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Philosophy of Representative Democracies

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Sauce Bauss, Mar 10, 2018.

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What role does a representative hold with regard to their constituents?

  1. Agent

    38 vote(s)
    86.4%
  2. Proxy

    6 vote(s)
    13.6%
  1. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    So this is a debate that I've had with a few members on IRC over the years, and one that recently came up regarding the redistricting in Pennsylvania and the political ping pong that's occurring thanks to the shifting district lines. What is the responsibility of a representative to their constituents? There are two schools of thought on this front, in my view.

    A representative is an agent of their constituency. They are elected to act in their constituency's best interests, even if the constituency may disagree. The electorate is choosing a representative based on that representative's personal qualifications, beliefs, and actions. The representative still retains agency, and if their choices are too objectionable to their constituents then their recourse is through the next election.

    Alternatively, a representative is a proxy for their constituency. The representative is elected to advance the beliefs and causes of their electorate, even when those desires conflict with the representative's beliefs. In this case, a representative who is pro-free trade may support the steel tariffs if there is a large steel producer in their district, for example. Supporting their constituents to the detriment of their own causes.

    Which is the correct view? I have friends who are ardent supporters of the purity of democracy that hold that the people's will is the only legitimate will. Vox populi, vox dei after all. Personally, I am of the former persuasion. I think that that's the entire purpose of a representative democracy in the first place. Once, one could argue over the logistical issues of direct democracy but with today's technology that is no longer as valid an argument. I hold that we elect representatives to represent us, but they are to act as they best see fit. I expect them to vote for the national good over the regional or local, even if it harms their district. After all, why are we electing individuals instead of voting on platforms or policy proposals?

    I'm curious to see DLP's views on this.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
  2. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I don't see the two as necessarily contradictory. In the "ideal" situation, the representative is an agent who acts as a proxy.

    Logically, the representative can only be an agent unless they are representing a constituency of one. Any real life constituency will contain a range of views. To act as proxy of all of the constituency would be impossible. It would require hold self-contradicting positions on almost every issue.

    So the representative must be an agent.

    However, they are an agent with a responsibility to have due regard for the views of their principals (ideally with an appropriate weighting). They are an agent who is supposed to respect democratic process and not replace their constituents' views with their own, though of course they must exercise their judgement as agent. An agent cannot completely ignore the instructions of their principal, even if they believe they are acting in the principal's best interest. There is a difference between exercising discretion and subverting the agent-principal relationship, placing yourself into the position of principal. The exercise of judgment and discretion cannot be used to justify or excuse defying the will of the people.

    Ultimately, in a democratic system, this will work itself out, as any agent who defies their principal will be removed and replaced with another agent.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
  3. Darth_Revan

    Darth_Revan Secret Squirrel Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Agent, obviously. Citizens elect people who they believe share their philosophy and priorities, but the representative acts in their stead, not as their proxy. They can fulfill this by trying in their own way balance acting both on the behalf of an in the interests of their constituencies.

    But since they are also a member of a national body, and because the government apparatus (ideally) is able to provide the representatives with a greater level of information and perspective than would be available for the average citizen they represent, agent-representatives also need to act in the best interests of their constituencies even when their constituencies might not see it that way, AND they must also act sometimes in the best interests of the country, even if it might harm their own constituency.

    The space between those actions and public opinion is politics.
     
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Fourth Champion

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    Former, since later would lead up to an almost impossible burden on the representative and probably a descend into paranoia and tools of control like recalls and popular impeachments, which would lead to a real politicisation of everything in the everyday. In the other hand, my views are painted by being a lawyer and when you represent a client you must have freedom of strategy and of legal choices with some special exceptions, or else... If you're inclining towards the latter, than a direct democracy would be better since you cut the unecessary middleman and lets the bureaucracy handle the rest. Would make national politics a mess though, but so would the 'direct representation'.
     
  5. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    I'm a bit surprised by the poll results. Both people I'd actually had this discussion with in real life had disagreed with me, so the 3:1 ratio in favor of my position was a bit unexpected.
     
  6. Invictus

    Invictus Fourth Champion

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    Maybe because people, deep down and when speaking in abstract terms, want to believe their figures in power know netter and can do their jobs? Like "trust the specialist" logic. It's easier to believe in the capacity of "the dutifully elected representative of X district by a clear majority who campaigned on solving his district issues while he understands how the political process works and thus will treat politics like the art of compromise it is" versus "Steve King, who got in because gerrymandering and shitty people, whose role seems to be Be a Walking Racist Stereotype", so the poll might be biased for that result since it implies the system will work as intended while the other assumes the system doesn't work unless you're in direct charge. And people here know that ... Not s lot of good things happen when the population takes direct charge for things they don't understand and have no experience of.

    Like, when you put on paper "A system where a deeply knowledgeable judge who studied and practiced law for decades will decide based on his juridical knowledge on what conclusion he must arrive at VS twelve people will decide how the law should applied when their biggest contact with the Judiciary and laws is via Law and Order and they will be mostly be convinced based on persuasion, arriving at a conclusion based on their opinions and not knowledge of the mechanism of law".

    Again, while my position is winning, I think that while speaking in theoreticals, a middle class population (which is what this site is mostly made of) will ways pick believing he system works.
     
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