Anne Phillips on Representative Democracy

At philosophybites.com, Anne Phillips argues that in this day in age, direct democracy is impractical.  There are just too many people.  Thus, we must have a representative democracy: having certain people represent us because of our interests.  Ok.  So far, this makes sense.  But she argues that if we’re going to be consistent with the idea of representation, then the population must coincide with the Congress to get true representation.  For example, there are 50% women in the US, therefore there should be 50% women in Congress to get the full representation.  Part of her argument is that in a democracy there will always be a majority no matter what.  Thus, the minorities will be shut out or be ostricized.  But because they live in a country where it’s government is a representative democracy, they should also get representation.

This idea isn’t new.  J.S. Mill came up with this.  He really popularized the view that the “tyranny of the majority” is a threat to liberty.  This silences the minorities.  So they should get a percentage representation because that is part of the definition of representative democracy.

Think about this, that would mean Congress would have about 10% homosexuals, 10% atheists, 5-7% creationists, 12% black people, 14% Hispanics, 1% Pacific Islanders, and so on and so on.  I think in general, this is a good idea.  Everyone will have a voice and thus, everyone is represented.  But when we try to put this in practice, it seems so complex.  But then again, I have heard that India has been doing this for quite a while and they have three times of the population that we do and they are incredibly diverse than we are.

Click here to go to the site to check it out.

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About shaunmiller

I am a Ph. D student at Marquette University. The primary purpose of this blog is to get my ideas out there, and then have other people scrutinize, critique, build upon, and systematize beliefs. This blog will sometimes pertain to what I'm learning in my classes, but it will occasionally deal with non-classroom issues that I'm thinking about as well.
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6 Responses to Anne Phillips on Representative Democracy

  1. Killer J says:

    A popular socially liberal quote (which I happen to agree with) is, “There are more differences between individuals than between groups.”

    Using affirmative action as a means to promote the ideal representative government seems short-sighted.

  2. shaunmiller says:

    I don’t see this as affirmative action, but part of the definition of representation. Think of it like this: 75% of women believe that abortion is ok. But right now, most of the abortion policies have been restricted (at least for that 75%). Why is that? It’s because they have no voice in the political realm, and thus they are shut down. So how can they get their voice? Someone’s got to represent them. Also, most men are against abortion, and those in Congress are mostly men.

    Affirmative action, on the other hand, is where you’re compensating a past discrimination. In the case above, no one’s being discriminated against, it’s just that they’re not being heard.

    Sure, there are possibilities where some groups will be represented where you don’t want them too (such as the creationists). But hey, that’s part of liberty and freedom. If you want freedom and liberty, you’ve got to accept the whole package. Likewise, if you want true representation, you’ve got to accept the whole package.

  3. Killer J says:

    I see what you’re saying. So, how should it be decided as to what categories are represented? How many categories should there be?

  4. evanravitz says:

    Phillips can argue all she wants. Fact is, Switzerland has had direct democracy (ballot initiatives) on the national level (for 7 million people) since 1891. No wars, no torture, no NAFTA, no bailout, no domestic spying, ad nauseum. There’s no reason it won’t work here: if we can all vote for President, we can all vote for laws.

    Politicians have done FAR more to tyrannize minorities than the majority through ballot initiatives: Legislators previously criminalized sodomy & oral sex, not to mention miscegenation. Politicians put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during WWII. Congress persecuted Communists and friends during the McCarthy era. They still fill the jails with pot smokers, even those with licenses for legal medical marijuana in 13 states -9 of which got it by ballot initiative.

  5. shaunmiller says:

    For Killer J:

    Well, it’s a hard topic which categories should be represented. I think they should be obvious and clear in some sort of need for a voice. Still, within politics, they like to have things neat and tidy. It sounds like a cop-out, but I think we can say five categories. Which categories? I would say gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and some sort of social value. I’m thinking at the top of my head here, but I’m sure if I thought about it longer, I could come up with a more decent response.

    As for evanravitz, I think you make a very strong point that we should switch to a direct democracy. I think this would get people more involved in politics. But the USA has about 30 million people. That’s roughly 3.3 times more than the population of Switzlerland. Could the USA do it? I have no idea. We’ve never been a direct democracy. I don’t think it’s impossible.
    Maybe we can do small steps. Work at the state level first and then gradually go to the national level? Why not?

  6. Pingback: Some Transparency in Congress Please « Shaun Miller’s Weblog

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