The Democratic Qualities of Regulatory Agencies

Libby MamanLibby Maman

Transparency, accountability, participation, and representation are concepts that are seen by many as positive and desirable attributes in the context of public organisations. Transparency means when a public organisation discloses information publicly, accountability means when it reports, answers, and justifies its actions to politicians or other state actors. Representation refers to the identity of the people working in the organisation, and participation means when public organisations consult with non-state actors in the rule-making process.

In our recent article in Policy & Politics, these concepts are referred to as the democratic qualities of the administration since they reflect the basic democratic value of maintaining power within the public and having citizens take part and oversee the decisions made by public organisations. However, despite their importance, it is still impossible to measure and compare the extent to which public organisations possess these democratic qualities because a comprehensive measurement tool has not yet been developed. This article aims to redress this problem by developing indicators to measure transparency, accountability, participation, and representation. It focuses on regulatory agencies, ie public organisations that set rules and monitor and enforce different market sectors, as these are often independent of the control of elected parties, which would undermine their democratic legitimacy.  So far, scholars have focused mostly on measuring the extent of accountability in regulatory agencies. However, focusing only on accountability is largely insufficient.

Following an in-depth qualitative study of various regulatory agencies in different sectors and countries, including analysing the legal framework, publications, and interviews with agency employees and stakeholders, 58 indicators have been developed. The indicators proposed are to measure, assess, and compare the extent to which regulatory agencies are legally committed to democratic qualities and the extent to which they fulfil them in practice. In this way, the article advances a research agenda that illuminates the role of bureaucracies in promoting pluralistic or majoritarian democratic values. It also makes it possible to assess the degree to which regulatory governance is shifting to a more pluralistic form, becoming more responsive to the public.

You can read the original research in Policy & Politics
Libby Maman. (2022) The democratic qualities of regulatory agencies Policy & Politics 

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Policy & Politics, the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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