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Policy benchmarking: a tool of democracy or a tool of authoritarianism?

Papaioannou, T

Benchmarking: An International Journal   14 (4) 497-516

January 2007

Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the relationship between policy benchmarking, democracy and authoritarianism.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses theoretical investigation of different methodological perspectives of policy benchmarking and their relationship with principles of democracy and authoritarianism and analysis of the case of the European Union (EU) on the basis of empirical data.

Findings – Identifies two methodological perspectives of policy benchmarking: the first, grounded on the principle of learning and the bottom-up approach, is close to democracy; the second, based on the principle of copying and the top-down approach, is close to authoritarianism. The application of policy benchmarking in the EU so far appears to include elements of both democracy and authoritarianism.

Research limitations/implications – The paper is not exhaustive as regards methodological approaches to policy benchmarking and theories of democracy and authoritarianism.

Practical implications – Crucial methodological and ethico-political implications for the use of benchmarking in the enlarged EU of 25.

Originality/value – This original piece of work provides clear answer to the question of relationship between policy benchmarking, democracy and authoritarianism. The paper contributes to academic debate of public policy, offering, at the same time, practical methodological help to policy-makers.