Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

The Tyranny of the Majority

Posted by middlerage on March 28, 2013

Once upon a time, I learned an interesting concept from a Libertarian professor. We need a representative form of government and a Supreme Court to protect the interests of minorities from the Tyranny of the Majority. (I mention the prof was libertarian, because it is interesting hearing a defense of big ‘S’ state come from that quarter. Tho’ I admit, ‘tarians don’t want no government, just less).

It has been an interesting week watching the Supreme Court grapple with marriage equality, homosexuality, and DOMA. One thing I hear over and over, as I listen to the news, is that those opposed to the idea of equality for homosexuals are no longer saying, “It’s immoral! Ban it outright!” Now they are saying, “It’s a democracy. Let’s let The People vote on it. Have referendums! It’s patriotic AND democratic, and even liberals can’t argue with democracy, right?”  And therein lies the snare of the Tyranny of the Majority. Justices, and Laws, and government are there to protect us from that tyranny.

It is a majority Christian nation. What if the majority wanted to mandate that only christian holidays would be observed? Most of us are pretty able, what if we wanted to mandate no more Americans With Disabilities Act? And, most of the country is white. What if the whites wanted to… well, been there.

So ya see, democracy is great, but balance is required.

6 Responses to “The Tyranny of the Majority”

  1. Dahveed said

    The same people (at least in spirit) tried to argue that slavery, civil rights, and womens’ suffrage were states’ rights issues as well. ‘Nuff said.

  2. switbo said

    I couldn’t have said it better.

  3. Annie said

    Well said. I agree with you 100%. But then…

    In some other areas, hey maybe it would be better to let the people look out for their own interests a bit more. Minimum wage? You bet it would put you above poverty line if the average person had a bit more of a say. Representative democracy does end up with the rich in charge. In that way, it can never be truly “representative” of the people. (Of course, a direct vote won’t turn out well either, since “I want a minimum wage of $1000/hour” will likely get more votes than $15/hr, and that’s not quite going to fly.)

    • middlerage said

      Well dang, that minimum wage point is really good. So too the representative democracy leading to the rich in charge. I don’t have an answer to that. Representative democracy coupled to regular upheavals by revolution? Hmmm…I just thought of something – are minimum wage workers in the minority?

      • Annie said

        “In 2011, 73.9 million American workers age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 59.1 percent of all wage and salary workers.1 Among those paid by the hour, 1.7 million earned exactly the prevailing Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. About 2.2 million had wages below the minimum. Together, these 3.8 million workers with wages at or below the Federal minimum made up 5.2 percent of all hourly-paid workers.” -Bureau of Labor Statistics

        So could go either way. But I guess there are problems no matter what system you choose: 1) rich people don’t look out for poor people enough, and 2) the average person / majority doesn’t know enough about economics to make decisions that won’t cripple the nation. (Though I am increasingly skeptical that economists do either.)

        • middlerage said

          “(Though I am increasingly skeptical that economists do either.)”
          Me too.
          Good find on the BoL stats. One talking point of the conservative think tanks – and that really bugs me – is that if we increase minimum wage it wold cause people to not have jobs. Like they feel their proposal is so benevolent by keeping folks in slave mode.

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