Democratic Representatives as Epistemic Intermediaries

Nomos (forthcoming)
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This essay develops a model of democratic representation from the standpoint of epistemic theories of democracy. Such theories justify democracy in terms of its tendency to yield decisions that “track the truth” by integrating asymmetrically dispersed knowledge. From an epistemic point of view, I suggest, democratic representatives are best modeled as epistemic intermediaries who facilitate the vertical integration of knowledge between policy experts and non-experts, and the horizontal integration of knowledge among diverse non-experts. The primary analytical payoff of this model is that it provides a clear rationale for variation in the norms and institutionalization of representative behavior. Sometimes a delegate-like approach is the right one, and sometimes a trustee-like approach is better. The key determinant is the effect of these models on the epistemic quality of outcomes under different circumstances. Towards the end of the essay, I apply the model to the present revival of populism and consider its implications in that context.
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