Representative Democracy

The problem with democracy is logistical. How could many millions of people determine the details of a multitude of legislative and executive issues? The American solution to this problem is known as representative democracy. Each citizen is entitled to vote with others in his geographical region to determine who will represent his "community" in the national debate on policymaking and enforcement. In this way, the number of direct participants is reduced to a manageable 100 senators and several hundred representatives. Theoretically, individuals vote for a representative that will, for lack of a less repetitive word, represent their wishes in this debate.

While this idea makes sense in theory, in practice it has been shown to be a travesty. In addition to making it central to the ability to be elected that the politician must make promises to the constituency he is courting that he never intends to, and frequently cannot, keep, the system of representative democracy has made it impressively easy for those with money to protect their money with regulations. Working with the system, the tobacco industry prevented any meaningful action against itself for decades, NRA lobbyists have prevented any meaningful gun control measures even in the light of an onslaught of gun violence among youth beginning in the late 1990s, and energy lobbyists have maintained their freedom to pollute and destroy natural resources without recourse. And these are only the well-known abuses.

The real issue is that representative democracy allows interests with large sums of money to buy legislation from a relatively small number of individuals. Despite the lavish expenses of these Political Action Committees (PACs), who are granted incredible access to elected officials, the fact remains that the expenses are really investments in the ongoing protection of industry against regulation that would hurt profitability. It is irrelevant to many legislators and to the industries that court them that human life, natural resources and other agreeably valuable things are being destroyed to protect profitability. Let's look at the problem from the politician's point of view. If I want to be elected, I absolutely must tell them things that they want to hear. If I want to be re-elected, I better not have used my post as an elected official to hurt the profitability of industries in my constituency, because the affected firms will no doubt lay off huge numbers of employees, citing the regulations that damaged their profitability, which will in turn irritate voters for the next election. Moreover, if it is perfectly legal to accept campaign donations, dinners, boondoggles and other perks from PACs, then why not? Now, when a candidate speaks out in favor of campaign financing reform, he is defeated by a more party-line man, who sees no pressing need for such reform. Why would the legislators in his party want to cut off the hands that feeds them. Especially since, "what is good for General Motors is good for America"?

What results from representative democracy is simply that the will of the people is interpreted liberally by an extremely limited number of individuals acting on their behalf. Those with the greatest access to these representatives are the lobbyists, who represent moneyed interests. These moneyed interests have the promise of profit and economic prosperity behind their arguments, in addition to all of the favors bestowed upon the representatives. This is a system that was set up to be manipulated. It is clear that the founding fathers paid lip service to the notion of individual freedom, but only believed in practicing it insofar as it protected those like them: well educated, white and wealthy.



back to other rants

home to hellhed