The Trouble With Disclosure: It Doesn’t Work

by Jesse Eisinger,  ProPublica

Louis Brandeis was wrong.

The lawyer and Supreme Court justice famously declared that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and we have unquestioningly embraced that advice ever since.

Over the last century, disclosure and transparency have become our regulatory crutch, the answer to every vexing problem. We require corporations and government to release reams of information on food, medicine, household products, consumer financial tools, campaign finance and crime statistics. We have a booming “report card” industry for a range of services, including hospitals, public schools and restaurants.

All this sunlight is blinding. As new scholarship is demonstrating, the value of all this information is unproved. Paradoxically, disclosure can be useless — and sometimes actually harmful or counterproductive.

“We are doing disclosure as a regulatory move all over the board,” says Adam J. Levitin, a law professor at Georgetown, “The funny thing is, we are doing this despite very little evidence of its efficacy.” Read the entire story.

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