A Policy Approach to Political Representation: Lessons from the Four Corners States

By Helen M. Ingram; Nancy K. Laney et al. | Go to book overview

3
Citizen legislatures: the barriers to good policy

Representatives are independent actors rather than mere agents of their constituencies. They have a fairly wide latitude to make choices within the general context of obligation to the interests of the represented.1 Therefore, their goals and motivations, their sources of information, and the constraints under which they work must be considered. In this chapter we will examine the characteristics of the state legislatures that exist in the Four Corners region, and the aspirations and intentions of members of such bodies. We will identify the cues that are likely to be important to legislators in making up their minds, and the conditions under which one or another cue may be dominant. Throughout the chapter we will be concerned with identifying how constituency opinion is an implicit or explicit concern of legislators in making up their minds.

Thomas Jefferson's vision of the citizen legislator who lives and works like everyone else, but also performs the civic duty of lawmaking has long since been abandoned as ill-suited to Congress and some large state legislatures. In some other state legislatures, including those in the Four Corners states, amateur legislatures persist.

Jefferson understood the role of institutional design in moderating the ambitions of those who serve in government. The Jeffersonian design for

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1
Hanna Pitkin, The Concept of Representation ( Berkeley, University of California Press, 1967) p. 166.

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