President Barack Obama narrowly defeated Gov. Mitt Romney in the popular vote 51 percent to 48 percent. In the all-important Electoral College, the difference was larger, with Obama winning 303 electoral votes and Romney 206. Let’s not think so much about the election’s outcome but instead ask: What’s so good about democracy and majority rule?
How many decisions in our day-to-day lives would we like to be made through majority rule or the democratic process? How about the decision to watch a football game or “Law and Order”? What about whether to purchase a Chevrolet Volt or a Toyota Prius? Would you like the decision of whether to have turkey or ham for Thanksgiving dinner to be made through the democratic process? Were such decisions made in the political arena, most of us would deem it tyranny.
Democracy and majority rule give an aura of legitimacy and decency to acts that would otherwise be deemed tyranny. Most people would agree that having our decisions on what television shows to watch, what kind of car we’ll purchase and what we’ll eat for Thanksgiving dinner made through the democratic process is tyranny. Why isn’t it also tyranny for the political process to determine decisions such as how much should be put aside out of our paycheck for retirement; whether we purchase health insurance or not; what type of light bulbs we use; or whether we purchase 32- or 16-ounce soda containers?
The founders of our nation held a deep abhorrence for democracy and majority rule. The word democracy appears in neither of our founding documents: our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison wrote, “Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”Details