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The Inherent Dangers of Majority Rule

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Majority rule versus minority rights... justice at the crossroads in Arizona

(2nd edition [re-edit] - May 2012) by A.O. Kime
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The Inherent Dangers of Majority Rule
by A.O. Kime

While on the surface majority rule may seem fair - as if democracy in action - but contrarily it oftentimes infringes upon the rights of minorities. Throughout the ages much has been written about it and most of it focuses on this danger.

The following quotes were compiled in response to the passage of Arizona’s proposition 203 (2006 voter initiative)… the tax hike of 80 cents for a pack of cigarettes in order to fund a program for needy children. The injustice? It is not to be funded by the public at large, as should be the case… it is only smokers who must bear the burden, a now disenfranchised minority.

"The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime; abuses its strength, and, by acting on the law of the strongest, breaks up the foundations of society." Thomas Jefferson

"We are so concerned to flatter the majority that we lose sight of how very often it is necessary, in order to preserve freedom for the minority, let alone for the individual, to face that majority down." William F. Buckley Jr.

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." James Bovard

"It is the besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which the masses of men exhibit their tyranny." James Fenimore Cooper

"Nothing is more revolting than the majority; for it consists of few vigorous predecessors, of knaves who accommodate themselves, of weak people who assimilate themselves, and the mass that toddles after them without knowing in the least what it wants." Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

"The majority never has right on its side. Never I say! That is one of the social lies that a free, thinking man is bound to rebel against. Who makes up the majority in any given country? Is it the wise men or the fools? I think we must agree that the fools are in a terrible overwhelming majority, all the wide world over." Henrik Ibsen

"Where any one, or any two, or any three, or any thousand, or any million can do what they have the power to do, there is no liberty. Arbitrary power does not become less arbitrary because it is the united power of many." Francis Lieber

"[W]here liberty is believed to consist in the unlimited power of the people, the inevitable practical result is neither more nor less than the absolutism of the majority, and the total want of protection of the minority." Francis Lieber

"Unlimited majority rule is an instance of the principle of tyranny." Ayn Rand

"There is nothing sacrosanct about the majority; the lynch mob, too, is the majority in its own domain." Murray Rothbard

"Majority rule is for the sake of securing rights possessed equally by the majority and the minority. Whether anyone’s rights to life, liberty, or property ought to be protected is not itself supposed to be subject to majority rule." Timothy Sandefur

"Majority faction is the particular danger of popular government precisely because under popular government majorities can tyrannize under the cover of law." Herbert J. Storing

"When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on a people or upon a king, upon an aristocracy or a democracy, a monarchy or a republic, I recognize the germ of tyranny." Alexis De Tocqueville

"The Greeks...labored under the delusion that their democracy was a guarantee of peace and plenty, not realizing that unrestrained majority rule always destroys freedom, puts the minority at the mercy of the mob, and works at cross-purposes to the effective use of human energy and individual initiative." Hernry Grady Weaver

"A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks, and limitations, and always changing easily, with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people." Abraham Lincoln

Majority rule also has its supporters however, those who claim it is a cornerstone of democracy… but it is generally tempered. For example, while James Madison supported majority rule in the greater sense, it was conditional:

“The will of the nation being omnipotent for right, is so for wrong also; and the will of the nation being in the majority, the minority must submit to that danger of oppression as an evil infinitely less than the danger to the whole nation from a will independent of it.” Letter to Thomas Jefferson, Feb 17, 1825 (Madison, 1865, III, page 483)

“If…the powers of the General Government be carried to unconstitutional lengths, it will be the result of a majority of the States and of the people, actuated by some impetuous feeling, or some real or supposed interest, overruling the minority, and not of successful attempts by the General Government to overpower both.” Letter to John G. Jackson, Dec. 27, 1821 (Madison, 1865, III, pages 243-247)

Meanwhile, as if the congressmen in Arizona have turned a blind eye to proposition 203 because of the monetary benefits to the state, none have yet stepped forward to correct this injustice. While over half (53.2%) of Arizonans believed proposition 203 to be the right thing to do, 47.8% believed it wrong… but none of that should matter. It shouldn’t matter if only 100 people were opposed or just ten. All that matters is justice. After all, in a courtroom the rights of one are supposed to be upheld despite the many.

Proposition 203 is unconstitutional.

A.O. Kime

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Resource Box: © A.O. Kime (2007)
A.O. Kime is the author of two books plus 70+ articles on ancient history,
spiritual phenomena, political issues, social issues and agriculture which
can be seen at http://www.matrixbookstore.biz
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Last modified: 03/07/16