Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant—Or Is It? Anonymity as a Means to Enhance Impartiality

Whenever someone is entrusted with advancing other people’s interests, enhancing the public good, or resolving conflicts between other people, there is a concern that instead of doing these things, he or she may advance his or her own interests. According to common wisdom, transparency and accountability are the best, if not perfect, cure to this problem. As Louis Brandeis famously claimed in his essay What Publicity Can Do, “sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.” In that spirit, transparency and accountability have been hailed in recent decades as hallmarks of good governance. We agree. However, this Essay argues that accountability and transparency also have their drawbacks and that, in the right circumstances, concealing the identity of the decision-maker may actually produce better outcomes.