15.9.09

Checklist for representation

What actually happens when a group makes a decision about some Issue?  People suggest alternatives, advocate for their preferred alternative, and sooner or later decide which alternative, if any, they like best.  In a political setting, suggestion is normally linked with advocacy, so advocacy and adjudication are the main functions.  They aren't completely distinct&mdashnegotiation is a combination of both.

Previously I argued (or baldly asserted) that everyone, advocates and adjudicators alike, could benefit from having a Representative, rather than doing the work themselves.  What conditions need to be true for a Representative to be beneficial to a group member?
  1. Skills.  I want my representative to be skilled in advocacy and negotiation.  From this perspective, it isn't surprising or unreasonable that so many politicians are lawyers.

  2. Values.  This is really the whole ballgame/enchilada/ball-of-wax, because it's my values that I want represented.  Aspects of my identity that aren't reflected in my values are irrelevant.  More than anything else, the representative needs to know my values and remain faithful to them in negotiation and adjudication.  As a practical matter, it's best if the Representative and I have very similar values, otherwise I've got to be constantly giving him instructions, and even if he obeys, much of the value of delegation is lost.

  3. Choice.  Suppose I miraculously max out on skills and values.  Am I happy with my highly Skilled Representative who shares 99% of my Values?  Hell yeah, I'm happy.  I'm having a political utopi-gasm.  But people change.  I change and the Representative changes.  We don't see eye-to-eye anymore.  I start to flirt with another potential Representative.  I fall in love.  It's time for me to change Reps.

    People also make mistakes, or lie.  Maybe it never really was a match made in heaven.  His speeches sounded pretty good.  I thought we shared Values.  But I misunderstood.  Or he fooled me.  Either way, I need a new Rep, ASAP.

The (damn-near tautological) bottom line is: if I can't choose the Representative who I think has the best Skills and who best represents my Values, then I'm not getting represented as well as I want to be.  Which leads me to:
RealGov Principle #2
In a representative system, a person is misrepresented to the degree that he or she prefers someone else over their actual Representative.

Now that we know what misrepresentation is, what do we aspiring designers of governments do with it?  That's right, kids, we minimize it.  Stay tuned.

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