The Ethics of Legislative Vote Trading

JOHN THRASHER
POLITICAL STUDIES (2015). ADVANCED ONLINE PUBLICATION. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.12205

Abstract: It is argued in this article that legislative vote trading by representatives is both ethically permissible and may be ethically required in many cases. This conclusion is an implication of a thin, general account of representation that requires representatives to vote on the basis of the perceived preferences or interests of their constituents. These special duties arise from a thin account of representation and create a weak, defeasible duty for representatives to engage in what they believe will be beneficial vote trades. After establishing this claim, the article considers two objections to this duty. One is based on equating legislative vote trading with corruption, and the other argues that logrolling violates the ‘duty of civility’. Neither objection undermines the main claim that there is a weak duty to engage in logrolling. Nevertheless, the implications of this duty may be troubling for other reasons.