Authors: David Lazer
November 30, 2004
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The potential for the diffusion of information regarding successful governmental (international, national or subnational) innovation has increased enormously in recent years. This diffusion process has enormous potential for increasing public welfare, by allowing location B to adopt the successful innovation in location A. There is, however, a potential dark side to the increased diffusion of information. First, as information diffuses more efficiently, it becomes more of a public good. As the publicness of information increases, so does the likelihood of free riding. Second, in complex policy areas, the diffusion process may be too efficient: resulting in either premature convergence on a non-optimal policy, or eliminating policy alternatives that while not optimal in the present, might be in the future.