True Representation?

When an elected official was involved in a controversy or when he chooses to support certain bills filed in Congress and other related budgetary processes, what do we feel? More often than not, we are disgusted by his actions and even attack the person personally. People tend to blame everything solely on that official. But wise individuals remind us that these people were chosen by us- the people who are complaining endlessly. Traditional politicians with pleasing personalities often lure people to vote for them. I agree that people should be more critical most especially in electing the leaders of the country.

But what if all else fall according to plan? People chose the best candidates and the voting mechanism yield all the candidates of their preference. Does it necessarily follow that the voters’ preferences will be reflected by the elected officials? The answer is no. The difficulty of aggregating the preferences of all the officials’ constituents makes it impossible. This way, elected officials cannot completely represent his/her constituents which is ironic of his/her function as a representative. This can easily be noticed when, say, the senator or congressman you voted had an opposing view and eventually decision on public matters. Another circumstance would be when all the constituents have a particular stance on an issue and the elected official voted the opposition. This is when the principal-agent problem arises. It is when public officials (the agent) pursue their self-interests rather than of their constituents’ (principal).

These problems question my current perception on the representation of our government officials of their constituents. Do they truly fulfill their function of appropriate representation? What other measures can be done to ensure this? This inspired me to undertake more research and studies regarding this type of conflict.

Ian Nicole A. Generalao


2 thoughts on “True Representation?

  1. Unlike what some people think, representation is not as simple as it sounds. We live in an increasingly diversifying world and it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that people have different demands to our governments. As you have mentioned, it is quite difficult to fulfill all of these demands since we live in a world with scarce resources. Not only that, some of these demands actually conflict with each other and hence, impossible to fulfill without sacrificing the other.
    Knowing this, I believe that our “representatives” can only follow which model of representation is the best. Should they act as “trustees” which act as decision makers for our behalf; using their own judgment to determine which is of our best interest or should they act as “delegates” which act no more than as a conduit of our ideas; serving as vehicles of the judgment of the majority?

  2. I will have to agree with you. Do the people we really vote for truly represent the needs of the majority? We will have to assume this as representation is needed somewhat for efficiency. We can’t ask the opinion of everyone for every single issue. That would mean slower decision-making and hence representatives are needed. They are essential. And while it is true that there is a possibility that the decisions that they make in our behalf do not truly represent us sometimes or their decisions may be tainted by their own personal biases, we have to deal with the fact that we are the ones who put them there.

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