Engler (2021) documented that

Countries that are more dedicated to individual liberties continue to do so even in moments of emergency. Our study thus not only buttresses the findings by Sebhatu et al. (2020: 2) that ‘stronger democracies are slower to react on the face of the pandemic’, but adds to further understanding this finding by pointing out the reluctance of vertically and horizontally accountable decision-makers to adopt public health interventions that encroach on civil liberties. Furthermore, our paper strengthens earlier findings on ‘pandemic backsliding’ (Lührmann et al. 2020): in countries that already experienced democratic backsliding, the pandemic opened up a window of opportunity for power-seeking leaders to further concentrate power.

I am wondering what does "vertically and horizontally accountable decision-makers" mean in this situation.

1 Answer 1


First thing to understand is the literal meaning of vertical and horizontal - vertical refers to things in an upwards direction, horizontal refers to things on a parallel plain.

In business structures, you can have vertical and horizontal hierarchies. The most common business structure is vertical - this is where you have a management structure with people above one another. For example, a manager is above a team, but there will be a senior manager above them, and so on. Responsibility and accountability for things related to the business are generally greater the higher up the management structure you sit.

A horizontal business structure is one based on skill sets rather than hierarchy, so your level of responsibility depends on what you are able and tasked to do rather than who you report to.

Even if an organisation doesn't strictly operate to that structure, accountability could be spoken of as being vertical or horizontal. Vertical accountability would refer to those with greater accountability than you by virtue of their job role/title. Horizontal accountability would refer to those with whom you share accountability on account of your shared skillset or role.


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