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Indirect Elections

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Here is the basic principle of representative government. I have a question and theory about its application.

The theory of representative government rests on the principle that man is a rational being, i.e., that he is able to perceive the facts of reality, to evaluate them, to form rational judgments, to make his own choices, and to bear responsibility for the course of his life.

Politically, this principle is implemented by a man’s right to choose his own agents, i.e., those whom he authorizes to represent him in the government of his country. To represent him, in this context, means to represent his views in terms of political principles. Thus the government of a free country derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”

-Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Letter “Representation Without Authorization,” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 21, 1.

Does the application of this principle permit or even require indirect modes of election?

Let's compare Madison's description of a republic from Federalist No. 39:

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is SUFFICIENT for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can be well organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character.

I think that this description of a republic conforms to Rand's principle. In addition, man's representatives in government have responsibilities not only to represent political principles, but to make judgments requiring specialized knowledge beyond the basic political principles held by citizens generally. In order to pass judgment on a specific amendment to patent law, for example, requires knowledge that (even in the modern age of the Internet) most citizens cannot be expected to possess. But moreover, the selection of some high government offices, such as that of President or Senator -- which should be occupied, I would say, by persons with an exceptional degree of excellence -- is itself a responsibility requiring knowledge not held by the common citizen (as proof, I offer the election of Obama, whose sole virtue was excellent oratory behind a teleprompter, even though the position to which he was elected requires much more -- the modern age has not disturbed the Framers' presupposition that common citizens are unqualified to choose presidents). In other words, a proper application of Rand's principle not only allows indirect modes of election, but demands it for certain high offices (the allowance for a popularly elected branch to deal with matters of taxation is an exception, and in light of taxation's impropriety, perhaps not an altogether necessary one).

I have seen it stated occasionally that a proper Objectivist government does not necessarily require elections; that, I think, is wrong. It does not square with Rand's principle of representation. But I also think that a correct understanding of that principle's application -- one that recognizes the need for specialized knowledge -- not only forecloses democracy, but (to a considerable extent) direct modes of election also. In short, that a proper Objectivist government must be a republic, and a republic which conforms to the U.S. Constitution's original design, with presidents and senators chosen indirectly. If so, not only should the 17th Amendment be repealed, but presidential electors should never be pledged to support particular candidates, and function instead (which they never have in practice) as free agents who actually exercise their responsibility to make an informed judgment.

Rand's principle of representation explains why a proper government must be a republic. An appreciation of the need for specialized knowledge, including the knowledge required to elect persons to high government office, explains why a proper government must incorporate indirect elections.

As Alexis DeTocqueville stated in Democracy in America:

It is easy to see a time coming when the American republics will be bound to make more frequent use of election in two stages, unless they are to be miserably lost among the shoals of democracy...
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What I don't understand is how someone can have a "right" to vote (I'm assuming this is what Rand means by a man's right to choose his representatives). Because, after all, it seems that such a right implies a positive obligation on at least some other people. After all, elections are not free. They must be organized at someone's expense. Of course, practically speaking, the government will surely always have enough funds to hold elections...But what if no one wanted to pay for elections? Would that mean that everyone's right to vote was being violated? Again, I might be misunderstanding Rand here (plus it is possible that she did not actually mean a right in the absolute sense; perhaps what she actually meant is privilege). But if anyone could explain this to me that would be really helpful.

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What I don't understand is how someone can have a "right" to vote (I'm assuming this is what Rand means by a man's right to choose his representatives). Because, after all, it seems that such a right implies a positive obligation on at least some other people. After all, elections are not free. They must be organized at someone's expense. Of course, practically speaking, the government will surely always have enough funds to hold elections...But what if no one wanted to pay for elections? Would that mean that everyone's right to vote was being violated? Again, I might be misunderstanding Rand here (plus it is possible that she did not actually mean a right in the absolute sense; perhaps what she actually meant is privilege). But if anyone could explain this to me that would be really helpful.

Well, do we have a right to a state?

I don't think we do, the state is made up of people too, and there are severe consequences of making people in power into "servants". I think the state can do whatever it wants as long as it stays within the boundaries of what it is supposed to do. However, in order for it to know how to do what it is supposed to do, it will have to sell its services and create modes of representation anyway. So it will probably sell people voting rights.

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