Thursday, 27 May 2010

Two Wolves and a Lamb

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding on what to have for dinner."

This quote, sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin but more likely from James Bovard, succinctly captures the "tyranny of the majority" argument. But people aren't wolves. Nevertheless, to stretch the analogy, thousands of years ago human hunters began to domesticate animals for their food supply. They realised that short term satisfaction doesn't always lead to long term gain. And today, many vegetarians would avoid slaughtering animals on moral grounds. Foresight, morality and empathy apply just as much to democratic decision making.

"Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote" is the second oft quoted follow on sentence. It highlights the ethic of fighting for freedom and justice that underlies our society. But it doesn't encompass all the elements of law and order in modern democracy; it ignores the firmly established laws and independent institutions, including the police and the courts, that help to avoid tyranny and underpin our way of life.

No comments: