I recently wrote about a system of representation I thought up based on a tradable vote (link). Basically, citizens have a vote they can give (through elections) to any one person. I called this “direct, representative democracy” but I think “direct representation” is more descriptive and catchy.
One problem with the system as I described it is that there is always the possibility that a candidate does not hold to the promises made during campaign. There would be little to stop this from happening except the loss of votes during the next election. This sort campaign lying is much less likely in systems of proportional representation based on official political parties because it is much more difficult for a large group to maintain a conspiracy.
One solution is to allow voters to give their vote to any one candidate OR any one candidate group, provided the group has a binding mechanism for the group to decide how it votes (which would include the possibility of splitting up its vote). This would allow for political parties to come about, if they are useful. The resulting political parties could actually be stronger than parties in proportional representation systems. For example, if a party decided to use a majority vote amongst some set of delegates to decide how it voted in the legislature, any delegates that wanted to rescind on the party campaign promises would probably be outvoted by most honest delegates and the party’s vote would be unaffected, whereas in a proportional representation system, some representatives might vote against the party. Parties could also be weaker, depending on how they were designed.
The one of the biggest advantages of direct representation lies in the flexability of its institutions. The way parties operate could vary from party to party and even change over time. Competing representatives and flexible institutions will cause legislators to be very responsive to voters.