One of the most foundational assumptions behind modern democracy is that the elected officials somehow represent the interests of those who elected them.
Advocates for the political status quo flog this position repeatedly, claiming that taxation and the regulatory state are all morally legitimate because the voters are “represented.” Even conservatives, who often claim to be for “small government” often oppose radicalism of any kind — such as secession — on the grounds that political resistance movements such as the American Revolution are only acceptable when there is “taxation without representation.”The implication being that since the United States holds elections every now and then, no political action outside of voting — and maybe a little sign waving — is allowed.
This, position, however, rests on the idea that elected officials are truly representative. If taxation with representation makes government legitimate – as some argue – then we must first establish that the government’s claims of representation are believable.
On a theoretical level, Gerard Casey has already cast serious doubt on these claims. Casey draws on the work of Hanna Pitkin, who admits it is plausible that:
Perhaps representation in politics is only a fiction, a myth forming part of the folklore of our society. Or perhaps representation must be redefined to fit our politics; perhaps we must simply accept the fact that what we have been calling representative government is in reality just party competition for office.
After all, as Casey points out, representation in the private sector usually means there is an agent-principal relationship in which the agent is legally bound to attempt to represent the material interests of a clearly defined person or group of people. Clearly, this does not describe political representation. Not only is is unclear what the material interests of the voters — as a group — are, but the supposed agent in the relationship — the elected official — is not legally bound to represent the interests of the voters he supposedly represents.
To conclude therefore, that any specific voter has consented to, say, a tax increase because his “representative” approved it, is an extremely sketchy endeavor,