MAJORITY RULE AND DEMOCRACY
By Richard E. Noble
I think that most folks here in this country have the above two topics confused. Somehow many Americans have come to believe that these two concepts (majority rule and democracy) are inter-changeable or one and the same, or synonymous. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. What is wrong with regards to this majority rule concept?
Well, let’s say that there are only three people in the world - me, my one-eyed perverted cousin - Screwy-Louie, and Bo Derrick. The three of us keep bumping into one another, and fighting over all sorts of things. So, we decide to establish a Democracy so as to facilitate a peaceful co-existence. The first rule of conduct that we discuss and agree upon, is that we will all agree to abide and conform our individual eccentricities to the legal vote of the majority of the participants in this our new government. I agree. My cousin, Screwy-Louis, agrees. And, Bo agrees. So everything goes fine.
But then after a couple of political gatherings, my cousin Screwy-Louie suggests that he feels that it is an imposition on the body politic that the members, of necessity, be required to wear clothing. He makes a motion that all governmental meetings be conducted in the nude. Bo votes - ‘nea’. Myself and Screwy-Louie vote ‘yea’. Of course, Bo is a party pooper and she argues for a bit. But then in the spirit of freedom and representative democracy, she agrees to attend all future meetings a la - naked as a Jaybird.
This goes great, and proceeds well for a number of meetings. But then, Screwy-Louie gets motion sickness again. He suggests that the condition or requirement of nakedness for official government meetings has caused, or has produced among some of the government members, an ‘anxiety’, or ‘discomfiture’, and he makes the motion that government representative Bo Derrick be assigned chairperson in charge of “lessening tension” and facilitating a relaxation of political anxieties among or between the other members of the parliament’. After considerable deliberation and much ‘consciousness’ raising, I second the motion. Bo, unfortunately, is the lone dissenting vote. She states her case, and gives her reasons and logic, but after a ‘re-count’ and a roll call, the vote remains the same. Bo then states that she don’t care what government don’t allow, she gonna put her clothes back on any old how.
As Bo attempts to re-dress the grievances, the remaining members of parliament, or government discuss the situation, and come to the conclusion that the use of force - a pre-preemptive strike - in this instance of “clear and pressing danger and national security”, is of necessity. They decide that the only way to get ‘action’ in this case of parliamentary impropriety on the part of the minority ‘wimp’ is to call for a red alert. An attack plan is devised. The plan of action will be categorized under the secret file heading “Operation Bo-Banger Diddily-Bang Bang-Wang-er” or “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. This will be an all out, no holes barred invasion. Any rights to privacy or any other written or unwritten previous agreed to, parliamentary crap will be temporarily suspended. And there will be no cameras allowed on the floor - or the walls or the ceilings.
Well, as you can see, if the rule of majority is the sole and utmost principle of fair, honest, representative government some ‘body’ in this government is going to get ‘miss-represented; or under-represented, or over-represented . . . maybe. However you choose to look at it, unless Bo is well skilled in the martial arts, or kung-fu, ginsu, and tofu, she is about to have her constitutional rights violated, assaulted, and circumspected.
I think in our society today, we have turned this majority rule thing into a tool of power and domination for which it was never intended. There are certain things that are not subject to a vote of government. Like Bo’s right to govern over her own body, or the right of you and I to determine who, what, where, why, or for what principals or principles we will sacrifice our very lives. These things are not subject to a vote of the majority.
Our forefathers recognized this. They even wrote it into the Constitution. They stated that there were certain rights that were inalienable. IN OTHER WORDS, THEY FELT THAT THERE WERE CERTAIN THINGS THAT A GOVERNMENT OR RUUNG BODY HAD NO RIGHT OR AUTHORITY TO VOTE AWAY, OR RULE AWAY FROM INDIVIDUALS. And that among these rights were an individual’s right to his LIFE, his LIBERTY, and the pursuit of his happiness.
Most people understand these things when it comes to applying these rights to themselves. The problems seem to come when “the other guy” expresses his right to these same basic principles.
The framers of our Constitution also realized that this language was a little vague, and could be manipulated or misrepresented. So they clarified this notion of inalienable rights and listed SOME of the rights that they thought could be taken away under no circumstances. We call this partial list our ‘Bill of Rights’.
Now, as far as I am concerned, I have many rights that are not listed in the “The Bill of Rights”, or in the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution is not the end-all to political rational thought, or individual freedom, but it is a good guideline, or starting point. And I think that is what it was meant to be. We should understand the intent and spirit in which it was written.
Our forefathers were, for the most part, a divergent group of misfits, adventurers, and cast-offs or throw-aways from other more structured and ridged societies. Our forefathers were not so interested in making laws or judgments, as they were in encouraging co-operation, understanding, and acceptance of radical opinions and religious positions. They were attempting to develop a new, more encompassing, form of government; one that encouraged greater elasticities and left more and more room open for debate and possibility. If, they were not seeking innovative and creative government, they could have simply made George Washington King, and started their own American Monarchy. But they didn’t, and old George didn’t want to be a King.
The majority rule principle works fine, and under many, many circumstances works well. But there are some decisions that require a much wiser principle of judgment, and should be put to a tougher standard. And what is that tougher standard?
I don’t know. You think about it. This is your country and your government also. This majority rule principle is a system or technique that was agreed upon by the participants in this democracy, as a means to facilitate and promote the concept or philosophy of democracy. It is not ‘the’ democracy ITSELF. Democracy is the philosophy of a political ideal in which the people of a group, state, system, country etc., attempt to rule or govern over themselves. Majority rule is simply a voting technique used, hopefully, to achieve the intended goal of DEMOCRACY.
If we want to get Constitutional on this point, or try to determine the actual intent of our forefathers with regards to this issue. I think that they were very clear. If they intended that ‘majority rule’ would be the ultimate criterion in the judgment or enactment of a law or rule within their new society, or government, they would never have bothered to set up two houses for voting - the Senate and the Congress. One house based on population, the Congress; the other based on participation in this new Democracy, the Senate. Obviously this action shows that they were concerned, very concerned, with setting up a more acceptable, and representative technique for judgment than the obviously flawed notion of ‘Majority rule’.
Also, if their intention was to have a country governed solely by the concept of Majority Rule, they would also have abolished individual state government. Our forefathers obviously had no desire for government that was centralized and all powerful but, envisioned a government that was represented by a stratification of diverse opinions, formulated through a wide variety of people and localities. They were not trying to set up one, dominant, ruling opinion, but seeking interaction, co-operation and compromise among a wide group of separate but equally opinionated constituencies, to facilitate and approach, or seek their “ideal” of establishing a government of, for, and by the people - all of the people!
That was the goal, at least, as I see it. And I hope that it is still the “ideal” or goal towards which America strives to this very day.
We should consider it our birthright as Americans to be seeking out these ‘higher’, more just, more fair, more tolerant, more understanding, standards. We should be trying to make our government more representative of its diverse population - not less. We don’t need less democracy - WE NEED MORE DEMOCRACY. It may certainly be true that this country needs less BUREAUCRACY, but we certainly don’t need less DEMOCRACY.
We need more cab drivers, more fishermen, more school teachers; more everybody taking part in our government. This won’t be easy to do, but that is no reason for us to give up. Democracy was a world revolutionary idea back in 1776 and it is still a good idea. So don’t push for less democracy, and less representation in your government. Push for more democracy and more multiple and varied representation from all classes of our society. And if there are segments of our society that are not represented, then let’s think up democratic ways to get them represented. If the ‘group’ exists, then they should have representation; rich and poor, upper, middle, bottom, and top. Homeless or estate owners, we are all human beings, and we have a RIGHT to be. Or else, we wouldn’t be - would we?
If you want less something, push for less bureaucracy, but never, never stop stretching out for more democracy. It’s this notion of democracy, and all the freedoms contained within this concept, that has made this country the great nation that it is. And don’t be confused by the babblers - it is not Capitalism, or Socialism, or even Baptism. There is no ‘ism’ involved here at all. It’s that notion of democracy. It’s that feeling that you get inside when you hear those words. “All men were created equal”... We can joke about it and even debate the real world legitimacy of the concept but, deep down inside, we all know what those words mean. We don’t need a clarification, or an amendment to the
Constitution to explain it. You and I both know what those words mean. And it is this respect for one another, and this recognition of these mutual rights; the right to be . . . to be free . . . and to disagree that distinguishes the United States - our Country - from all of the others on this planet.
So, “You have a Republic ma’am... if you can keep it.”