Greg Michener: 3 Recent Publications

Michener, G. (2015). Assessing Freedom of Information in Latin America a Decade Later – Illuminating a Transparency Causal Mechanism. Latin American Politics & Society, 57(2).

Abstract: More than 100 freedom of information (FOI) laws have been enacted worldwide, nearly half within the last 10 years. Yet these cross-domain, lynchpin transparency measures have received little scholarly attention. This article assesses the 16 FOI measures adopted across Latin America. Is secrecy being surrendered in a region marked by legacies of opacity? Why are some laws fulfilling their de jure potential in practice while others are not? This article aims to achieve 3 general objectives. It analyzes the de jure and de facto strength of Latin American FOI regimes; it exposes critical data-based and methodological challenges in evaluating and comparing transparency laws; and it illustrates how a causal mechanism, driven by the interactive dynamics of legislative balances of power and cabinet compositions, has had a determinate influence in shaping the strength of FOI regimes from adoption to implementation and reform.

Michener, G. (2015). Policy Evaluation via Composite Indexes: Qualitative Lessons from International Transparency Policy Indexes. World Development, 74, 184–196.

Abstract: International transparency policy indexes (ITPIs) help determine billions in investment and aid, influence “authoritative” scholarship, and shape policy choices. Are ITPIs valid yardsticks of transparency, or do they encourage dissimulation? Most scholarship on index-based evaluations focuses on “concept indexes” (e.g., governance) from quantitative approaches. This paper presents qualitative insights about ITPIs in specific and “policy indexes” in general, analyzing three measurement-related pitfalls and proposing countermeasures. Most significantly, it shows how indexes presuppose substitutability while policies contain nonsubstitutable ‘necessary’ policy provisions. This dilemma of “ontological compatibility” means that policies can rank favorably on indexes notwithstanding the absence of lynchpin policy provisions.

Michener, G., & Worthy, B. (2015). The Information-Gathering Matrix: A Framework for Conceptualizing the Use of Freedom of Information Laws. Administration & Society, 0095399715590825.

Abstract: Scholarship on transparency and freedom of information (FOI) conveys an overwhelmingly “political” narrative. Most uses of FOI, however, are private and nonpolitical in nature. This article explores the gap between the literature and empirical reality by means of an “Information-Gathering Matrix,” a framework for conceptualizing the motivations, uses, and impacts associated with FOI. Following a broad literature review, case studies illustrate that while FOI uses may be multifarious and prima facie nonpolitical, at least three of the matrix’s four quadrants—from the public to the private and the political to the nonpolitical—frequently tend toward politicization.