Majoritarianism

The trouble in Egypt is the same trouble in Palestine: The government was democratically elected, but once in power, it does not behave in a democratic fashion. We Americans – perhaps the most mature of democratic societies – are quite used to respecting the rights of the minority. From an early age, we tell our friends, “It’s a free country, do what you want,” and, “You are entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong,” and, “Hey, that’s not fair!” Hitler was elected as well. In Egypt, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were consolidating power, and providing too few indications that the needs of the middle class are attended. Hammas has taken over in a similar way in Palestine. Government has a responsibility to its people, and when it abdicates this, the electorate gets upset.

Majoritarianism, according to Wikipedia, “asserts that a majority (sometimes categorized by religion, language, social class or some other identifying factor) of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society.”

We all must hope that the Egyptian army and the new Judge a.k.a. President will return the country to one that recognizes the civil rights of its diverse citizenry, builds domestic operations, and supports economic needs of the middle class. Brazilians think too much money is going towards a Soccer stadium, and not enough to, say education.

And I recall, it was Andrew Jackson who said, “to the victor goes the spoils.” We get some majoritarianism over here too. School prayer is one good example. In 1963, most of the country was Christian (and presumably still is), but the case of Abington School District v. Schempp, school-led prayer was found unconstitutional. Pluralism overshadowed the majority. Some fuddy-duddies are still ticked about that, but it is normal and generally accepted.

This is the sort of perspective that has improved rights for same sex marriage, too. Certainly, the trend in America has been to increase civil rights. This law in Texas, restricting access to abortion is backwards. Laws restricting voter access are the same. They are the result of majoritarianism. This contradiction to democracy is the result of redistricting accomplished by the Republican majority in the last dozen or so years. Of course all laws in a democracy are initiated by people, voted on by people, and enforced by people. In this sense, “the rule of law” is a paradox.

Anyone gets upset when the government does not seem to be doing what they want. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden were upset enough to break the law, or at least be indicted for it. Wendy Davis filibustered in Texas. I hear (though believe they are misinformed and disagree) that many people believe Obama is imposing health care reform. Perhaps we live under a tyranny of the corporations and lobbyists.

Tyranny of the majority is not good government. The best indication of good government is its responsiveness to the people. A republic should be more efficient and wiser than a pure democracy (where everyone votes on every issue). When enough people don’t get their way, they have the right to wake up!

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About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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