Reply to post: Re: Dictionary anyone?

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Daniel 18

Re: Dictionary anyone?

"So the elected representative of any given area doesn't have to actually represent the will of the voters who elected him/her? And actual representation of the voters is bollocks? Wow! No wonder British people are totally disillusioned with their politicians if they only represent their own personal views."


Like most words in English 'representative' has multiple definitions:


Definition of representative: (Mirriam-Webster; other dictionaries similar or identical)

1 : serving to represent

2 a : standing or acting for another especially through delegated authority

b : of, based on, or constituting a government in which the many are represented by persons chosen from among them usually by election

3 : serving as a typical or characteristic example - eg - a representative moviegoer


You are using definition 3, in a somewhat inappropriate context, unless you assume the population in a given voting district is sufficiently homogeneous that a single person could be typical of them all.

In discussions of political systems, the normal definition is 2a - a person is given authority make decisions and act on behalf of the largest group of voters (somehow defined, or some other selection group).

In any first past the post system with more than two significant parties, elected representatives almost invariably receive fewer than half the votes - they are elected by a plurality*, not a majority. None the less, they are expected to represent the interests of everyone in their riding. Different groups in the riding may disagree on how to do that, but most people want broad benefits for everyone, not 'privilege me and be damned with everyone else'.

There are a number of reasons for representative rather than direct democracy, including the practical difficulties of the latter, delay, costs, the difficulty of meaningful discussions in groups the size of the whole electorate, and lack of expertise, time, and support resources for analysis on the part of the general population.

We want our government to represent us (definition 2a), not to be representative of us (definition 3).

We expect our professional representatives (politicians) to have above median skills, knowledge, contacts, time, research material, and focus on issues. We want them to be better than one random person plucked off the street and put in charge. That's why we elect them, why we have policies and platforms, why we go to or read transcripts of candidate' debates.

Making them robotic parrots of an 'opinion' expressed by a minority of the population and supposedly completely encompassed by a one time decision based on a few words of variable honesty, clarity, and meaning and answered in a binary manner will, more often than not, fail to serve the interests of the population as a whole.

Real life questions and even more, their answers, are longer and more complicated than can be answered by a 'yes' or 'no' to a brief sentence.


* This is not necessarily bad.

While first past the post is not perfect, neither is any other voting system. Indeed, in political environments with more than two significant parties, proportional systems are usually less democratic.

The math is complex, and I can't reproduce the calculations and explanation from memory, but studies of voting in multiparty parliaments show that proportional systems tend to transfer power and control from the two largest parties to smaller, less broadly supported parties.

Consider, for example, the disproportionate per MP influence wielded by the DUP.

In most proportional systems with more than two parties, no party has a majority, pretty much forever.

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