Monday, November 21, 2011

On Representative Government

Digby has a post in which she praises Bernie Sanders for confusing Wolf Blitzer. Other than the small detail that a reasonably intelligent fifth grader could confuse Wolf Blitzer, the basic premise that Sanders is taking is, in my opinion, flawed because he keeps repeating, “Well, I think that position is way out of line with what the American people want.” Right, and the average infant just wants its mommy to hold it 100% of the time, too, but that’s just not a realistic expectation.

I keep harking back to the decision that the people of Tucson made when, fearing that water from the Central Arizona Project would be lost to Mexico if it was put into the ground, they held a referendum and decided that it should be put directly into the city’s water system. The result was city water that was unfit for human use, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the water system, and a new decision to put the water into the aquifer after all, which had been the urgent recommendation of the experts all along, and was what the city government had initially decided to do before the referendum overrode their decision. “What the people want” is frequently a very stupid thing to do.

Whether or not it is in this case is irrelevant. The point is that making decisions on how to steer the ship of state based on “what the people want” is not how our government is designed, and for very good reason. That argument is the very worst one to use in making a point for decisions regarding proper governance, because it is itself a circumvention of proper governance. We elect representatives to represent us, which is why they are called “representatives” after all, and then we don’t let them represent us. Instead, we insist on bypassing their decisions and letting “what people want” be the determining factor in how decisions are made.

If this is how we are going to run the nation we might as well do away with election of representatives and simply make decisions based on polls. And don’t tell me that Congress is so badly broken that governing by polls would be better. Go ask the people of Tucson how they liked their water in 1994.

1 comment:

  1. 1) Having its mommy hold it 100% of the time is very likely not unrealistic from the infant's point of view. From the mommy's, of course it is unrealistic.

    2) Polls are notoriously unreliable, as you point out every time ther is a major poll. I would not want to be governed by a poll, or be led by those who follow polls to the point of disregarding their training, education, professional advice and common sense.