Democracy Index

By | January 16, 2008

So, this is fun.

My work out here required me to check The Economist Democracy Index list. I was researching which countries in the world would be ethical to trade with. My colleague and I had an idea that trading with only the Top 20 countries on the Democracy Index would set a good standard. But em, that would mean we couldn’t work with the UK and em, France. Oh dear. We’ll have to set the standard to “Functioning Democracy” rather than Top 20. But eh, that means we also rule out Italy. This could get tricky. Compromises, compromises…

Here’s the 2008 list. Go to the bottom and click on the full report. Fascinating stuff. Why does Scandinavia top all these lists?

14 thoughts on “Democracy Index

  1. Tomaltach

    I happened to be looking at this a few weeks ago. That the Sandanavian countries were top was no surprise.

    But I was intrigued that say the UK was so much lower than Ireland. There are at least some areas where Ireland would score higher. First it has PR, while the UK has a first past the post system. Then there is the fact that the lords are more powerful than our Senate. The lords, though under reform, aren’t predominantly elected yet so I guess that may be a factor,i.e. power with an unelected body.(yes not all of our senators are elected and for those who are the sufferage isn’t universal, but the body has no power). Then we have a written consitution which gaurantees referednum for certain issues (not sure if or how that was scored). But then for instance the UK has better participation of women in parliament. Still there is a significant gap between Ireland and the UK which I find hard to understand. We are 1 point (out of ten) above the Uk, but if you drop another point you are down to Palestine and Peru. It would be interesting to see the scores given to each question for Ireland and other countries.

  2. Sarah Post author

    I thought perhaps that we had an elected Head of State and they didn’t was an issue and that constitutionally the Prime Minister advises the monarch. Also the whole ban on catholics (or being married to one!) being a monarch might have mitigated against them.

  3. Tomaltach

    Fair point, but 4 of the top 5 states are monarchies and while the prime minister in theory advises the monarch, in reality it’s almost the other way round. The government sets the agenda for the Queen’s speech, or centainly has to approve it. So I cannot see really how that limits the functioning of their democracy?

  4. V

    I love their name ‘Intelligence Unit’, has a real CIA type ring to it.

    The one thing you hear in Scandinavia that you won’t hear anywhere else is that they are happy to pay a lot of tax because they get a good service. A statement which causes the average Irish brain to go into meltdown from confusion.

    PRSTV is not the last word in election systems, we have had it for a while but have been lower than 11th before. We covet it so much because it’s in opposition to the big, evil, unfair, stupid UK system. It’s as if we invented it.

    A written constitution is Just a piece of paper. It’s how you link it to government and electorate. The UK does not need one because of their History of democracy goes so far. Referendums are not really a good thing. Banned in Germany cos it’s how Hitler got elected.

    Scandinavian Parliamentary accountability is very high, because of the relatively stronger powers of sub-parliamentary groups in challenging and changing laws. So it’s one of the only places where minority governments can occur more often than not.

    If a priest in Scandinavia says that Homosexuality is a disease they put him in prison, no messing!, in Spain he becomes a minor celebrity. In short, they are better class of human being, organizing themselves better and knowing how good they have it.

  5. Tomaltach

    Referendums are not really a good thing. Banned in Germany cos it’s how Hitler got elected. Baby and bath water come to mind. Hitler used democracy to come to power, in order to avoid a repeat, let’s ban democracy!

    Referenda are not suitable for settling complex legal details (though sadly that sometimes happens here) but they are by far the most democratic way in my opinion of changing the fundamental guiding laws of the nation.

  6. V

    “Hitler used democracy to come to power, in order to avoid a repeat, let’s ban democracy!”

    In the case of Hitler, it would have been justifiable.

    Referendums are OK so long as you have a clear question answered by an informed and enthusiastic electorate. Most of the time though, the answer has nothing to do with question asked while others just use it as a protest vote. There must be better ways communicating than that?

  7. Ciarán

    I might be a bit too literal, but if you want to know why Scandinavia does so well, the answer is on 9-11 on the full document linked to. They asked a series of questions about the various countries and assigned them a score depending on the answer. Scandinavian countries scored highest.

  8. crocodile

    A Swedish neighbour, living in Ireland for ten years, says that at home she felt that she had the same entitlements as everyone else, but here she’s never sure. Does that planning permission go to the deserving applicant, or the applicant who knows a councillor who knows a TD who knows another TD that’s owed a favour by someone in the council who can help him jump a queue? She had a bad experience with the Roads Authority in which an official more or less told her she wasn’t as equal as her Irish neighbours. The ratings in the report seem to be based on our own levels of satisfaction. We might be a bit lower in the league if we could see ourselves as others see us.

  9. tom

    Hitler was never democratically elected in an unambiguous election. I’m amazed people still believe this to be the case. He was appointed chancellor as head of a minority government and then the Reichstag fire and the aftermath did the rest.

  10. V

    There was still a democratic process through which he was made chancellor even though it was in the context of the mess that was the end of the Weimar government. He was legally brought into the system, of course from then on it was all illegal. I do except that it is wrong to say that he was elected to supreme power of the German Reich by popular general election. You are correct in that sense.

  11. B

    Scandinavian countries top the list because personal responsibility is a part of their culture and upbringing.

    Here we are brought up to not ask questions and to do what i say not what I do. I have seen little evidence of real democracy in Ireland. Sure we have elections but in the day to day reality of life we have little or no choice or say in what goes on.

    We have democracy on the day of an election. Outside that we have practically none.

  12. Grundlag

    Dear All,

    We have started an in-depth review of the EIU:s rating for Sweden. It turns out that it is more or less a scam. And we are still only half through our review.

    See for yourselves at the link above or google for wordpress + grundlag + democracy index.

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