Representative Samples, Public Opinion, and Democratic Legitimacy

To what extent is the “crisis of liberal constitutionalism” linked to a growing disillusionment with the “representation” ostensibly provided by “representative democracy”? Consider the rising interest in alternatives that focus on versions of sortition, ie, the use of lotteries rather than elections to select at least some political leaders. One sees this most interestingly, I believe, in the work of James Fishkin, but there's also the very interesting book Against Elections. Both, I would argue, rely on the perception of most social scientists that a well designed random sample is far more likely to be “representative” of public opinion than the result of an election process. But, one assumes, most laypersons do not share the perspective of the social scientist. Does this create insurmountable problems for constitutional reformers or designers who themselves have become skeptical about election-based theories of legitimate government?

Representation during Constitution-making?

Are constitution-makers political representatives? In this paper, I argue that absent the creation of new constitution-making procedures and institutions, framers cannot be understood as political representatives in the traditional sense because, among other things, accountability mechanisms are lacking. However, I argue that this is unproblematic, because the ideal relationship between representatives and their constituents, at least as explained by mainstream accounts in democratic theory, runs against the central task facing constitution-makers. This finding provides reason to be suspicious of the uncritical importation of normative concepts designed to explain ordinary democratic politics to the realm of constitution-making.

Representation and Constitutionalist Politics

The term “constitutionalist politics” is used to refer to the idea that a constitutional system includes a certain model of how politics–in its partisan, electoral sense–will be conducted and what constraints the formal rules, conventions, and norms of a particular constitution requires. Key among these requirements are certain conceptions of representation and their identification as either consistent or incommensurate with constitutionalist principles. This paper examines these implied norms of political representation and considers the question of when failure of political representation becomes failure of a constitutional order. Within the conceptual framework of a constitutional order, what are the distinctions between true and “sham” forms of representation? What kinds of representative claims are implied by particular forms of constitutionalism? To what extent is constitutional failure attributable to a prior failure of representation?

Children's suffrage and the principle of sustainability

The electoral system in modern democracies only allows those citizens who have reached a certain age to vote, i.e., children are excluded from this right. It also means that their interests are less represented than those of retired people, which makes the emergence of structurally biased social security systems more likely (and in fact they are biased). By giving suffrage to children – so the argument goes – this structural bias could be corrected, as the population is growing older and it is consequently more interested in shorter term goals. In a more generalised form we could even state that not only demographic, but also financial or environmental sustainability arguments might support the introduction of suffrage for children: as children 'represent the future', their voice would strengthen the weight of long-term considerations in general. The paper will analyse arguments and counter-arguments about the above questions.