Trustee model of representation
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The trustee model of representation is a model for how we should understand the role of representatives, and is frequently contrasted with the delegate model of representation. Constituents elect their representatives as 'trustees' (or 'entrust' them) for their constituency. These 'trustees' have sufficient autonomy to deliberate and act in favor of the greater common good and national interest, even if it means going against the short-term interests of their own constituencies. The model provides a solution to the problem of uninformed constituents who lack the necessary knowledge on issues to take an educated position. By contrast, in the delegate model, the representative is expected to act strictly in accordance to a mandate from the represented.
This model was formulated by Edmund Burke (1729–1797), an Irish MP and philosopher, who also created the delegate model of representation. In the trustee model, Burke argued that his behavior in Parliament should be informed by his knowledge and experience, allowing him to serve the public interest. Indeed, as he put it, "his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. ... Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion". Essentially, a trustee considers an issue and, after hearing all sides of the debate, exercises their own judgment in making decisions about what should be done. "You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament". (Burke, 1774). Burke made these statements immediately after being elected, and after his colleague had spoken in favor of coercive instructions being given to representatives; Burke failed to be returned at the next election.
J.S. Mill also championed this model. He stated that while all individuals have a right to be represented, not all political opinions are of equal value. He suggested a model where constituents would receive votes according to their level of education (i.e. people with degrees receiving the most votes, and working class people receiving the fewest).
- , Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Aaten,Helen. "Competing Informed Principals and Representative Democracy" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Fox, Justin & Shotts, Kenneth W. "Delegates or Trustees? A Theory of Political Accountability" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-17.