People need sufficient information if they are to play their part in politics and to be satisfied that politicians are performing competently and in the interests of the population.  There are several ways of providing transparency:

  • Policies should be clearly explained: to provide a rationale and to set clear objectives. Election manifestos can explain some policies in a democratic political system, but policies may have to change in response to circumstances and may be affected by coalition negotiations.  Government policies should be explained as soon as they are agreed – and this is even more important for authoritarian political systems where there are no election manifestos.
  • Performance reporting should measure achievement against declared policy objectives and the promises made in negotiations on specific issues. Raw performance data, such as are produced by Britain’s Office of National Statistics, are useful but they lack a context for analysis without a comparison against previously-announced forecasts and targets.  Comparative data from other countries are also useful in helping people to make sense of the published figures.
  • Media reporting is a means of publishing the performance data that enable people to know what politicians are doing – both successes and failures; it can also draw attention to malpractice. This important role requires the media to have considerable freedom to publish what they discover, without fear of reprisals (
  • Donations received by politicians and their parties can be recorded and published, so that people can see whether there are grounds to suspect the disproportionate influence of money (6.4.5).
  • India’s Right to Information Act, for example, can help to prevent corruption because villagers can see how government grants have been spent.

Transparency may motivate good performance by politicians who seek long-term popularity, but it may be insufficient without also having some method for holding them to account, as discussed below (



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6851.htm