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Abstract

In the formative periods of American “open government” law, the idea of transparency was linked with progressive politics. Advocates of transparency understood themselves to be promoting values such as bureaucratic rationality, social justice, and trust in public institutions. Transparency was meant to make government stronger and more egalitarian. In the twenty-first century, transparency is doing different work. Although a wide range of actors appeal to transparency in a wide range of contexts, the dominant strain in the policy discourse emphasizes its capacity to check administrative abuse, enhance private choice, and reduce other forms of regulation. Transparency is meant to make government smaller and less egregious.

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