Why Representative Democracy Isn’t

I suppose hundreds of people have studied and written about this, but here is my (largely uninformed) opinion, anyway.

Representative democracy means that we elect people to represent us in the various governing bodies that make laws, define policy, and enforce laws.  Elections are expensive and only occur at fixed times.  We only get one chance every few years to elect a particular representative to a particular office.  When political figures run for office, they typically have opinions on a number of issues.  After they are elected to office, these issues may or may not actually come up in legislation in front of that particular legislative body. 

People running for office on a national level, let’s say, the House of Representatives, put forth opinions on lots of issues.  There are only two major parties and they try to distinguish the candidates, based on their approaches to the major issues.  But, we are voting for the candidates collective views, not any single view in particular.  In essence, we are voting for the general idea that the person represents, not their view on any particular issue. 

This is why representative democracy isn’t.  The candidates aren’t elected based on their views on any particular issue.  if, for instance, I hate everything a candidate stands for, except for one issue that is extremely important to me, I may actually vote FOR that candidate, on that issue alone.  The candidate has no way of knowing what that particular vote stood for, unless the voter contacts the candidate directly and tells him/her that is what the vote was for.  And, most people don’t contact their representatives.  Not only that, but by the time the next election comes around, the representatives views/votes on that particular issue may be obscured by the importance of the newer issues. 

With the general availability of computers and the rise of petitioning, there is a chance that representatives are becoming more responsive to voters.  But it is still hard to tell if a representative is truly representing his/her constituency. 


Plastic Bottles

I take a number of pills and supplements every day and I have long noticed that the bottles containing the supplements, and sometimes the pills, are rarely anywhere near full.  In fact, the other day, I used up one of my supplements and had recently purchased two replacements, in a two for one sale.  So, out of curiosity, I opened both of them and poured the contents of one into the other.  They both fit easily.  This means to me that we are wasting an enormous amount of packaging.

Years ago, I even tried asking the company that made one of the products I was buying why they didn’t fill the bottle up.  They gave me the usual reasons about 1) settling and 2) labeling.  But, 1) pills don’t need to settle and 2) the need for a large bottle in order to print all of the required information on the label still doesn’t answer the question why the bottle can’t be filled up.  As a matter of fact, one of the two prescription medicines I take DOES fill up the bottle.  The other one, sadly, does not, but that may be due to the pharmacy and not the bottler.  Everyone assumes that purchasers are easily placated, because “everyone does it”.  That much is true.  Pretty much everyone does do it.

But that STILL doesn’t answer the question about why.  Presumably it is because the big bottles make it look like you are getting a lot.  The bottles are mostly opaque, so you can’t really SEE how much you are getting.  Once you buy the product, the chances are you will buy it again, because it is familiar to you and “everyone” fills the bottles only half full, so switching gives you no advantage.

So my question is, how much packaging is wasted in a year, on bottles that are only half or less full?  All those pill and supplement bottles must surely add up to a lot.