Between Burke and the Anti-Federalists: An Epistemic Argument for Descriptive Representation

New paper by Helene Landemore (Yale) just uploaded to SSRN:

Abstract: This paper proposes an interpretation of representative assemblies that strikes a conceptual middle ground between Burke’s ideal of an assembly of trustees and the Anti-Federalists’ ideal of a mirror image of the people. The normative appeal of this conceptual middle ground is supported by an argument emphasizing the epistemic properties of a descriptive assembly of trustees deliberating about the common good. Building on findings about the importance of cognitive diversity for efficient collective problem-solving, the paper argues that given the nature of political problems, a case can be made for the epistemic superiority of descriptively representative assemblies over less accurately descriptive ones. The paper further defends sortition as the best way to ensure descriptive representation over alternatives such as quotas and gerrymandering.

Keywords: representation, deliberation, cognitive diversity, epistemic democracy, delegates, trustees, Burke, Anti-Federalists