Professional or occupational representation

Professional or occupational representation.One of the most striking of the newer political theories that are being advanced today is that of occupational representation. Under this system, we would elect our legislators, not as now from territorial districts, but from groups of trades and industries.

Professional or occupational representation :

Criticism of proportional party representation. While the System of proportional representation described above is, according to its advocates distinctly superior to the system of majority representation, it is in the minds of many persons defective for the reason that it insures representation only to minorities which are organized as political parties.

They argue as follows proportional party representation does not take into account the existence of other large and important groups, economic, social, professional occupational, and the like, which have special interests peculiar to each and which therefore ought to be specially represented in the legislature.

Neither the system of representation of political majorities nor that of political minorities as such is in harmony with modern conditions on the true principle of representation. Both are defective because they rest upon purely geographical and political bases.

They should therefore be replaced by a system of professional,class, occupational, or functional representation which would disregard political and territorial lines since the latter after all are largely artificial and do not mark off precisely the boundaries which separate the real interests of the various classes of which modern societies are composed.

Early Forms of Class Representation :

To a certain extent the system proposed would mark a return to the original system under which each of the principal classes-of society-the nobility, the clergy, and the commons (and in Sweden the townspeople and the peasants until 1866) had its own separate representation in the legislature.

Until 1907 the voters in Austria were arranged in five classes, the great landowners, the cities, the chambers of commerce, the rural communes, and a general class, each parliamentary constituency being composed wholly of one or another of these classes, never partly of one and partly of another.

The parliamentary seats were so distributed among the five classes that eighty five members were elected by the great landowners, one hundred and eighteen by the cities, twenty one by the chambers of commerce one hundred and twenty nine by the rural communes, and seventy two by the general class.

But with a few important exceptions the system of class representation as applied to the constitution of lower chambers ultimately disappeared with the advance of democracy, and class representation survives today only in the constitution of the upper chambers of a few European parliaments.

Advocates of the Representation of Interests :

Nevertheless there have always been advocates of a system of representation based upon classes, professions, occupations, vocations, or other groupings of society, on the ground that it is most in harmony with the true spirit of democracy and the true conception of representation than a system based on territorial divisions or even upon purely political groupings.

Mirabeau at the time of the French Revolution declared that a legislative assembly ought to be a sort of reduced mirror of all the varied interests of society somewhat as a topographical map reveals the configurations of the land. Sieyes, at the time, likewise expressed the view that the great industries of society should be specially represented in the legislature.

In fact, the principle of representation of interests found expression in the French Act Additional of 1815, Art of which declared that alongside the deputies chosen by the ordinary electoral colleges, industry and commerce should have special representation. Lord Brougham in his work on the British constitution affirmed it to be a principle which ought to govern in the distribution of representation, that every class and interest in the community should be represented. Suppose,  he said, there were one important branch of trade confined to a single district and the number of inhabitants in that district did not warrant its returning a deputy with a view to population, still it should be represented with a view to the trade driven by it.

So, important professions should be represented and important classes of properties. The English system, continued Lord Brougham, sins grievously against the canon, since it recognizes but one test, the ancient distribution of men into towns.

In, more recent times the principle of professional or class representation, or representation of interests as contra distinguished from representation of numbers, found an increasing number of advocates. Among them may be mentioned Duguit, Prins, De Greef, Charles Benoist, La Grasserie, the Austrian publicist Albert Schaffle, and the Greek scholar Saripolos, the author of an exhaustive study of the subject of proportional representation. Duguit maintains that the expression of the general will (volonte generale) can be effectually secured only through the representation of the various groups whose opinions go to make up the general will.

No legislature, he affirms, is therefore truly representative of the country unless it represents the two great constituent elements of the state : individuals and groups of individuals. All the great forces of the national life, Duguit continues, ought to be represented,-industry, property, commerce, manufacturing, professions, and even science and religion.

The system of professional representation, he argues, can be defended on the same ground as proportional representation for political parties in the one case it is representation of groups politically organized in the other, representation of groups differentiated for social or economic purposes.

Another French writer who advocates the system is M.Leroy, the author of various treatises on the subject. Among English writers to-day who advocate the system in some form or other may be mentioned Mr. G. D. H. Cole, and various other Guild Socialists. In the United States, advocates of the principle are not lacking.

Examples of Representation of Interests :

Very recently the movement in favor of the system of professional or class representation has achieved some partial successes in several European states. As already pointed out in a previous chapter, the geographical or territorial system of representation has been replaced in Soviet Russia by a system based on the vocational principle for the all Russian Congress that is, one in which miners, iron workers, farmers, professional men, and other classes choose their own representatives without regard to territorial lines. The example of Russia has to some extent been recently followed in Italy, where the senate has been reorganized upon the proposal of Mussolini.

The Italian Senate formerly rested entirely upon the basis of appointment by the king (which in practice meant appointment by the ministry) but appointments were restricted to certain categories of persons, among them the largest taxpayers of the kingdom. As reformed by Mussolini it will be composed of representatives of various. trades and professions, of employees, and trade unions (syndicates) recognized by the Fascist government. The appointed senators now holding will not be displaced, but ultimately the chamber will be an elected body composed of senators chosen by the corporations of the various associations which will be represented.

The reformed Italian Chamber of Deputies also represents various cultural, social, and industrial organizations and corporations. The new German constitution of 1919 (Art. 165) introduces a unique innovation upon the existing system by creating a national economic council, representing the special interests of labor, capital, and consumers, which contains the elements of a third legislative chamber.

As constituted by a law of 1920 it is composed of 326 members, 68 of whom are representatives of the agricultural and forestry interests, 68 of industry generally, 44 of commerce, banking, and insurance of the consumer’s element, etc. All together, nine groups of: industries, businesses, professions, and occupations are represented on the council, and these include the body of civil servants and the government, which latter is represented by 24 members.

The council does not possess the power of legislation, but the constitution requires that all drafts of important laws relating to social and economic matters shall, before being introduced into the parliament be submitted by the cabinet to the council for its opinion. It is empowered also to present, through its own members, its bills directly to parliament for its consideration.

It is therefore merely an initiating and advisory body to the cabinet and the Reichstag. Composed as it is of the representatives of the important classes and interests of society who are experts in their respective fields, such a body under favorable conditions should be capable of furnishing the legislature with expert advice and of keeping it informed of the legislative needs of the various interests which it represents.

The institution is still in the experimental stage and it is too early to pass judgment upon its merits. Its workings up to the present time are said to have been characterized by lack of harmony among its members and by a certain indifference of the Reichstag toward its recommendations. The council has been criticized in Germany on the ground that it is too large and unwieldy to serve as an effective consultative body, and it has been proposed to reduce the number of members to about two hundred.

In several other states advisory economic councils have been instituted or provided for by the constitution. Thus the constitutions of the new states of Yugoslavia, Poland, and Danzig all provide for the establishment of such councils to collaborate with the legislature in the formulation of projects of legislation in respect to economic and social problems65 and somewhat similar councils have been established in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

In France, where technical councils have long been in existence for giving advice in respect to administrative matters, in 1925, following a campaign by the general confederation of labor, a council on legislation somewhat similar to that of Germany was set up by decree. It is a small body, compared with the German council, consisting of only forty-seven members representing the consumers, the laboring classes, education employers, artisans, capital, real estate, banking etc.

Five of the ministries of the government are also represented, each by two members. Like the German council, it has merely advisory functions. It has a right to be heard by the committees of parliament and by the ministers in respect to legislation or administrative action which it advocates.

The cabinet, on its part, is required to lay before the council for its information all bills of an economic character which it represents to parliament. The council may make recommendations in regard to these measures and the prime minister is required to report to the council within a month what action the cabinet has taken thereon.

Criticism of the Principle of Representation of Interests :

The principle of the representation of interests has been criticized by many writers. The late Professor Esmein stigmatized it as an illusion and a false principle which would lead to struggles, confusion, and even anarchy. In the first place, he said, it was inconsistent with the principle of national sovereignty, which is based upon the theory that members of legislative assemblies are chosen to represent the interests of the nation as a whole and not the special interests of particular classes.

The very raison detre of free representative government, he continued, is the supposition that the vote of the citizens and their representatives will ascertain the general interest and make it pass into legislation. But in order that this may be accomplished it is necessary that both disregard, as far as possible, their particular interests and allow themselves to be guided by reason and justice.

The system of professional or vocational representation, he went on to say, would invite the citizens, almost force them, in effect, to consider first of all their particular interests and forget the general interests. It would remote a struggle between different interests and forces, accentuate the feeling of antagonism between them, and undermine the sound doctrine that a man’s interest in the welfare of the group, class, or profession to which he belongs should be secondary to his interest in the welfare of the whole society.

Esmein, however, recognizes that it is useful and desirable that the great economic interests and professional groups should be allowed to make known to the government their views through organs which they have themselves elected to represent them, that is, such organs should be formed and endowed with consultative but not legislative powers.

To most persons the idea of class representation is fundamentally unsound in principle because it is based on the very doubtful assumption that no deputy can represent adequately a constituency which is not composed exclusively of persons of his own class that a lawyer, for example, cannot truly represent the interests of farmers, miners, or merchants, and that a legislative assembly, in order to be really representative, must be a composite body made up of delegates chosen by the various heterogeneous groups, economic, vocational, professional, and otherwise, of which modern societies are composed.

Such a system, we fear, would tend to circumscribe the horizon of representatives and lower the character of legislative assemblies, since each member would in large measure regard himself as the exclusive representative of the particular Opinions or interests of the group which elected him, rather than as the representative of the general interests of the state as a whole.

Professor Barthelemy points out also that it is an illusion to suppose that voters grouped according to their professions or occupations would always vote technically, that is, solidly as a group on the contrary, many of them would disregard the professional or occupational lines which separate them and continue to vote with the political party to which they belong.

Finally there is the practical difficulty of how to apportion equitably the representatives among the various professions and classes. According to Sidney Webb there are 750000 textile workers in England, 40,000 physicians, and 6,000 architects. On what principle could the interests of three such widely different groups be proportionately represented in the legislature, except on the basis of numbers.

A legislative assembly composed of so many elements would tend to become a debating society instead of a lawmaking body, and its efficiency would be diminished in proportion to the number and variety of interests represented. One of the sources of strength in the governments of Anglo Saxon countries has been the freedom of their legislative assemblies from the presence of numerous unstable and dissolving groups with their inevitable dissensions and conflicting interests.

Finally, the organization of the electorate upon the basis of class distinctions, whether economic, social, or professional, would inevitably tend to multiply artificial distinctions, encourage further division of the population into groups, array each against the others, and accentuate class antagonism generally.