Friday, March 27, 2009

Democracy and Its Essential Limits

Edmund Burke from his Orations and Essays:
Certainly, Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have a great weight with him, their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions, to theirs, and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.

But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure, no nor from the law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
This is quoted on a website dedicated to the memory of Representative John E. Moss, a Democratic Congressman who died in 1997. The quote from Burke was Moss' own summation of his guiding principle. This is the kind of principled politician that we so desperately need today.

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