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What would a workplace democracy index include?
A nerdy afternoon dive into democracy indexes
Background: I’m not the only Professor Hand in our house. Among other things, Dr. Ashlyn Hand studies the effect of democratic structures on terrorist activity, and in a recent paper, she uses a dataset on democracy called the Varieties of Democracy or V-Dem index.
That got me thinking: What might we learn about workplace democracy from measures of political democracy?
Are there already workplace democracy indexes out there? If so, do they make use of all this work political scientists have done to understand political democracy?
Come along, fellow nerds.
How do political scientists rate and rank democracies?
In a 2021 article, Andrea Vaccaro (now at Oxford) compares four different indexes of democracy: Polity IV, the Vanhanen Index, the Freedom Rating, and V-Dem. Details on each of these are below the jump.
Have these indexes been applied to the workplace?
Jeff Kerr (2004) disagrees
Are there other indexes of workplace democracy?
Ridley-Duff and Ponton proposed one in 2011, but it doesn’t seem to have been picked up yet
Unterrainer and friends (2022) offer a pretty interesting analysis of democratic degeneration in Spanish cooperatives
But wait! Ahmed and Ahmed built an organizational democracy index in 2022 from ten dimensions: freedom, fairness, integrity, tolerance, shared responsibility, structure, transparency, knowledge sharing, accountability, and learning environment
I print out Ahmed and Ahmed 2022 and Ridley-Duff and Ponton 2011, then report back. Happy weekend!
P.S.: More on those four democracy indexes
Polity IV and its successor, Polity V, has some impressively inscrutable documentation. From what I can gather it is an index made up primarily of six components, which I’ll translate for you into six questions:
Is there a process for choosing who is in power (the executive) other than violence?
If there is a process, is it competitive (as opposed to hereditary)?
If it’s competitive, can anyone compete?
Are there some institutional constraints on executive power, or can they do whatever they want?
Are there established, stable avenues for people to participate in decision-making?
How widespread and stable is the ability to participate in decision-making, in practice?
The Vanhanen Index is simpler (or what political scientists might call minimalist). It is a measure of:
How much electoral competition is there, measured by the losing party’s percent of the vote?
How much participation is there, based on how much of the population votes?
The Freedom Rating is not as simple. It’s made up of two groups of twenty-five total indicators:
Electoral Process (3 questions about the executive, the legislature, and elections management),
Political Pluralism and Participation (4 questions about the right to organize into parties, whether opposition parties have a real shot, the presence of external pressure, and whether all people have the right to participate), and
Functioning of Government (3 questions about whether the executive and legislature are really in charge, corruption, and transparency).
Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions about independent media, religious expression, academic freedom, and freedom of expression),
Associational and Organizational Rights (3 questions about freedom to assemble, to organize into nongovernmental groups, and organized labor),
Rule of Law (4 questions about the independence of the courts, due process in the courts, protection from violence, and equal treatment of all groups), and
Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4 questions about freedom of movement, the right to own property and start businesses, social and sexual freedom, and freedom from economic exploitation).
V-Dem has five sub-indexes. Longer descriptions start on p44 of their codebook, but here’s the short version:
The Electoral Democracy Index covers freedom of elections and the media
The Liberal Democracy Index adds the rule of law, checks and balances, and civil liberties
The Participatory Democracy Index adds measures of “the degree to which citizens participate in their own government through local democratic institutions, civil society organizations, direct democracy,” says Wikipedia
The Deliberative Democracy Index measures whether elites are in charge, or if the broad population has a say in outcomes
The Egalitarian Democracy Index looks at whether all groups have equal access to all the good stuff above, or if benefits are limited to specific groups