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   Countries designated "electoral democracies" in Freedom House's 2017 survey Freedom in the World, covering the year 2016.[1]

Representative democracy (also indirect democracy, representative republic or psephocracy) is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy.[2] Nearly all modern Western-style democracies are types of representative democracies; for example, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, Ireland is a unitary parliamentary republic, and the United States is a federal republic.[3]

It is an element of both the parliamentary and the presidential systems of government and is typically used in a lower chamber such as the House of Commons (United Kingdom) or Dáil Éireann (Republic of Ireland), and may be curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber. It has been described by some political theorists including Robert A. Dahl, Gregory Houston and Ian Liebenberg as polyarchy.[4][5] In it the power is in the hands of the elected representatives who are elected by the people in elections.

Contents

Powers of representativesEdit

Representatives are elected by the public, as in national elections for the national legislature.[3] Elected representatives may hold the power to select other representatives, presidents, or other officers of the government or of the legislature, as the Prime Minister in the latter case. (indirect representation).

The power of representatives is usually curtailed by a constitution (as in a constitutional democracy or a constitutional monarchy) or other measures to balance representative power:[citation needed]

Theorists such as Edmund Burke believe that part of the duty of a representative was not simply to communicate the wishes of the electorate but also to use their own judgement in the exercise of their powers, even if their views are not reflective of those of a majority of voters:[6]

...it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

HistoryEdit

The Roman Republic was the first government in the western world to have a representative government, despite taking the form of a direct government in the Roman assemblies. The Roman model of governance inspired many political thinkers over the centuries,[7] and today's modern representative democracies imitate more the Roman than the Greek models because it was a state in which supreme power was held by the people and their elected representatives, and which had an elected or nominated leader.[8] Representative democracy is a form of democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives as opposed to a direct democracy, a form of democracy in which people vote on policy initiatives directly.[9] A European medieval tradition of selecting representatives from the various estates (classes, but not as we know them today) to advise/control monarchs led to relatively wide familiarity with representative systems inspired by Roman systems.

In Britain, Simon de Montfort is remembered as one of the fathers of representative government for holding two famous parliaments.[10][11] The first, in 1258, stripped the King of unlimited authority and the second, in 1265, included ordinary citizens from the towns.[12] Later, in the 17th century, the Parliament of England pioneered some of the ideas and systems of liberal democracy culminating in the Glorious Revolution and passage of the Bill of Rights 1689.[13][14]

The American Revolution led to the creation of a new Constitution of the United States in 1787. with a national legislature based partly on direct elections of representatives every two years, and thus responsible to the electorate for continuance in office. Senators were not directly elected by the people until the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. Women, men who owned no property, and blacks, and others not originally given voting rights in most states eventually gained the vote through changes in state and federal law in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Until it was repealed by the Fourteenth Amendment following the Civil War, the Three-Fifths Compromise gave a disproportionate representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states,[15][16]

In 1789, Revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and, although short-lived, the National Convention was elected by all males in 1792.[17]

Representative democracy came into particular general favour in post-industrial revolution nation states where large numbers of citizens evinced interest in politics, but where technology and population figures remained unsuited to direct democracy. As noted above, Edmund Burke in his speech to the electors of Bristol classically analysed their operation in Britain and the rights and duties of an elected representative.

 
The U.S. House of Representatives, one example of representative democracy

Globally, a majority of the world's people live in representative democracies including constitutional monarchies and republics with strong representative branches.

Research on representation per seEdit

Separate but related, and very large, bodies of research in political philosophy and social science investigate how and how well elected representatives, such as legislators, represent the interests or preferences of one or another constituency.

CriticismsEdit

In his book Political Parties, written in 1911, Robert Michels argues that most representative systems deteriorate towards an oligarchy or particracy. This is known as the iron law of oligarchy.[18] Representative democracies which are stable have been analysed by Adolf Gasser and compared to the unstable representative democracies in his book "Gemeindefreiheit als Rettung Europas" which was published in 1943 (first edition in German) and a second edition in 1947 (in German).[19] Adolf Gasser stated the following requirements for a representative democracy in order to remain stable, unaffected by the iron law of oligarchy:

  • Society has to be built up from bottom to top. As a consequence, society is built up by people, who are free and have the power to defend themselves with weapons.
  • These free people join or form local communities. These local communities are independent, which includes financial independence, and they are free to determine their own rules.
  • Local communities join together into a higher unit e.g. a canton.
  • There is no hierarchical bureaucracy.
  • There is competition between these local communities e.g. on services delivered or on taxes.

A drawback to this type of government is that elected officials are not required to fulfill promises made before their election and are able to promote their own self-interests once elected, providing an incohesive system of governance.[20] Legislators are also under scrutiny as the system of majority-won legislators voting for issues for the large group of people fosters inequality among the marginalized.[21]

Proposed solutionsEdit

The system of stochocracy has been proposed as an improved system compared to the system of representative democracy, where representatives are elected. Stochocracy aims to at least reduce this degradation by having all representatives appointed by lottery instead of by voting. Therefore, this system is also called lottocracy. The system was proposed by the writer Roger de Sizif in 1998 in his book La Stochocratie. Choosing officeholders by lot was also the standard practice in ancient Athenian democracy.[22] The rationale behind this practice was to avoid lobbying and electioneering by economic oligarchs.

The system of deliberative democracy is a mix between a majority ruled system and a consensus-based system. It allows for representative democracies or direct democracies to coexist with its system of governance, providing an initial advantage.[23] It is a system which allows for legislators to discuss the issues in a productive manner trying to reach a consensus. If the group cannot reach a consensus then a majority-wins vote must be taken.

The system of delegative democracy or Liquid Democracy is a dynamic mixture of representative democracy and direct democracy, meaning that each participant can decide himself when he wants to participate in a decision by direct voting, or whether he rather wants a delegate to vote for him by using a software system. The voter can delegate his vote an organization, a political party or an individual. One can have different delegates in different subject areas, and always change the delegate. When the voter votes directly in an issue, the delegates vote will be erased and the direct vote will be counted. This system also contains room for popular initiatives and deliberation. The first example of delegative or Liquid Democracy using a software program in a real political setting involved the local political party Demoex in Vallentuna near Stockholm, Sweden. Pirate Parties in Germany,[24] Italy, Austria, Norway, France and the Netherlands[25] use delegative democracy with the open-source software LiquidFeedback,[citation needed] while members of the Belgian Pirate Party have developed their own software called Get Opinionated.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Freedom in The World 2017 (PDF)
  2. ^ "Victorian Electronic Democracy, Final Report – Glossary". 28 July 2005. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Loeper, Antoine (2016). "Cross-border externalities and cooperation among representative democracies". European Economic Review – via ebscohost. 
  4. ^ Houston, G F (2001) Public Participation in Democratic Governance in South Africa, Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council HSRC Press
  5. ^ Dahl, R A (2005) 'Is international democracy possible? A critical view'. In Sergio Fabbrini (editor) Democracy and Federalism in the European Union and the United States: Exploring post-national governance: 195 to 204 (Chapter 13), Abingdon on Thames: Routledge
  6. ^ The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke. Volume I. London: Henry G. Bohn. 1854. pp. 446–8. 
  7. ^ Livy, 2002, p. 34
  8. ^ Watson, 2005, p. 271
  9. ^ Budge, Ian (2001). "Direct democracy". In Clarke, Paul A.B. & Foweraker, Joe. Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-19396-2. 
  10. ^ Jobson, Adrian (2012). The First English Revolution: Simon de Montfort, Henry III and the Barons' War. Bloomsbury. pp. 173–4. ISBN 978-1-84725-226-5. 
  11. ^ "Simon de Montfort: The turning point for democracy that gets overlooked". BBC. 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015 ; "The January Parliament and how it defined Britain". The Telegraph. 20 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  12. ^   Norgate, Kate (1894). "Montfort, Simon of (1208?-1265)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 38. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  13. ^ Kopstein, Jeffrey; Lichbach, Mark; Hanson, Stephen E., eds. (2014). Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities, and Institutions in a Changing Global Order (4, revised ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 37–9. ISBN 1139991388. Britain pioneered the system of liberal democracy that has now spread in one form or another to most of the world's countries 
  14. ^ "Constitutionalism: America & Beyond". Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 30 October 2014. The earliest, and perhaps greatest, victory for liberalism was achieved in England. The rising commercial class that had supported the Tudor monarchy in the 16th century led the revolutionary battle in the 17th, and succeeded in establishing the supremacy of Parliament and, eventually, of the House of Commons. What emerged as the distinctive feature of modern constitutionalism was not the insistence on the idea that the king is subject to law (although this concept is an essential attribute of all constitutionalism). This notion was already well established in the Middle Ages. What was distinctive was the establishment of effective means of political control whereby the rule of law might be enforced. Modern constitutionalism was born with the political requirement that representative government depended upon the consent of citizen subjects.... However, as can be seen through provisions in the 1689 Bill of Rights, the English Revolution was fought not just to protect the rights of property (in the narrow sense) but to establish those liberties which liberals believed essential to human dignity and moral worth. The "rights of man" enumerated in the English Bill of Rights gradually were proclaimed beyond the boundaries of England, notably in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789. 
  15. ^ "We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident;" An Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Roots of Racism & slavery in America Kenneth N. Addison; Introduction P. xxii
  16. ^ "Expansion of Rights and Liberties". National Archives. Retrieved December 27, 2015. 
  17. ^ "The French Revolution II". Mars.wnec.edu. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  18. ^ Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie. Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens (1911, 1925; 1970). Translated as Sociologia del partito politico nella democrazia moderna : studi sulle tendenze oligarchiche degli aggregati politici, from the German original by Dr. Alfredo Polledro, revised and expanded (1912). Translated, from the Italian, by Eden and Cedar Paul as Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (Hearst's International Library Co., 1915; Free Press, 1949; Dover Publications, 1959); republished with an introduction by Seymour Martin Lipset (Crowell-Collier, 1962; Transaction Publishers, 1999, ISBN 0-7658-0469-7); translated in French by S. Jankélévitch, Les partis politiques. Essai sur les tendances oligarchiques des démocraties, Brussels, Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 2009 (ISBN 978-2-8004-1443-0).
  19. ^ Gemeindefreiheit als Rettung Europas. Grundlinien einer ethischen Geschichtsauffassung. Verlag Bücherfreunde, Basel 1947. In 1983 republished under: "Gemeindefreiheit – kommunale Selbstverwaltung" (Adolf Gasser/Franz-Ludwig Knemeyer), in de reeks "Studien zur Soziologie", Nymphenburger, München, 1983.
  20. ^ Sørensen, Eva (2015). "Enhancing policy innovation by redesigning representative democracy". American Political Science Review – via ebscohost. 
  21. ^ Thaa, Winfried (2016). "Issues and images – new sources of inequality in current representative democracy.". Critical Review of International Social & Political Philosophy. 19 (3). 
  22. ^ "1,5". Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece. Josiah Ober , Robert Wallace , Paul Cartledge , Cynthia Farrar (1st ed.). 15 October 2008. pp. 17,105. ISBN 978-0520258099. 
  23. ^ Bohman, James (1997). "Deliberative Democracy" (PDF). MIT Press. 
  24. ^ Piratenpartei Berlin. "Piratenpartei revolutioniert parteiinternen Diskurs: Interaktive Demokratie mit Liquid Feedback". Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  25. ^ "Uitleg LiquidFeed systeem". Archived from the original on 5 September 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 

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