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

Eyal Zamir, Christoph Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


When people make decisions on behalf of others, there is a risk that they would prioritize their own interests over those they are supposed to promote. According to common wisdom, transparency and accountability are the best cure for this problem. This Article argues, counterintuitively, that while transparency is generally beneficial, sometimes concealing the identity of the decision-maker may be advisable. Anonymity can insulate the decision-maker from external pressures and temptations, thereby facilitating prudent and disinterested decisions. This is especially (but not uniquely) true when the expected gainers and losers from a given decision are in a similar position in terms of their ability and motivation to harm, or reward, the decision-maker. Anonymity may also improve decisions when the optimal choice is expected to be unpopular. <br><br>The Article reviews the legal, economic, and psychological rationales of transparency and accountability, their prospects and limitations. It then surveys instances in which anonymity is already in use, such as the empaneling of anonymous juries, the composition of the S&P Index Committee, peer review processes, and more. Finally, the Article offers detailed guidelines for the design of new anonymous processes and the assessment of existing ones. These include intermediate solutions and combinations of anonymity and accountability.<br>
Original languageAmerican English
JournalArizona Law Review, Forthcoming
StatePublished - 9 Mar 2021


  • accountability
  • transparency
  • conflict of interest
  • anonymity
  • S&P Index
  • agency problem
  • administrative law


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