My try at "knowledge transfer" to Telegraph readers

2 min read

Meddling in UK politics (8 months ago) to promote our paper. Hoped the minor flattery and salacious phrases would get “Sir Telegraph”  to publish the letter.  Does anyone know if there is a trick to getting these things published?

Suggested header: “Transparency is not always best”


In the view of your editors, “transparency is best” (Telegraph’s View, MPs' expenses: transparency is best, Published: 8:13AM GMT 21 Dec 2009), when it comes to the perks and expense of elected officials. I beg to differ.

The Telegraph’s investigation of MPs' expenses has  provided useful insight into the true motives of many of Britain’s leaders: filling their own pockets. Now we can “throw the bums out”, to use the American expression.  But in the future, if all such behaviour is immediately transparent, MPs will avoid claiming such perks to avoid being caught.  How will we know whether we have elected true public servants or self-interested politicians who will not act in our interest when the lights are turned off?  Consider the many policy decisions that we  cannot monitor so easily as London expenses.

The expenses themselves represent only small drops in the great bucket of the UK public purse. But the signals they send may be invaluable (as my research with David Hugh-Jones shows; see for a lengthy discussion and many beautiful equations). I propose instead that MPs be given the chance to claim some “naughty” expenses that are *not* revealed to anyone (or not until years later). The public will learn only the total number of MPs from each party who claim such perks.  This will serve as a valuable thermometer of each party’s moral temperature, and allow us to know how much to trust our governors, and when (and which party) to send home from parliament, so they can pursue the selfish interests they clearly prefer.

David Reinstein, Ph.D. Lecturer, Economics, University of Essex