'Losing Touch' in a Democracy: Demands versus Needs
ROBERT E. LANE
Although it may be that journalistic, bureaucratic, and academic élites have 'lost touch with their publics', I will focus on elected élites. For what purpose would elected élites 'keep in touch' with their publics? To be re-elected, of course. But retaining office by elected élites has not, until very recently, been a problem in Europe, and even in the USA the current problem is only among executives and not the legislators of which we are speaking. This volume reveals a concern for something else: in the popular phrase, for the public's alienation, in academic language, for 'the confidence gap', between élites and their publics. 1 (Incidentally, if lack of confidence in parliaments is an indication of 'losing touch', we should observe that in the 1981-90 period there was no increase in 'losing touch' in the nine European countries studied by the European Values Study. 2) In the final analysis, however, our concern is and should be with the effects of 'losing touch' on the public welfare. What social consequences flow from the alleged distance between elected élites and their publics?
The gravity of these consequences depends on what we mean by 'keeping in touch'. I treat this phrase here as dealing with political representation of two familiar kinds: the delegate theory, which emphasizes representatives' responsiveness to public demands, and the trustee theory, emphasizing responses to public needs. The distinction between demands and needs is crucial. It is the chopping-block for arguments about the purposes of representation, the fulcrum for theories of democracy, and the lever to pry open the meaning of 'losing____________________