Which Countries Get Their Money’s Worth From Their Congressmen?

A fascinating infographic illustrates how well congressional pay correlates with good governance.

government salaries


Recently, Britian parliament has been rocked by an scandal, which revealed that they’ve been billing tax payers for all kinds of personal expenses, from maintenance of the moats on their country estates to their Christmas-tree decorations. That led graphic designer Ryan Bowman to wonder: How good are U.K. parliamentarians, relative to their salaries. To answer that question, he created this interactive graphic, which compares Britain’s parliament to other countries around the world. 

The results are fascinating, but they take a moment to explain. There are basically two axes on the graph. First, for each country, the salary of a member of parliament/congress is mapped relative to that country’s per capita GDP. Thus, the further left a country is, the more that country’s congressmen make relative to the average citizen. The second part is a bit more subtle. Bowman gathered all the various good-governance measures that exist for these countries–these gauge anything from government transparency to corruption. He then averaged those rankings, and coded them. In the graph, these are then mapped as angles. Thus, the further a country is from the horizontal yellow line, the more dysfunctional its government. It takes a second to understand, but once you start playing with the graph, the point becomes clear. 

And how does the U.S. fare? Not particularly well. Our congressmen aren’t paid exceptionally well, but they’re also not part of a particularly good government. We’re better than Italy–no big accomplishment there–but somewhat worse than most of Western Europe. And we’re far worse than Scandinavia. 

Intriguing stuff, and an intriguing graphic–we’ve personally never seen one quite like it. If you’re hungry for more, check out GOOD‘s full catalog of transparency infographics, which were recently posted on Flickr. (In the spirit of transparency, a disclosure: I’m an online columnist for GOOD, but I wasn’t approached about giving them the shout out.) 

[Via GOOD]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.