Essay on 4 Types of Representatives

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It is urged that common people representing other common people can best represent the will of the people and they are the best to tell the government what it cannot do and what the people will not stand. This is tantamount to what actually the body-politic could have done if they were to decide the problems themselves.

The Chameleon type is the representative who does what exactly his electors tell him to do, nothing more, and nothing less. He should change his views as the chameleon changes his colour. This type of representation is also known as the telephone type of representation.

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According to this view, a representative is the deputy or agent of the people who elected him and he speaks as his master’s desire it. He exercises little independent judgment except in the process of trying to discern what his constituents want.

He is not expected to make any alteration or modification in the terms of his instructions without the express authority of his electors. In fact, he has no wishes or will of his own as a representative.

This type of representation is also known as instructed representation and was generally the accepted theory of representation in the early stages. In a federation, members representing the constituent States in the Upper House of the federal legislature were deemed as ambassadors of the States they represented.

It was, accordingly, the inherent right of the States to instruct them about the attitude and stand they were to take on different problems before the legislature and the manner in which they would vote on a particular issue.

But the modern theory of representation outright rejects the idea of instructed representation. Laski regards it as wholly false. Lieber considers it “unwarranted, inconsistent and unconstitutional.” Intelligent instruction, it is maintained, is not available. It is altogether impossible to ascertain the real and genuine will of the electors.

If it may be assumed that intelligent instruction can be made available, even then, it is impossible for the representatives to refer all the problems with which they are confronted to their electors for instruction.

Promptness in legislation is as necessary as deliberation itself. If representatives are required to consult their constituents item by item, the entire legislative activity of the State is sure to come to a standstill.

Moreover, legislation is a difficult process as it involves many technicalities. Many things come to the knowledge of the representatives only on the floor of the House and they adjust their views there and then as the conditions or circumstances advisedly permit.

It is, therefore, unwise to bind them in advance with instructions and pledges, or that they should change their views on the behest of their constituents as and when they want and as often as they desire. The electors have, undoubtedly, the right to get the fullest expression of the general attitude of their representatives.

They are also entitled to know their views on all current problems. They may reasonably ask for their explanation on any question of their decision. But the representatives cannot and should not subordinate their judgment to the will of the electors. If a representative is to appeal to his electorate on every point in order to get their verdict, the representative ceases to have either morals or personality.

Nor can he keep abreast of events and the needs of his country when he knows that he may be thwarted at every step and with as many instructions as there are voters. The instructions given may not only be conflicting, but diametrically opposed to each other.

This is not the purpose of representation and representative democracy. The legislative assembly consisting of the chameleon type of representatives has no coherent voice, no maturity and no stability and firmness in the transaction of the business before it. When all representatives speak in deference to the wishes of their own constituents, the legislature is not a forum of discussion. It is Babel of tongues.

The statesman type of representative finds its classic definition in the words of Edmund Burke. He said, nearly two centuries ago, “Your representative owes for not his industry only, but his judgment, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

The representative must respect the view of his constituents, he should endeavour to redress their grievances and feel their pulse and act accordingly. But he must not sacrifice his independence of judgment and narrow his horizon of approach to various problems.

He should look at all problems from the national rather than from a local viewpoint. Burke also gave a true analysis of the relationship between the electors and their representatives.

“The Parliament,” he declared, “is not a Congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain as an agent and advocate against other agents and advocates.

But parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole where not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed, but once you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”

A national assembly is an embodiment of national interests. Burke tried to emphasise: find the best man to represent you, a man in whom you would have full faith and confidence as your representative, but once you have elected him depend upon him to use his judgment about what is best.

The concept of statesman or uninstructed type of representation is based on two important facts. The first is that most people are not well enough informed about problems confronting the government to make decisions, and, secondly, that, even if they were, the process of decision making is so difficult and complex as to preclude the people as a whole from exercising a good judgment on isolated issues.

If instruction is to be the basis of representation, able and conscientious men can hardly be expected to serve in legislatures where they are expected to say only what it pleases their electors. They will keep themselves away from such a farce of representative institution rather than to serve therein. The services of great, talented and experienced statesmen would, thus, be lost to the nation.

The fourth type of representative is the party-member type. Elections are now contested by political parties rather than individuals. The voters vote for a party and its programme. It is, accordingly, necessary that the representative should rigidly live up to his party label even if he is to surrender his independence of judgment as well as dependence upon the judgment of his constituents.

The theory is that political party is the only real vehicle of representative democracy and for the accomplishment of political programme. It is the party that selects candidates to contest an election and campaigns to win it and, thus, constituting the majority to form the government and to implement its policies.

If it is in Opposition, it must oppose the party in power, criticise its policies and expose it to the electorate in order to win their support and to win elections. In whatever role the party is, it is nothing without the unity, solidarity and disciplined duty of the representatives elected on the party ticket.

They must swim and sink together. If a representative elected on the ticket of a particular party decides to change his party label, political morality demands that he should submit himself for re-election on the ticket of the party to which he now owes allegiance “Clearly, he is not entitled,” as Laski has said, “to get elected as a free trader and to vote at once for a protective tariff.”

The consensus of opinion now is that there is much to be said in support of the party- member type of representative. A representative democracy is unthinkable without political parties. A reasonably fixed legislative tenure provides a sufficient guarantee to the constituents to judge the party by what it did for them. No political party can to any dangerous extent afford to misrepresent the feelings of its constituents.

When the party is judged by the constituents at the general election and people vote for its programme, the unity of the party demands that members elected on its tickets must act in unison as disciplined adherents. Without such a code of conduct representative democracy cannot succeed.


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