Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Must representatives be representative?

The previous posts about the Supreme Court reflecting society and the OLC having a mix of ideologies roaming in its corridors, in addition to recent experiences in my other life as a consultant on constitutional issues, led me to ask this question. One view of constitutions for instance is that it is an instrument designed to protect minorities from majoritarian tyranny. The obvious remedy we have for this is to create and enforce a Bill of Rights. But another not-so obvious mechanism is to reserve some seats in parliament or congress for minority groups. I don't have any strong views (yet) on this issue myself but I'm wondering, as a matter of ideal theory in institutional design, can a constituency be adequately represented by somebody who does not belong to that particular group?


  1. This is a very interesting issue. I wonder though, whether we need to entrench parliamentary seats for minorities if all we want is for them to represented. It seems like a more elegant, and perhaps less controversial, way to go about it would be to design our election laws so that in areas where there are a lot of minorities we can ensure that a minority candidate is electing. The US already does this to some extent with districting and apportionment rules.

  2. Democracy only knows numbers, but no groups. The latter's a sociological term. For a democracy it's enough that some outnumber others. (That they can't do what they want to the outnumbered is an issue of law, not of ideal design). Of course, we can change that. There is no eternal unalienable concept of democracy (even the Nazis (mis)used the term). But I think the concept I meant is pretty reasonable, too. As Jim Morrison said: They got the guns, but we got the numbers.


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