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On Representation

On Representation

By Mark Shubert


The only representative form of government is democracy. Democracy has been viewed as the rule of the majority or the will of the people but it is fundamentally more important than that. The act of suffrage is the only civil means in which a person may give their consent to the government; the only civil means of granting the government sovereign power that it requires in order to have the mandate of civility or the right to rule. Individuals are the only ones who are naturally born with rights originating from the state of nature, groups, institutions, government, any form of a collective or society does not naturally exist nor has rights; from there an individual may relinquish some of their natural rights or authority to a governing body with the purpose of securing themselves and the other constituents from the threats in nature. Suffrage is the only civil means, but there is a more natural way which is rebellion and usurpation. Democracy may be organized in different ways which can change the nature of the society.

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is when the people individually vote on a bill themselves instead of having a representative legislature. This direct rule of the people is sometimes called pure or absolute democracy. The specific act of the people voting directly on a bill is sometimes called a referendum and they happen more occasionally the more local the government is; a nationwide referendum almost never happens for large countries; it could occasionally happen statewide or in small countries; it happens the most locally.

Direct Representation

Direct representation is when the people vote to elect members of a legislature and then those legislators vote a bill into law. We have this in the US for state representatives, state senators, federal representatives, and federal senators.

Indirect Representation (multiplicatively removed)

Indirect representation twice removed is when the people elect an electoral college and then those electors vote to elect members of a legislature and then those legislators vote a bill into law. Indirect representation thrice removed is when the people elect legislators and those legislators elect electors and those electors vote to elect a legislator or other official position and those officers then vote on a bill. We have this in America for the president. The people vote in their state legislators, those state legislators choose the electors of the electoral college, those electors then vote on the president, and the president can sign or veto bills. Indirect representation quadrice removed is just another instance of the elected representative electing another representative. We have this in America for the Supreme Court, from the thrice removed President who then nominates the Justices to the Supreme Court.

Virtual Representation and Suffrage

Are the democracies of the past that people like to point to actually democracies? No! The vast majority of the people couldn’t vote in the past even in the recent past. How can you know the will of the people if there are no institutions where the people can give their consent or even voice their opinions? When the people cannot vote that is called virtual representation and it is a fraud. Dictators, kings, oligarchies, and other forms of despotism claim to represent their constituents because they know that the mandate of civility comes from the people, but without actual consent, which can only be truly known via suffrage, then those claims are false. The institution of suffrage is the only civil means the people can use to give their consent and this institution cannot be tampered with by an ambitious despot or else they de-legitimize their right to govern, not that they care. Some despots try to use some other reason for their authority, the most common being God.

Virtual representation was brought up during the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765, where many of our nation’s founders responded to Parliament against the legitimacy of virtual representation. Parliament was claiming that despite the lack of suffrage in the colonies, they still represented the colonists and their interests. Founders like Adams, Franklin, Otis, and Mulany argued that since the colonists’ will cannot be known, their consent could not be granted, then their interests and rights cannot be kept in mind during the passing of parliamentary acts. This is the idea of no taxation without representation, the act of taxing isn't the issue, it is the lack of representation, and the only way for a government to truly represent its constituents is if those constituents had some level of suffrage.

Mob Rule

Mobs are never a true majority, usually they are a group of motivated and angry people that cannot be reasonably viewed as the will of the people. Take the French Revolution for example, the people of Paris overthrew the French political order in a mob like fashion but the people of Paris were not a majority of the French people; instead the majority of the French people were royal loyalists who needed to be guillotined or shot before the Revolutionaries had their way. The “mob rule” is not democratic since the majority of people prefer the status quo over upending society for an uninsured system of governance. Mobs are not the will of the people but instead another despot. Only the people as a whole can rebel, not an individual or minority group. Remember the importance of consent, when an individual rebels they may be trying to overthrow the government; if they somehow succeed then they are the new government which requires the consent of the people in order to be legitimate. If it is just one person or one minority group rebelling then they obviously do not have the consent of the people and therefore do not have the right to rebel or to set up a new government. Or I should say, they do not have the civil right to rebel, when it comes to natural rights, you have a right to all things, including rebelling, but this right violates civility and so it is a relinquished right only to be called upon in a state of nature caused by the government.

If an individual takes back a relinquished right then they violate the trust of society and enter back into a state of nature and remember that in the state of nature anything goes so the society can do whatever it wants to that rebellious individual since that person is now just another threat in nature. In nature anything goes, but in civility there are restrictions on behaviors and so the society would not do anything unnecessary or detrimental to itself. Remember, civility is security in nature, the more civil the society the more secure and vice versa. One observation made is that the more people coordinating in society the more secure that society is, the more civil it is. Given this observation, a society would not just execute errants or violators of civil trust but would instead re-assimilate them back into a state of civility. This is only the case if errants can be rehabilitated, for those who cannot be, then it is up to the society to decide.

Consent and Reciprocity

Although the histories of democracies have been undemocratic, it is entirely possible that a true majority of the people can be despotic and choose to violate the rights of an individual or minority group. The key virtues that secures trust the most is consent and reciprocity. Obviously an individual would not want their civil rights violated so they shouldn’t violate the civil rights of others lest their rights are violated. This reciprocity or equal treatment is necessary for the trust in society because it gives some assurances that your rights would not be violated. Where trust is lost is when people, could be the majority of the people, ignore reciprocity and decide to violate the rights of a group they might not like. That is the reason why minority groups today have more trust issues because in the past and even today they are not treated equally or with reciprocity by the majority. What helps reconcile this mistrust is for the errants to use some introspection to realize they are not being civilly reciprocal. Once the errant behavior stops then trust can start to heal. Given how important trust and cooperation is, it is important for the violated group to be open to reconciliation so that the society may move on. If both sides do their part, then full trust is restored in society and it may be a safer, consensual, reciprocal civil society.

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