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Delegate Vs Trustee: Which Model of Representation Should You Choose

There is no single method to maximize the likelihood of obtaining what you want or need in your life. However, specific psychological tactics can be used to help us focus more on pursuing our objectives rather than being preoccupied with what others have. To provide a better framework for understanding how individuals might use this information, let’s look at an example.

When there is little uncertainty about the policy preferences of politicians, selection on competence is most likely to occur. A surprising consequence of our research is that political agreement between incumbents and voters is not a necessary condition for trustee representation at the ballot box.

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Two theories have been advanced to explain the problem of representation. These are known as trustee and delegate models. A situation where constituents choose their representative in parliament is referred to as a trustee model. It’s a sort of representative system. The individuals delegate responsibility for making crucial judgments to the individual they select.

The trustee is thus entrusted with safeguarding the interests of individuals in all their concerns, both local and national. They have a wide range of power. The elected trustee is responsible for weighing the options and making decisions based on the public’s greater interest while also prioritizing the country’s best interests (Burke, 1996).

The trustee, in other words, is authorized to take actions on behalf of the people and may thus forgo his constituents’ immediate interest in favor of the national interest. He does so, bearing in mind that he has been entrusted with trusteeship because the electors feel that they collectively lack the requisite understanding, which the trustee has. As a result, they entrust this authority to him to do it on their behalf.

The trustee model of representation, on the other hand, is considered to be comparable to the delegate model. While it gives the trustee all of the authority and power to make decisions on behalf of the people, delegation sees the representative as the public’s voice.

This is since we would expect a man with such an organization and authority with so much wealth and power to be informed on what he wants or needs. Because of his lofty position in society, no one has the authority or power to make decisions for himself (Burke, 1996). As a result, this differs from the trustee model in that it is a representative democracy. The people only choose the delegate who will represent their regions in Parliament.

A delegate is a person chosen to represent the interests of others in governance, trade unions, and other organizations. We learn that while a trustee has autonomous authority, a delegate only speaks or acts according to the directives or interests of the party he represents. He does not have similar power as a trustee (Burke, 1996).

On the subject of closing our enormous navy base, given that the presidents’ defense spending reform is designed to create a more up-to-date national security budget, which serves the greater national interest.

Therefore, as a senator from this tiny state, I will aim to support the president’s proposal as a guardian of my constituents. This decision will be made because the closing of the naval base may have a short-term detrimental impact on residents. I will support the president’s choice economically.

I will follow this through by considering that the public may not grasp the long-term benefits of having current national security. As a result, my reelection prospects will be harmed. Nonetheless, I will undertake civic education on my constituents about the long-term advantages of the president’s initiative in light of his long-term interests.

Finally, I decided to support the president’s plan to close unneeded military naval bases since it offered me a political opportunity. This is even though it may appear as a potential middle ground during my re-election and the presidents.

In consultation with my party and the president, I will start additional initiatives to make up for the loss of income resulting from the closure of the naval station. This might be done by establishing a manufacturing plant in its place. By doing so, I will restore people’s faith in me as their trustee. This will also boost confidence among my party members about my re-election.

Example 2

Candidates for public office vary widely in terms of their competence and policy positions. We demonstrate that the trade-off between competence and ideological congruence has significant implications for the type of representation incumbent politicians provide. When voters prize competence, they prefer trustee representation, whereas when voters prioritize ideological congruence, they prefer delegate representation.

When there is little uncertainty about the policy preferences of elected officials, individuals are more likely to choose based on competence. The unexpected conclusion of our study is that trustee representation isn’t required simply because politicians and voters share similar ideas.

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The trustee model of representation is a form of democratic representation that frequently contrasts with the delegate model. In this model, constituents choose their representatives as “trustees” for their constituency. These “trustees” are given the authority to act by their convictions, even if they go against the expressed wishes of their constituents; this is also known as a free mandate. In contrast, in the delegate system, the representative is expected to follow strictly defined beliefs.

The trustee model was developed by Edmund Burke (1729–1797), an Irish MP and philosopher, who opposed the delegate model of representation. According to Burke, his conduct in Parliament should be based on his understanding and experience, allowing him to represent the general interest.

He continued, “If a man’s opinions and judgments are in harmony with his natural sentiments,” he stated, “his unbiased view, his mature judgment, and his enlightened conscience should not be sacrificed to you or to any other person. If your representative were to sacrifice his perspective for yours because it was in tune with your preconceived notions, he would be betraying himself rather than serving you.”

After hearing all sides of the argument, a trustee considers an issue and makes decisions based on their judgment. “You choose a member; nevertheless, he is not a Bristolian when you have chosen him… He will be a member of Parliament but not of Bristol.” (Burke, 1774) He made these claims immediately after being elected and while his colleague was speaking in favor of coercive instructions for representatives.

At the next election, he was not re-elected. What isn’t often mentioned in discussions about his refusal to obey Bristol voters’ orders is motivated by his moral objection to voting for legislation that benefitted their lucrative slave trade.

A trustee, to me, is someone in a position of authority who makes decisions based on their ideas rather than a direct mandate from the community. In other words, someone who is carrying out the people’s demands as much as feasible while also being driven by what they believe is the most significant interest of the overall community.

A delegate function, on the other hand, is a function that requires representation of the constituency. A delegate serves to put into action the desires of those they represent by participating in creating laws, plans, and administration.

The legislature, according to John Locke, is the most fundamental and essential branch of government. The idea is that the government will pass legislation that assigns values to society. The legislative function entails making laws, educating, representing, supervising, and offering criticism on behalf of the state. Most of the work of the United States Congress takes place in committee; here’s where the real power lies.

Most legislation starts in government agencies and departments. In committees, a majority vote is used to determine how things will go. For a bill or piece of legislation to survive committee action, a compromise must often be reached. This frequently necessitates that a delegate changes their stance to reach an agreement. The compromise may or may not represent the preferences of the person they represent.

In the United States, today’s business administration is based on a modern bureaucracy that serves to regulate, collect information, conduct investigations, administer, and license. A bureaucracy is inherently conservative from the start. With the passage of time and cultural demands, the necessity or reason for this entity may alter. The cause or need for the institution may cease to exist in future years as societal needs change.

Representative democracy is based on the delegate model of representation. Constituents choose their representatives as delegates for their district in this system. These delegates are only a mouthpiece for the wishes of their constituents/state, have no power over them, and may only vote for real state representatives.

This type of government does not allow representatives to operate in their own best interests and is subject to external pressure. In other words, the representative acts as the mouthpiece for those who are (literally) absent.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), an Irish thinker, opposed the usual trustee representation model in this case. His refusal to follow instructions from his Bristol constituents was prompted by his refusal to participate in Parliament’s voting on measures that benefited their lucrative and unethical slave trade.

Delegative democracy refers to council and commune government forms that use the delegate model of representation (for example, Parpolity proposed by Stephen Shalom is a more recent illustration). Delegate democracies are frequently labeled delegative democracy when models utilizing the delegate approach of representation are used extensively in democratic rule-making.

Guillermo O’Donnell has used the phrase “deliberative democracy” to criticize nascent democratic governments’ authoritarian tendencies.

Example 3 – Trustee Vs. Delegate Types of Representation

There are two competing theories about representation. A situation where individuals in a given constituency select their representative to Parliament is referred to as a trustee model. It’s a type of representative system. The people entrust the person they choose with the responsibility of making critical decisions on their behalf. The trustee model and the delegation model are two examples of this.

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As a result, the trustee serves as the guardian of the public in all matters at both the local and national levels. They have a great deal of independence. The elected trustee is obligated to deliberate and make decisions for the greater good of the people while still prioritizing national interests (Burke, 1996).

As a result, the trustee has the power to act on behalf of his constituents rather than for himself. As a result, he can neglect the immediate interests of his members in favor of the national interest. He does so, realizing that he was given trusteeship because the people thought they collectively lacked sufficient knowledge, which the trustee possessed. As such, they entrust this authority to him to carry it out on their behalf.

Simultaneously, the delegate model of representation is compared to the trustee model of representation. While this gives the trustee virtually all of the rights and powers available to assist individuals in making decisions, abordnung sees the consultant as the ultimate end of humans.

He offers no option or even authority to make their own decisions (Burke, 1996). This, in contrast to the trustee design, is a consultation democracy. The individuals only select the symbolizing entity assigned by them.

As we see, a delegate is a person chosen to act/speak on behalf of the people in governance, trade assemblage, etc. From the specific definition of the delegate as someone who speaks for another party, we grasp that an assign only speaks or acts in accordance with instructions from the party he represents, whereas a trustee has greater freedom. (Burke, 1996).

I’m going to convey ideas that the people may not be aware of the long-term benefits of upgrading their national security. As a result, your probability of reelection will be jeopardized. We will, however, engage in civic education with my constituents on the president’s long-term causes because I’ll provide them with knowledge about the president’s initiative’s long-term goals.

Finally, I made the call to support the president’s plan to close army and naval bases that would no longer provide any practical benefits. This is true even if it appears to be a bargain for reelection, as well as the chief executive’s endorsement.

I will begin new initiatives that will make up for the lost income caused by drawing a line under the naval foundation in discussions with my celebration and the CEO. This may be achieved through environmental measures such as industrial growth within the framework of the naval foundation. Because your trustee, this may restore people’s confidence in me. This can also assist re-election efforts by giving me personal confidence among my celebration members.

Example 4

Representation, in general, implies picking a few representatives to represent many people. Although this is a difficult effort, it is not impossible. Because the representational relationship between them isn’t clear who governs whom, this procedure is complicated. This is an empirical issue that can’t be addressed by definition. The process’s complexity may also be seen in three key areas:

Second, it increases the strength of both the king and his subjects. Third, this procedure arms the executive and the general public while also increasing state power. Because the representative serves as a go-between for the executive and the mass, balancing such procedures under constitutional restrictions appears to be difficult. As a consequence, generating such balances makes representation more challenging and complex.

Models of Representation:

Despite the difficulties and intricacies of representation, there are two models that have dominated the normative approaches to representation: delegate and trustee. These methods are so distinct in their approaches to representation that their roles are contradictory aspects of all theories of representation. One of the fundamental principles in these theories is that they established a method for determining whether or not the representative was directly linked to the represented’s directing control.

Delegate and trustee models, because they are both elected officials with restricted terms of office, are subject to the veto power of their constituents during that time (Schwartz, p.26). Despite their prominence in representation debates and theories, delegate and trustee models do not represent all potential actions open to the representative.

Delegate Representation:

According to many political theorists, delegate representation is the ideal form of representation since elected officials act as agents for the people who elected them. The idea of delegate representation was first advanced by James Mill in his writings, in which he conceived of the representative as a placeholder for the general body (Russell, p. 6).

According to advocates of delegate representation, a government that does not follow the demands of its citizens cannot be considered a representative democracy. As a result, the basic idea behind delegate representation is that the representative should be an instrument of his or her constituents.

In delegate representation, policymaking occurs at the level of the delegate. The policymaker or elected official selects the policy based on public perceptions about the potential benefits and ability to serve electorate interests. Several terms have been used to characterize delegate representation, such as seeking voters’ interests, making decisions based on how they want things to be, and being more responsive to sanctions.

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The emphasis on authority, outlined above, implies that an elected official or political leader should adhere to the wishes of his/her constituents. As a consequence, these leaders are granted little self-determination in decision making, performance evaluation, and responsibility.

Trustee Representation:

Edmund Burke, one of the most prominent political philosophers of the 18th century, was the first major advocate for this model. While Burke’s political ideas were never completely articulated, they may be divined from his writing and speeches. When Burke stated that he could not continue to do things that were detrimental to the country,

This is what prompted Burke to question whether or not constituents were allowed to give instructions on policy issues during the time when he was an MP. Burke criticized political leaders and elected officials for prioritizing their own interests and constituents ahead of the nation’s interests.

Unlike the delegate model, trustee representation necessitates that policymakers select policies based on their best professional judgment on whether or not a policy will serve the public interest. As a result, elective officials or political leaders should utilize their own judgment rather than rely on constituents’ mandates (Verstein, p.76). Political leaders are defined as individuals who search for the country’s good, trust their own judgments about what is good, and are less responsive to punishment (Rehfeld, p.215).

Trustees act on their personal opinions of what is good for the country and the planet, while also supporting the interests of their constituents either locally or nationally. The fact that trustees may utilize their own judgments and national interests when making decisions gives them greater freedom in representation.

Most Suitable Model for the American Population:

Because the American government is a complex system with numerous people, it may be regarded as a representative democracy in which the public has the right to choose their representatives. Because the general public has this right to pick its representatives, it expects the government to represent its demands and priorities.

As a result, the public’s influence on public policy is significant because of its expectations for the elected representatives to satisfy. The desire to cater to the needs and desires of the general public has also influenced the country’s governmental structure and decision-making processes.

Despite these expectations, numerous types of research have shown that many Americans are politically ignorant and/or apathetic, even though this is what people believe. These results have prompted a slew of concerns and perplexities about the best representation solution for the apparent representative system in America’s political structure.

The first problem in determining whether elected officials should represent the people’s interests is that these voters are unaware of their own interests. Second, because its population is politically illiterate and/or apathetic, the viability of democratic governance in America has yet to be determined.

Since the trustee vs. delegate problem is nearly as old as democracy itself, there has been a lot of discussions on which form of representation is best in America. American politics has long been characterized by debates about whether the trustee model or the delegate model produces better government (Rosenfeld par 4). Conservatives have maintained faith in and bolstered trustees since they are wary of direct democracy and the tyranny of the majority.

On the other hand, populists have favored the delegate system, which they believe truly represents the people’s interests because it puts a lot of power in the hands of distant elites. Despite this, there are still discussions, disputes, and counter-arguments regarding the US presidency.

In light of the capacity of these political leaders to assist their constituents and address the ever-increasing severe issues, several recent polls have revealed that a large number of Americans are losing confidence in their elected officials. This development is also influenced by politicians’ constant effort to advance the interests of the wealthy corporate elite, who are primarily responsible for these major concerns.

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Delegate Vs Trustee: Which Model of Representation Should You Choose. (2021, Oct 16). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from