Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Majorities and Tyrannies

Donald Douglas makes a good point:

During the video's discussion of the founding of our nation, the narrator says, "the Founders chose to give us the rule of a republic, not the rule of the majority in a democracy."

The reason is obvious, of course, as pure democracy is synonymous with mob rule, and in the absence of legal and institution[al] checks on majority power, tyranny results...
Oddly enough, though, he doesn't seem to apply this to situations where the mob votes to impose real tyranny over the minority. More... When Jerry Brown announced that he would seek to overturn Proposition 8, Douglas was curiously unenthusiastic about any legal or institutional checks on majority power:
Looking at this from the sidelines one would think that, heck, forget majority rule. Tyranny of the majority must be so bad that any aggressive minority can have its way, traditionalism, objective right, and constitutional processes be damned.
No, of course I didn't expect any coherence or consistency from a guy like Douglas. We all know the drill by now: to rightists like him, words like 'tyranny' or 'rights' or 'freedom' have no meaning beyond the purely situational and ideological. So the sentence in the first linked post goes on to identify 'tyranny' as "the collectivization of society's product and redistribution of society's wealth"--in other words, 'tyranny' is any violation of the sacred right of wealthy people to externalize the costs of acquiring and maintaining their wealth. The only meaning of 'right' that they recognize is their 'right' to be subsidized by the rest of society.