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The Federalist vision of representative democracy is a topic no less important today than it was in the days of the Framers. We all agree that we live in a representative democracy. Modem political practitioners, however, draw the wrong inferences from this fact. The Federalist vision of representative democracy should actually be treated as two separate inquiries. The first asks, "What do representatives do?" and the response is embodied by the opposing pluralist and Burkean paradigms of the representative's role. The second inquiry asks, "What is the role of democracy within our system of constitutional design?" and the response is that democracy should serve either to legitimize or to check government. The dominant contemporary response to these topics in the United States favors the idea that democracy serves a legitimizing function. That approach is ahistorical, inefficient, and intellectually impoverished.

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