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This House believes that elected representatives should not hold any additional posts while serving in government
This House believes that elected representatives should not hold any additional posts while serving in government
Historically, elected representatives, specifically politicians were members of the social and economic elite who spent much of their time managing their own businesses (often landed estates). Governance was an occasional activity in which they participated, unpaid, out of a sense of duty, a love of their country or, it could be argued, for the attendant power and prestige the position offered. In the twentieth century the payment of elected representatives and an increasingly diverse society has allowed candidates to be drawn from a much wider social and economic pool, while the growing complexity of the modern state has hugely increased the amount of time elected representatives must devote to politics, their constituencies and legislation. This situation, coupled with an awareness of the potentially corrupting influence of interest groups on the political process, has led to demands that elected representatives no longer maintain business interests outside politics, nor continue to practice as barristers, doctors, paid speakers, etc. The debate is relevant to all democracies, but is particularly relevant in the UK. In 2009 an on-going scandal about MPs expenses has led to calls for full transparency, including the reporting of how much time MPs spend on paid employment outside parliament.
|Points For||Points Against|
|The Government should provide incentives to incumbent politicians to prevent the need for additional posts||Transparency and freedom of information acts force elected representatives to disclose their posts and discourage their influence|
|Elected representatives have a conflict of interest if they hold additional posts||Elected representatives are held accountable to their constituents, hence they are unlikely to undermine that through connections or work elsewhere|
|The public has the right to demand that elected representatives work full time on its behalf||It is in the public interest for elected representatives to have experience in other posts|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The Government should provide incentives to incumbent politicians to prevent the need for additional posts
The uncertainty of employment in politics is well known to every aspiring and incumbent politician, and prompts a delicate balancing act between one’s dedication to the general public and posturing for future employment. Current salaries force politicians to look to the private sector to find additional work in order to offset what are often steps down, at least in monetary value, from their previous positions taken in order to become an elected representative. In Britain, Members of Parliament earn £65,000, a decent wage but nowhere near the salary many MPs would expect in the private sector. Therefore, rather than forcing elected representatives to pander to interest groups to provide future security, it would be better to seek to counter the incentives offered by the private sector and for the state to offer to guarantee retired and defeated politicians a pension, or funding to update their professional skills to increase their employability. The financial security such packages would offer would also allow elected representatives to spend more time in government and with the public they purport to represent.
 The Telegraph, ‘Are British MPs’ salaries too high or too low?’ 6th January 2008 [accessed 04/08/2011]
The state cannot ever hope to provide sufficient incentives to appease the desire of elected representatives to make money, particularly whilst they are in office and in demand as employees. The reality of political careers is that individuals who have held office are rarely required to pander to a single group in order to secure themselves a position once they leave office, rather the opposite in fact as they are sought after to fill a variety of posts from academic heads in Universities to CEOs of private enterprise or ambassadors or advisors for private and non- governmental organisations.1 As such, the promise of a pension package or an update to their professional skills would be futile. Furthermore in many political systems representatives are already awarded pensions upon leaving politics and have little urgent need to secure additional employment; that does not however prevent their drive however to hold additional posts whilst in office and to seek additional employment once ousted.2 1http://inteldaily.com/2010/05/prime-ministers-presidents/ [accessed 16/06/2011]
2Oireachtas (Allowances To Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act, 1992 s.7, s.13.
Elected representatives have a conflict of interest if they hold additional posts
Elected representatives should be working for the people and take only their interests into account. Politicians who also run their own companies, hold directorships or manage extensive share portfolios could stand to gain or lose substantially from individual pieces of legislation. This is likely to affect their vote and so distort the political process. At worst this can become outright corruption, as groups with vested interests pay elected representatives to lobby on their behalf, or reward them with lucrative directorships if they vote in certain ways.
As an example, in the sphere of business and control the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) have commented that a conflict of interest occurs in a situation in which an individual, who is in a position of trust, has a competing professional or personal interest. Such competing interests can make it difficult to fulfil his or her duties impartially. A conflict of interest exists even if no unethical or improper act results. A conflict of interest can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the individual, or their activity, and the profession.
In the legal profession Judges are obliged to excuse themselves from hearing a case if they hold shares or have a political interest  in one of the parties as there is a need not only to provide for an unbiased trial in which justice is done but also a need for public confidence in the system and justice to be seen to be done. In the case of politicians there is a similar need- a need for them to act in an unbiased manner doing justice to the needs and wants of their constituents and also a need for public confidence in their ability to what most benefits their community as opposed to what most benefits them.
The Institute of Internal Auditors, Standards and Guidance [accessed 16/06/2011]
Individuals elected to public office have been deemed by their constituents to be of sufficient quality to represent them. They will typically already have undergone intense public scrutiny into their private interests and affairs. Therefore to be voted into office is not merely a stamp of approval for one's mandate, but for one's judgement and ability to adequately represent their constituent's objectives. The inference of the proposition that an individual deemed intelligent and articulate enough to represent his electorate could not determine right from wrong and separate personal from public interest is manifestly hyperbolic. It further ignores the realities of political life which demand that if the politician wishes to be re-elected he must act in a way that accurately represents the views of the majority of his constituents rather than a minority group who are powerless to ensure his re-election. As such, fears of politicians having a conflict of interest are overblown, their political careers depend on satisfying their constituents and to do so they cannot afford, politically, to prioritize their personal interests.Improve this
The public has the right to demand that elected representatives work full time on its behalf
The public has a right to demand that its elected representatives work full time on its behalf. Legislators or ministers with outside interests will inevitably have less time and energy to devote to affairs of state and may become pre-occupied with outside interests or indeed devote time better spent advocating on behalf of their constituents seeking to gain support for personal endeavours connected to their other sources of income. Elected representatives are invested, through their election, with a democratic mandate and an attendant duty to represent and lobby for the interests of the individuals who elected them. By dividing their time and their attention, between posts and failing to prioritise their representative duties they risk compromising their ability to adequately participate in the process of Government. Henry Clay once remarked that "Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees. And both...are created for the benefit of the people." While the context in which Clay made his remarks has very much altered the fundamental message it delivers remains as relevant today as it was at the time of its utterance- a trustee may hold no position which jeopardises his duty to his beneficiaries, neither can public representatives be allowed to engage in activities which jeopardize their duties to the people.Improve this
The public only has the right to demand only that elected representatives work effectively on their behalf. If a representative can do so effectively and have time spare to hold down an additional post, why should he not be entitled to do so? The majority of representative bodies sit only for limited hours per week and remain out of session for weeks or even months, allowing many representatives more than sufficient time to deal with affairs of state and their outside interests.1
Furthermore, the role of a representative is multi-faceted, requiring a range of skills and a breadth of knowledge that must constantly be expanded upon. As such, outside interests often mean that a representative is more informed of issues in a particular area and can lead to important connections which may allow them to lobby for the interests of their constituents more effectively.
1 Quinlan, R., 'Ministers not taxed by double-jobbing' [20th February 2011] [accessed 16/06/2011]
Transparency and freedom of information acts force elected representatives to disclose their posts and discourage their influence
Any suspicions that outside interests might sway the political process can be dealt with through full disclosure of representatives’ interests, so that their voting record can be analysed by the media and electorate. If standards of neutrality were applied too rigorously, such suspicions would prevent politicians having any life outside politics whatsoever, as non-remunerative “interests” such as hobbies (e.g. hunting, opera), sexual orientation, and religion could also affect the voting behaviour of representatives. If such interests are accepted, and representatives trusted to separate their personal interests from their elected duties, there is little reason not to grant the same privilege to additional posts held. The majority of western democracies now have legislation requiring individuals seeking elections to disclose all their personal assets or financial interests as well as Freedom of Information Legislation under which any member of the public can request Government records of politicians voting or a range of other documents.
 The United Kingdom’s Freedom of Information Act 2000 c. 36. See Also Djankov, La Porta,Lopez-de-Sialnes and Shleifer, Disclosure by Politicians, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2 (April 2010): 179.[accessed 16/06/2011]
Such accounts and disclosures may fail to appreciate the significance of the influence outside interest may continue to have upon politicians who although they are no longer involved in them have, in the past, also run their own companies, held directorships or managed extensive share portfolios and whose former colleagues or they themselves could still stand to gain or lose substantially from individual pieces of legislation. This is likely to affect their vote and so distort the political process. At worst this can become outright corruption, as groups with vested interests pay elected representatives to lobby on their behalf, or reward them with lucrative directorships if they vote in certain ways.Improve this
Elected representatives are held accountable to their constituents, hence they are unlikely to undermine that through connections or work elsewhere
The greatest incentive for elected representatives to act in accordance with the wishes and views of their constituents is that they are ultimately accountable to them. In a democracy it is for the electorate to judge whether they are being short-changed by "part-time" representatives with outside interests, and to punish them at the ballot box at the next election if necessary. Outside interests seldom require major time commitments while legislatures are sitting. Politics is an uncertain profession, with fickle electorates liable to throw representatives out of a job at every election. It can also be stressful and a strain on family relationships, leading a significant number of politicians to retire early. Such middle-aged job seekers will find it hard to support themselves in the "real world" unless they have maintained their professional skills or business interests while in parliament.1
See Also http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid... ">Canes-Wrone, Brady and Cogan, Out of Step, Out of Office: Electoral Accountability and House Member's Voting, American Political Science Review (2002), 96, 127 (accessed 16/06/2011)Improve this
The uncertainty of employment in politics is well known to every aspiring politician, although in many countries the criticism is rather that incumbency carries a huge advantage in any election. Rather than encouraging elected representatives to pander to interest groups to provide future security, it would be better to seek to counter the incentives offered by the private sector and offer to guarantee retired and defeated politicians a pension, or funding to update their professional skills.Improve this
It is in the public interest for elected representatives to have experience in other posts
It is in the public interest for elected representatives to spend time in the private sector, with the majority of the population. Currently many modern politicians first become involved with party campaigns at university, become lobbyists or campaign staff upon graduation, and later go into parliament, without every holding a "proper job" in the "real world". Wyatt Roy, at 20 Australia's youngest member of Parliament, was elected before he had even finished his university degree1. For some representatives work in the private sector allows them to meet and work with people whose primary concerns are not politics, but their businesses, jobs, the impact of taxes and the economy. It is healthy and likely to lead to better law-making, more in touch with the people and more able to accurately represent their concerns at Governmental level.2
1 Barrett, R., "Dad says nation's youngest MP Wyatt Roy 'won't sit there quietly'" [23rd August, 2010] [accessed 04/08/2011]
2 Neuman, W.R., 1986, The paradox of mass politics: knowledge and opinion in the American electorate, Harvard University Press.
Elected representatives should have, as a component of their election platform, such experience or knowledge of the public at large. The time spent in elected office is thereafter not the time to be spent developing those skills, but implementing and using them. All public representatives are obliged to spend time on the ground coming to understand the concerns of their constituents merely to win an election. The contention the involvement in special interest groups, sitting on a board of directors, owning a company or holding stocks in a corporation will somehow make them more attuned to the concerns of the ordinary people misunderstands the nature of the political process and the substance of the outside interests which politicians hold.Improve this
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