Those in the business of giving policy advice know the surest way to guarantee a policymaker ignores their counsel is to say the problem is “complicated” or “there are no easy solutions” and that the best way to see the advice is accepted is to cast it in the form of a simple, straightforward solution that fits easily onto a single power point slide. World Bank economists have learned this lesson well as their recent report on how developing countries can cure corruption and related governance ills demonstrates. Making Politics Work for Development: Harnessing Transparency and Citizen Engagement manages to state the solution to the corruption problem in one sentence: Give citizens more information about politicians so they will know which ones to vote out and which ones to keep at the next election.
The authors are able boil the complex problems of corruption and bad governance down into such a neat solution thanks to application of principal-agent theory. But in avoiding the “it’s complicated”/“no easy solution” Scylla have they veered into the Charybdis of oversimplification?