Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Tyranny of the Majority

First used by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1835 book "Democracy in America", the tyranny of the majority is the "criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a dissenting individual's interest that that individual would be actively oppressed." (From Wikipedia).

Within Interactive Democracy there are a number of safeguards against such abuse:

  1. The Human Rights Act
  2. Leadership by Parliament
  3. The presentation of all sides of an argument on the Interactive Democracy website
  4. The Golden Rule: the morality of most people in most societies
  5. The Liberal Media and the ability of stories to engender empathy towards individuals (the ultimate minority)
  6. The vociferousness of motivated and organised minority groups versus the apathy of the majority (An argument by Mancur Olsen in "The Logic of Collective Action".)

It is sometimes argued that Representative Democracy protects minority interests, especially in the American system where vote trading is the norm, but it is hard to see how such a system works in the UK. My feeling is that fair morality and the liberal tradition are the main lines of defence against the persecution of minorities in Britain.

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