Speaking of Tyranny
Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Concerns over a "Tyranny of the Majority" are simple fear mongering.
In my last communique, I addressed some common objections to giving Direct Democracy a try, but purposely left the smelliest red herring on the table. The loudest screech we hear is that Direct Democracy will result in a “Tyranny of the Majority”. Thomas Jefferson said as much, though his view was skewed by accounts of the French Revolution which devolved into mob rule.
My first thought is that those who fear this tyranny must, logically, prefer “Tyranny of the Minority”. This end of the spectrum certainly comes in a variety of flavors: Republicanism, Oligarchy, Elitism, Monarchy, Communism, Fascism, and all forms of Despotism. But if these leave a foul taste in your mouth, as they do mine, perhaps we should be less quick to discard the concept of majority rule. As President McKinley noted: “The tyranny of the minority is infinitely more odious and intolerable and more to be feared than that of the majority.”
It may also be the case that those who warn of tyranny have an ingrained problem with authority. Perhaps they endured the tyranny of parents who set unreasonable curfews, or the tyranny of a cop who enforced the speed limit, or the tyranny of a boss who insisted that employees show up on time. Honestly – these are just the authority structures that allow societies to function, the norms that allow us to call ourselves a civilization. Abolish these “tyrannies” and we soon dive into anarchy, which, inevitably, gives rise to a despotic savior.
Another argument against majority rule is that the legitimate complaints of minority populations will never be addressed. Well, I have been witness to seven decades of America’s history, starting with President Truman, and I am astonished at the prevailing spirit of tolerance that now extends as far as the LGBTQ community (an estimated 4% of the population). What better proof can there be that majorities are not tyrannical by nature? People tend to rash reactions, but will eventually succumb to reason.
Still, I will agree that having the 51% perpetually prevail over the 49% seems harsh. For this reason, the system defined by the proposed democracy amendment demands that three-fifths of participating voters agree to a change in national policy. I think that sets a fairly high standard and one that should guard against any overbearing tendencies.
P.S. Have you seen the movie “Irresistible”? I love any film that exposes the absurdities of our present political system. Enjoy!
8 May 2021