Wiki: Representative democracy

Project:website
Component:Wiki
Category:feature request
Priority:normal
Assigned:augustin
Status:active
Project wiki:Minguo Community Project
Related pages:#13032: Representative democracy
Description

Here #13681-3: Document the role of political parties, ran_in_93 wrote:

In practice, parties in Canada, present their policies to the people in the form of a national election platform and the party leader sells it to the voters. Unlike America and France, Canada’s problem is there is no vote for it. There should be. No need to elect anybody, because that’s not what parties are there for.

The comment touches on the role and nature of representative democracy.
I just updated the corresponding wiki article:
http://en.minguo.info/wiki/representative_democracy
I am not satisfied with my description. I don't quite know how to phrase it.

I was trying to introduce what the quote was pointing at.

We have to consider:
- people's perception of representative democracies.
- the historical evolution thereof.
- the current factual nature of representation.
- and what people like ran_in_93 and the rest of us would want representation to be like.

Do we want elected representatives to:
- represent a geographical district?
- represent a party or an ideology?
- or to be elected because they are knowledgeable on a specific area of public policy?

Comments

#1

Title:Representative democracy» Wiki: Representative democracy
Assigned to:Anonymous» augustin

I updated the article, trying to represent a bit better the alternative ideas of representation.

#2

I am a little tired of parties presenting specialists who are invariably parachuted into safe seats so as to run departments. I want representatives to represent their districts and as a group (call it government), hire the right people to run departments.I hope my representative has a good grasp of the economic and social conditions of the electorate in my district. I would prefer someone with a track record in the district. Has lived here, calls it home. Someone who has been successful in life, both in personal and business relationships, Ideally working in the real world for twenty years or more. No career politicians. I don’t need to elect an academic to oversee education, but rather an individual who understands the need for have an education system that produces well rounded individuals with employable job skills. Someone to listen to what academics have to say. I don’t want to elect a lawyer, but I do want to elect someone who will know when and where to get a good lawyer. I don’t want an accountant, I want someone who knows what a balance sheet means, hires a good accountant and respects their professional opinions. I don’t need to elect a General to oversee the military. I want someone who respects and understands the role and needs of the military I don’t need to elect an economist, but rather someone who can understand and admire a balanced budget, while listening to economists and their calls for action. That being said, I could very well elect a lawyer, a teacher, an economist or a war hero. But they should “represent” on all these political fronts.

#3

I wrote the following in 1994, specific about citizenship but I would like my representative to similarly inclined.

A Citizen of Canada.

I will take the time to understand the choices made within Canada for me to live this way. I shall learn to appreciate my country's character and values. I shall be a little more forgiving and a shade more considerate than my neighbour is to me. I shall aid in the setting of rules and laws so that our rights, privileges and freedoms are balanced and respectful of our diversity. I shall be ready when called upon to help my country, to do what must be done when push comes to shove. I shall live each day with respect for people and property, the environment and our government. I shall be patient and polite, constructive and resourceful. I shall give my country a full and honest effort in the defence of peace and in the cultivation of prosperity. I make these commitments to my country and accept these as my burden. Canada is my treasure, shield, sanctuary, and home.

#5

Representation of the electorate using Single Member Districts (SMD) has accountability built in. That’s important. No one feels forgotten. It is fair for everybody. You get one vote. You get one representative.

Constituents in a Single Member District can tell exactly who represents them in parliament. There is only one elected representative for the district in which a constituent lives. The representative knows exactly who he or she is representing. That would be everybody living in the district. The idea is that every constituent gets the same number of representatives in parliament. It's one each. This single member idea is important. There is no confusion over who looks after who. Unlike variations of Single Transferable Vote(STV), Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) and full Proportional Representation from party lists (PR), there is no duplication of representation. A constituent can't say "he's not listening to me I'll go talk to my other reps". Similarly, the representative can't say "I don't want to represent you, go talk to one of your other reps". The constituents and the representative are stuck with each other.

Done fairly, SMD is "REP by POP". Each representative should have roughly the same workload when representing his or her constituents. Geography really does matter. Similarly, each constituent can feel certain that they have just about as much access to representation as everybody else in the district, and anywhere else. SMD is fair going both ways.

You can't say the same for STV or MMP if you intend to keep your ballot a secret. In both systems, a representative can honestly suggest to any of his or her constituents that "I don't represent you, go talk to someone else". There is no real accountability in those multi-member versions of Proportional Representation when nobody can officially say who you voted for. Why would they represent you if you don't agree with them?

In a 100 seat parliament, having 50 list seats and 50 district seats, one constituent would have legitimate access to 51 politicians, that's a majority influenced by one person.

Compared to MMP, STV gives each constituent far fewer representatives to talk to, and a lot more power. Each constituent in a 101 seat STV parliament (13 seven-member districts and 2 five-member districts?) would have legitimate access to over 5% of parliament. Taken to its worst case, ten constituents could directly influence a majority of the votes in parliament.

My feeling is that we are better off with a worst case scenario where it takes at least 51 constituents to directly influence a majority of the votes in a 100 seat parliament. That's SMD doing democracy right and proud.

You can't stop politicians from having personal political relationships with hundreds of their constituents. Some may be former business associates. Others remain long time friends and neighbours. Some connect as members of the same political party. And many more meet the representative when he or she is representing the district. Most of these people will live in the district. In a small district maybe that's enough personal contact to get enough votes to win an election. At the national level with single member districts, an average sized district may have 100,000 constituents. To get elected here, politicians will need support at the polls from tens of thousands of complete strangers who live in and around all those people the representative seems to know. It's the same air, land, water, roads, stores, schools, hospitals and community. Even if my representative only does a few things in politics and they are intended to make the people he or she knows happier where they live, chances are I'll be happier too. SMD works for me.

A Single Member District system is the fairest possible interpretation of representative democracy in big and wide places. SMD, especially in combination with IRV, is accountable politics when most of the time our representation in our parliament is dealing with issues that surround us every day where we live, work and play.

#6

The wiki page on representative democracy is a good simple explanation of where domocracy came from. And fair comment on where most national democracies find themselves now.

Our current problem seems to be that our representatives try to be legislators and specialists. That really isn't their job. Our representatives provide civilian oversight. They are implementors and enforcers. They make decisions on behalf of the people. Parties are perfect places for legislative types to compose legislation and specialists to propose courses of political action. The government could also hire the same kinds of people to come up with detailed plans on nice-to-have ideas. Our representatives serve in sub-committees, full committees, and as a committee of the whole. After our representatives have asked questions, suggested changes to make whatever it is "better", they consider the matter before them, and they vote.

#8

Thanks a lot. Personally, I am not against SMD. You make good points for it. My perspective is a bit different from yours, but compatible with yours. There is no real disagreement.

I'll come back to you on the above. I have something critical to finish first. Give me one or two days and I'll post a follow up here. Thanks.

#9

Thanks for having a look at the wiki page. There are a few more things that I'd like to improve.

You argue for geographic representation. As I mentioned in my blog, I've just finished reading Bryce's book, and he makes good points against it. Personally, I am on the fence. Changing the nature of SMD is not a priority for me. What I do know is that we only have geographic representation in name. In fact, legislators barely represent the districts they were elected in, but represent their party. The problem is that the nature of political parties is adversely affected by the use of Plurality Voting, which is corrupting our electoral process. So, my personal priority is getting rid of Plurality voting.

In any case, my opinion does not matter much. You do make good arguments in favour of geographic representation, and I would hate for it to go to waste. Make sure to read the following page very carefully, and understand the implications over the long term, as your try to promote the issues you care about: http://en.minguo.info/wiki/content_types .

The present discussion thread is a ticket, a TODO item whose sole purpose is to improve the related wiki article. Once we've done our best, we can set this ticket's status as 'fixed', and all the comments above will lose visibility, especially for future readers and members. So, do make sure your views and arguments are fairly represented in the wiki. Besides, you can also post a couple of articles in your book, titled something like: "A case for geographic representation in representative democracy", or whatever you'd prefer.

Generally speaking, place your best arguments in the most appropriate places, where they'll have the most long term visibility, as explained here: http://en.minguo.info/wiki/content_types