Government in a representative democracy is not “government of the people”

The government in a representative democracy is not the “government of the people”.

You might have heard the expression: “Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

“Government of the people” means “we, the people, govern ourselves.” The expression means that the people who govern us come from among us, ordinary citizens. The implication is that, since those we elect are “us”, the government is “ours”.

In reality, it is not like that.

Representative democracy is a clear advance over systems where those who govern are the aristocracy, nobility or royalty. Unfortunately, the “government of the people” is far from what it sounds like.

“Government of the people” seems to mean that the people are the government; that they elect representatives just because it is the practical thing to do, but government identifies with the people.

Those of us who live in representative democracies know the government does not identify with us. Only at election time do the representatives pay proper attention to voters. Electing representatives from among “people like us” has little to do with “government of the people”.

It is true those we elect do not belong to the ruling class by birth, at least most of them don’t, but in a representative democracy we have an elected ruling class, and we shouldn’t.

Once we elect the representatives, we have no power at all over them. All voters can do when the representatives make a decision they don’t like is write, complain, demonstrate, and… wait until the next election.

Unfortunately, the next election often is several years away. How can we say “government of the people” if all we can do is vote for someone else at the next election, but do nothing before that time?

We can vote them out of office, but that does not change the decision that made us mad; that is not the “government of the people”.

To elect those who rule over us does not make government, “government of the people.”

It does not matter if the government is left-leaning, right-leaning, or centrist; electing representatives do not constitute “government of the people”.

What kind of “government of the people” is it if the elected can raise taxes, change any law, make new laws, even change the constitution against the will of the people?

But there is more; in theory, those we elect come from among us, in the sense they are not nobility or royalty, but the way politics works in representative democracies, produces elected representatives who in most cases belong to the “ruling class”, to the “political class”.

Those who run the political parties, those in government and parliaments, have become a political aristocracy. The names change, the individuals may go, but while they are part of the executive or the legislative, they are a true aristocracy.

Like old-style aristocracy, our elected representatives have many privileges, and they do not ask us if we think they deserve them either; excellent salaries, excellent pensions, excellent offices, privileges while they travel, nice expense accounts, cushy well-paid jobs once they leave active politics and more.

Our elected representatives may have ordinary names and come from ordinary families, but they live like a true aristocracy while they are in office, and often also after they leave.

When one elected representative loses to a rival, that person may lose power and privilege, but the person replacing him or her will keep the same privileges, we just switch “aristocrats”

Sometimes, in representative democracies, we even have families who produce elected representatives for generations, the Kennedys are one example.

“Government of the people” only happens if the government identifies with what the people want, and not just at election time.

In the coming posts, I will deal with what  “Government by the people” and “Government for the people” mean.

The facts on the ground show only Direct Democracy is the “government of the people.”

Leave a Reply