Yesterday I analyzed why the OECD Better Life Index does not make a lot of sense with regard to Switzerland’s education system and practices.
Today I look at another category; “Civic Engagement”.
This factor includes two indicators: “Voter Turnout” and “Stakeholder Engagement for Developing Regulations”.
In “Civic Engagement”, this is the OECD ranking by country. The list starts with the country with the highest level of engagement:
5. New Zealand
6. United Kingdom
8. United States
18. Slovak Republic
26. South Africa
34. Czech Republic
37. Russian Federation
Let us now look at how the OECD ranks countries in the two indicators used to compute “Civic Engagement”.
9. New Zealand
16. South Africa
21. United Kingdom
23. Russian Federation
25. United States
30. Czech Republic
31. Slovak Republic
“Stakeholder Engagement in the Development of Regulations”
The OECD says this indicator means “participation in the development of laws and regulations”.
Here is the ranking:
2. United States
3. United Kingdom
4. Slovak Republic
14. New Zealand
30. Czech Republic
31. South Africa
40. Russian Federation
Let me start by commenting on “Civic Engagement”.
It makes no sense to rank Switzerland as 33rd in Civic Engagement; the Swiss people left “engagement” behind because Switzerland is a direct democracy.
With direct democracy, the Swiss people have more power than the Swiss Government, the Swiss Parliament, and even more power, in matters related to the Swiss Constitution, than the Swiss Supreme Court.
The Swiss people are not “engaged”, they run the country.
To rank Switzerland number 33 in “Civic Engagement” is absurd.
I am also surprised to see Mexico as number one in “Stakeholder Engagement in the Development of Regulations”. It has to be a mistake. I hope it has nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Angel Gurria, a Mexican politician, is the OECD Secretary-General.
If Mexico is truly number one the OECD should explain the policies, procedures, and culture of civic engagement of Mexico.
Let me also look at the indicator “Voter Turnout”.
Perhaps in representative democracies, voter turnout is an indicator of civic engagement, in Switzerland’s direct democracy, it is not.
The reason is that elected politicians, in Switzerland’s direct democracy, have much less power than politicians in representative democracies.
Because of that, in Switzerland, it is no so important who wins the election. The Swiss elected representatives can not pass any law, or do anything else of importance if most Swiss people disagree with them.
In representative democracies, it is not like that. In representative democracies, the politicians make the decisions, not the people.
The Swiss also vote several times each year. They vote on laws, treaties, budgets, and on the Swiss Constitution itself. What they decide is also binding for the government and parliament. Swiss voter engagement does not depend on the goodwill of the government, it is there by law.
Turn out in each referendum, often is not very high in Switzerland. It could be because there are many referendums, but it is also because not every issue interests most voters. However, if we consider all the referendums in one year, 80% of the Swiss who can vote, vote. 80% of participation is a high number.
In representative democracies, voter turnout perhaps is a representative indicator of voter engagement. In representative democracies, voters can not decide on issues. Elections are much more important in those conditions.
Conclusion: The “Civic Engagement” factor of the OECD’s Better Life Index is wrong about Switzerland. There is no higher level of civic engagement than direct democracy.
I am also skeptical of the rankings of several other countries.
I believe the criteria the OECD uses to assess “Civic Engagement” need rebuilding.