate a method for measuring deliberative reasoning and we assess how a particular form of transparency affected ongoing deliberation. In a regression model with a variety of controls, we find increased transparency had no independent effect on the use of deliberative reasoning in the FOMC. Of particular interest to deliberative scholars, our model also demonstrates a powerful role for leaders in facilitating deliberation. Further, both increasing participant equality and more frequent expressions of disagreement were associated with greater use of deliberative language….(More)”