Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
The Myth of Political Representation
by David Stanowski
02 February 2019
The United States is ONLY ranked 25th in the 2018 ratings of the world's freest democracies by The Economist magazine! This study, by their Economic Intelligence Unit, characterized the U.S. as a "flawed democracy".
In addition, the United States is ONLY ranked 22nd in the 2018 Corruptions Perception Index!
These studies confirm what many citizens already know that the Federal Government has become extremely incompetent, wholly corrupt and authoritarian. If dramatic changes are not made, it is likely to move beyond its current form of soft totalitarianism into much harsher forms of rulership. The "Politburo on the Potomac" clearly no longer serves the American people; it frightens them!
The legitimacy and acceptance of the Federal Government is completely dependent on maintaining the following well-crafted myth:
Government is legitimate and should be accepted because it is democratic. It is democratic because "the people" elect their representatives. Because "the people" are ruled by representatives that they elected, "the people" are, in effect, ruling themselves. Because "the people" are ruling themselves, representative democracy creates a true meritocracy that is fair to everyone; i.e. there is no ruling class.
However, as this fairytale begins to wear thin, there is a growing realization that "political representation" is actually a meaningless illusion used by the ruling class to stifle opposition to their self-serving rulership, which is leading to rising dissatisfaction with government. In fact, it is the process of electing "representatives" itself that creates the ruling class, which is becoming more powerful and dominant all the time. THAT is the cause of the problem.
Private-Sector versus Political Representation
Unlike the political, or public sector; in the private sector, an agent must be responsible to his principal. Compare these common forms of private-sector representation to so-called "political representation":
Proxy: When a principal gives a proxy to his agent, the agent is obligated to carry out the tasks listed in the proxy, precisely as directed, with no deviation. An example is a proxy to vote "yes", for the sale of a company, on behalf of a shareholder.
Trustee: When a trust is created and a trustee is appointed, the trustee is given much more discretion than a simple proxy allows. The trust gives the trustee written guidelines but also allows him to use his "best judgment" to manage the trust, which gives him broad discretion in how to "interpret" the guidelines. However, the trustee still has the fiduciary duty to act in the beneficiary's "best interests" at all times.
Attorney: When a client hires an attorney, the attorney generally has more power and authority than a trustee. The attorney is given guidelines to follow and permission to act in certain ways but there is never any question that he has a duty to act in the client's "best interests".
Politician: When people vote for a politician, they do so based on the belief that, if elected, he will vote for the laws that he promises to support during his election campaign. However, unlike the three private-sector examples, the politician has absolutely no duty to do so! He might well anger many voters when he breaks his promises but he can basically do whatever he wants to do!
A politician may either campaign on very vague slogans, so the voters have no clear idea what he intends to do, or simply lie about what he intends to do and do something quite different after election. In either case, unlike private-sector representation, voters have no immediate recourse when a politician does something they do not like. They can only effectively register their disapproval at the next election.
Principal-Agent versus Constituent-
In addition, unlike the three private-sector examples, a politician does not represent a single principal, beneficiary or client; he "represents" a "constituency" of thousands or even millions of people. With numerous competing and diverging interests within the group, it is not just difficult to "represent" a constituency; it is impossible!
Clearly, "political representation" does not really exist. It is simply a fiction created to keep the voters pacified and placated.
When understood from the principal- agent perspective, "representative democracy" can never properly "serve the people". In actual use, it has simply become a clever method to concentrate power in the hands of very few people who become the dominant "ruling class". Access to the ruling class is limited to powerful special-interest groups and big donors, so the actual constituency of elected "representatives" is really very limited.
The relationship between the "representative" and these "insiders" is ripe for corruption as government becomes nothing more than a vehicle to serve the interests of the few. "The people" are forced to make "small sacrifices" to provide enormous benefits to the insiders.
It should be no surprise that the latest Gallup poll finds that Members of Congress are one of this country's least-trusted professions.
Today, the average Member of the U.S. House of Representatives pretends to "represent" more than 500,000 people, while Senators have many more constituents. Viewed from this perspective, the pretense of "political representation" quickly unravels.
State and local constituent ratios are often not much better. Each member of the Texas house of representatives has about 186,000 constituents and each Texas senator has approximately 900,000.
Even councilmembers in the cities of Galveston County have constituencies numbering several thousand; in the city of Galveston, for example, each councilmember "represents" roughly 8,300 constituents and in League City they "represent" about 14,000!
Even if all of the other problems with "political representation" are ignored, just considering the number of constituents a politician is supposed to "represent" makes the concept absurd!
Representation by a Politician of the Opposing Ideology
Finally, when Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election, the nearly 66 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton not only felt completely disenfranchised, i.e. with no "political representation" in the executive branch of the Federal Government; they also believed that Trump would work against their best interests because his views were so diametrically opposed to those of their candidate. In short, how can a voter possibly be "represented" by a politician that they voted against?
This is the great flaw of government; everyone has to live with the same government whether it works in their best interests or not. In contrast, the private sector provides many choices of goods and services that can satisfy everyone's preferences; government provides only one choice!
With political parties and ideologies becoming more and more contrary and hostile to each other, voters recognize that, if their candidate loses, they will be ruled by a "representative" who will be doing many things to make their life miserable. The risk of being "represented" by a politician of an opposing ideology has created such anxiety about the consequences of losing elections that political battles have become increasingly vicious and deadly. All that matters is winning at any cost!
Some have considered the problem of "political representation" and opined that increasing the number of representatives would help. In 1790, the average Member of the U.S. House of Representatives had about 37,000 constituents. Today, reducing the number of constituents to 30,000 would require 10,600 Members. This number would require Members to meet in a venue the size of a basketball stadium. Of course, the sheer number of Members would make facilitating corrupt deals much more difficult, so that would be an improvement. However, simply increasing the number of Members wouldn't solve other problems.
The Founding Fathers chose a republic instead of a democracy because a republic attempts to protect the individual rights of those who do not support the outcome of a "majority vote". That protection is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
The Founders chose a "representative republic" for many reasons, not the least of which was the impossibility of 18th-century Americans all meeting in one place to decide national political issues directly, so they had no choice but to elect people to "represent" them.
However, in smaller governmental units, like the New England village, those 18th-century Americans did practice "direct democracy", in which the whole town gathered together so that each eligible citizen could vote directly on local issues. No "representatives" were needed! Town Meetings
The great flaw of "representative" government is that it concentrates power in the hands of a small number of people. Concentrated power is always more corrupt than diffused power. Today, as a nation of some 318 million, the U.S. continues to concentrate more and more power into the hands of the same number of people – 535 in Congress – as when America was a nation of 123 million, in 1929, when the number of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives was fixed at 435. Reapportionment Act of 1929
The ideal alternative would be to use the Internet, along with the proper methods of identifying eligible voters, and allow 21st-century Americans to gather together online to practice "direct democracy", as citizen legislators, using "Internet voting" on proposed legislation, thereby replacing their "representatives" in both the House and Senate. (No change would be needed in the Presidential election process.)
By including the protections of the Bill of Rights, this process would allow America to become a "direct republic" rather than a "representative republic". This would be the best way to repair our current unresponsive and corrupt government when the day finally comes that enough people realize "political representation" is a myth that can no longer be the "foundation of our government".
There are many obvious ways to criticize this proposal, such as: the risks of illegal aliens and foreigners voting and that the voting process might be hacked; as well as the fact that many eligible voters would choose not study the issues and/or to participate in a "direct democracy" process. But all those problems already exist in the current system and have left this country with a dysfunctional corrupt government run by special interests, big donors and the “deep state”.
Once enough people realize that their "political representation", in the present system, is as much a myth as the fairytale that paper money has some long-term tangible value, there might be real interest in this kind of change.
A "direct republic" would make lobbying by special-interest groups and outright bribery and corruption much more difficult. It would hit the military-
industrial complex especially hard and give citizen legislators a chance to end America's empire building and perpetual war.
The deep state might still survive but its power and influence would surely wane. It might even be possible for citizen legislators to shut down the "War on Drugs" and the corrupt Federal Reserve Bank. A direct republic would also end the need for campaign contributions to House Members and Senators.
Finally, if citizen legislators were allowed to vote directly on federal legislation, there would be far less chance that the Federal Government would become more totalitarian.
Think about it. With modern technology, a "direct republic" is now possible and it would eliminate the current concentration of power and all of the problems created by a "representative republic".
The Major Obstacle:
Obviously, the major obstacle to this reform is that the ruling class will never willingly give up their current power and financial plunder that "representative" government provides, so the change to a "direct republic", at the federal level, will only be possible if the American people decide to revolt in some sort of widespread grassroots process like the Yellow Vest movement in France.
Therefore, it is much more likely that this change could take place at the state, county or city level long before sufficient momentum is reached to do so with the Federal Government.
There should not be the same level of resistance to converting at least some Galveston County cities to "direct democracies", as there will be to replacing the House and Senate, so if County residents see the wisdom and advantages in making this change, there is hope for "direct democracy" at the local level!