THEY TRULY ONLY REPRESENTS THEIR OWN INTERESTS

The phrase “tyranny of the majority” (or “tyranny of the masses”), used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, envisions a scenario in which decisions made by a majority place its interests so far above those of an individual or minority group as to constitute active oppression, comparable to that of tyrants and despots. In many cases a disliked ethnic, religious or racial group is deliberately penalized by the majority element acting through the democratic process.
A term used in Classical and Hellenistic Greece for oppressive popular rule was ochlocracy (“mob rule”). Tyranny meant absolute monarchy of an undesirable kind.
The phrase “tyranny of the majority” was used by John Adams in 1788. The phrase gained prominence after its appearance in 1835 in Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville, where it is the title of a section. It was further popularised by John Stuart Mill, who cites Tocqueville, in On Liberty (1859). The Federalist Papers refer to the broad concept, as in Federalist 10, first published in 1787, which speaks of “the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”
Lord Acton also used this term, saying:
The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections—The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877.
The concept itself was popular with Friedrich Nietzsche and the phrase (in translation) is used at least once in the first sequel to Human, All Too Human (1879). Ayn Rand, Objectivist philosopher and novelist, wrote against such tyranny, saying that individual rights are not subject to a public vote, and that the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and that the smallest minority on earth is the individual).
(tyranny of the majority at motipedia.com)
James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 51: “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.”
Again Madison from the same work: “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
Race, ethnicity, color are such characteristics in many societies today, but there are philosophical and other kinds of minorities as well. Moreover, majorities in any legislature often merely impose their will on those numerical minorities with opposing philosophies for as long as they are able, which means at least one election cycle, if not many. In some of these cases, the minority viewpoint may be “represented” in the legislature, but it is not attended to by the majority, and is therefore not what might be called “effectively represented.”
While politics and government legislation seems to be about getting sufficient numbers of votes, the underlying principle is that proposed legislation, and candidates seeking certain offices, such as the Presidency, must appeal to sufficiently widespread and diverse groups of people that no simple majority can hold absolute or potentially tyrannical power just on the basis of sheer numbers.
The best way to achieve widespread appeal to diverse groups is to accommodate, whenever possible, their real needs in a way that they realize does so. It is not always easy to figure out how to do that either to discover what is mutually accommodating or to show that it is — but the results when successful seem far better than compromising in ways that cause nearly as much mutual loss as they do mutual gains. And it is better than mutual back-scratching, whereby one legislator votes for another legislator’s bad program in order to receive a reciprocal vote on his own bad program. It is also better than finding “common ground” in the normal sense, whereby each accepts only the lowest common denominator solution between them, which may not solve the problem of either. If farmers have needs and large corporations have needs, it does not help either side much for legislators to meet the needs only of large farming corporations, any more than if we want us to go to a city which happens to be north of us and our wives wants us to go to a city which happens to be east of us, that we therefore go to a city which is northeast of us. Not all common ground is helpful merely because it is common.
(The Need for Formal and Informal Mechanisms to Prevent “Tyranny of the Majority” in Any Democratic Government by Rick Garlikov at garlikov.com)
Every civilized society needs laws, needs rules to govern behavior. Without laws, we are subject to the impulses of the majority or to those with the means to enforce their whims. In the late 18th century, the king had the power to enforce his desires, no matter how oppressive. Later in the same century, the French Revolution showed the brutality of mob rule – emotional, irrational democracy in action. The French atrocities may have been democratic, that is, sanctioned by the majority, but they were still atrocities.
Humans are emotional by nature. Law is objective; justice is blind. The flaws in our system of governance are caused not by the nature of law, but by the emotional application of the law by people. Injection of irrational emotionalism into the law subverts the intent of the law, and opens the door for abuse, oppression and tyranny.
In political science, democracy is an interesting concept, but in reality it doesn’t work. Democratic theory ignores human emotions and passions. The theory does not account for selfishness, bias, prejudice or ignorance. These real life attitudes make necessary laws and rules to prevent the potential abuses of power caused by unbridled emotion.
(The tyranny of the majority by Charles Bloomer, web posted November 20, 2000
at enterstageright.com)
The French under the old monarchy held it for a maxim that the king could do no wrong; and if he did do wrong, the blame was imputed to his advisers. This notion made obedience very easy; it enabled the subject to complain of the law without ceasing to love and honor the lawgiver.
The moral power of the majority is founded upon yet another principle, which is that the interests of the many are to be preferred to those of the few. It will readily be perceived that the respect here professed for the rights of the greater number must naturally increase or diminish according to the state of parties. When a nation is divided into several great irreconcilable interests, the privilege of the majority is often overlooked, because it is intolerable to comply with its demands.
There are communities in which the members of the minority can never hope to draw the majority over to their side, because they must then give up the very point that is at issue between them. Thus an aristocracy can never become a majority while it retains its exclusive privileges, and it cannot cede its privileges without ceasing to be an aristocracy.
Political questions cannot be taken up in so general and absolute a manner; and all parties are willing to recognize the rights of the majority, because they all hope at some time to be able to exercise them to their own advantage. The majority in that country, therefore, exercises a prodigious actual authority, and a power of opinion which is nearly as great; no obstacles exist which can impede or even retard its progress, so as to make it heed the complaints of those whom it crushes upon its path. This state of things is harmful in itself and dangerous for the future.
Mr. Madison expresses the same opinion in The Federalist, No. 51. “It is of great importance not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be, pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society, under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger: and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted by the uncertainty of their condition to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves, so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions be gradually induced by a like motive to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.
(UNLIMITED POWER OF THE MAJORITY IN THE UNITED STATES, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES, Chapter XV at xroads.virginia.edu)
Mr. Madison expresses the same opinion in The Federalist, No. 51. “It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be, pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society, under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger: and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted by the uncertainty of their condition to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves, so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions be gradually induced by a like motive to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.
Democracies were thought vulnerable to two distinct forms of majority tyranny. The first is political or legal tyranny that operates through the formal procedures of majoritarian rule. Where all aspects of government, from public opinion and juries to the legislature, the executive, and even some judges, are a function of the majority, its power is absolute.
The second type is the moral or social tyranny the majority exercises through custom and the power of public opinion. “As long as the majority is still silent,” Tocqueville observed, “discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent.” More insidious than the overt tyranny long practiced by monarchs and despots, which was physically brutal but powerless to inhibit the exercise of thought, under this new form of “democratic despotism,” as Tocqueville would come to call it, “the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved”
(Tyranny of the Majority, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008 at encyclopedia.com)
In a representative democracy, if you can control the majority (and get them to vote for, and elect, your candidates) then you can control everyone (because your candidates, once “democratically elected”, will pass whatever laws are needed for this, as was done by Hitler’s agents in the 1930s in Nazi Germany and seems to be happening today.
Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.
These days the word “democracy” is bandied about by many politicians, high government mucketymucks and imperialist stooges in S. E. Asia and elsewhere as if it were a noble ideal that everyone should support unquestioningly — and preferably unthinkingly. (It’s getting so that when we hear the word “democracy” uttered by a politician or government official we automatically reach for my BS detector.) Could this official rhetoric disguise a more sinister intent? Could this apparent “pro-democracy activism” in fact disguise a drive toward a one-world government by which the ideal of a totalitarian fascist government, dear to the hearts (if they have hearts).
The important question is not whether the people can (or are graciously permitted to) vote every few years to elect their “representatives” (who usually turn out to be the paid agents of their oppressors) but rather whether they can live their lives and raise their children as they wish, free from intrusive government interference in their private affairs (and even in their private thoughts). Clearly many who live in a so-called democracy cannot.
There is a second danger to human culture other than that of tyrannical government, namely, that of the universal triumph of mindlessness. For several centuries preceding the 20th, literate cultures, in which reading and writing were central, in which rationality was the norm. With the rise of mass communications (telegraphy, radio, television and computers) we have entered a new cultural era, one which may turn out to be a cultural wasteland.
(John Stuart Mill’s Essay On Liberty at serendipity.li)
It is capitalism which is the common denominator in prosperous countries; yet capitalism gets bad press, while “Democracy” gets good press. And so what happens?
Politicians, always on the lookout for some Bad Guys, someone to pin the blame on when things go wrong, can find easy targets among the Greedy Capitalists. So the bankers and business people, particularly Big Business, gets blamed and the politicians, looking for (re)-]election, promise to make things right with some new regulations, restrictions, taxes. And thus capitalism, real free-enterprise, property-rights, self-ownership gets stifled. The market starts to fail (and governments love to discover some “Market Failure”) thus requiring even more regulating, taxing and thus stifling.
Thus capitalism struggles to survive in a “Democracy” where the majority votes and becomes, with the government of the day as their agents, tyrants themselves.
The tyranny of the majority can be an even more insidious tyrant than many a dictator as the people don’t see a single tyrant out there running their lives. They see their government, their freely elected, majority-chosen, democratic government, sitting in the seats of power, promising to save them from what they fear at the moment. And if the government doesn’t convince the majority, the electorate, that they can do the job, then the Opposition, the other party, will come up with their plan to offer the Majority their version of a cure for the people’s fears and woes.
Thus in a democracy, the majority rules, tends to repress the minority, and even represses its own majority — for a while. Governments need votes and will do whatever it takes to get elected, even if that means some repression of some groups, even if it means of a dose of tyranny. After all, it is the Democratic Majority that gives them the power, the right, the mandate, to do this bit of tyranny.
A democracy can be even more repressive than some overt dictatorships, as it may be easier to rise up against a dictator, because he (or she) can be easily identified; whereas, in a Democracy, the oppressor is harder to identify — it can be the system itself, it can be the freely-elected majority government. Most people are reluctant to condemn the system that gives them the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, the “Majority”, the trappings of “Freedom”, while they are actually being repressed and tyrannized by it.
Democracies have always lead to decline and repression, to eventual overthrow — perhaps by a charismatic white knight who offers solutions — and acquiescence to some “temporary hardships” and some personal sacrifice while the great new leader gets things sorted out.
So while the majority bask in the wonder of Democracy worship, the tyranny of the majority can become the way it manifests. Freedoms can be slowly lost until many of the norms of “Democracy” disappear under the guise of National Interest rules and repression.
(The Tyranny of the Majority by Neville Kennard, at economics.org.au)
The sad thing is that people believe we live in a representative democracy. The truth is that most elected officials have no idea what their electorate wants, needs or even where the issues are and they truly only represents their own interests. At the end of the day picking between one of two horses in a two horse race where neither horse remotely represents your views is not a representative democracy.
(Comment by Luke at economics.org.au)
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