Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Resort to the Majority Alone is Resorting to Nothing

Written by johnleemk on 3:18:00 pm Jun 22, 2007.
Categories: ,

A common reason given by people to support their views is that this is what the majority wants, so it must go. Some reference to the lofty ideals of democracy is made.

The essence of democracy, however, does not truly lie in simply enforcing a tyranny of the majority. If that were so, we would have no need for democracy — an anarchy would suit us just fine.

In a democracy, you have the freedom to persuade others to support your views. And you cannot persuade them by invoking the majority — the majority thought Galileo was wrong, but would any of us argue for locking him up if he were alive today?

The reason many people are forced to resort to the argument that they should get their way because that is what the majority wants is simple.

These people have no logical objective basis for their reasoning. Sometimes, they have not even reasoned things through. They resort to majoritarianism because they have nothing else.

When the logical holes in their arguments are pointed out, these people will commonly either pretend nothing has happened, or vigorously argue that even though they are clearly wrong, they should prevail because that is what the majority wants.

This sort of thinking is generally antithetical to democracy, which exists not to enforce the will of the majority, but to enforce an orderly method of popular rule which does not jeopardise the minority.

The hypocrisy of the majority becomes blatantly clear once they are confronted with a similar situation as the minority. An Iranian who argues vigorously for the suppression of certain religions suddenly becomes a staunch advocate of secularism and/or religious freedom once she migrates to the United States, a Christian-majority country.

Meanwhile, fundamentalist Christians in the United States are more than happy to argue that they should get their way and enforce the word of the Bible as law because they constitute the majority (a questionable assertion in any event).

However, plonk these Christians down in a country where the religious laws are based on something else, such as the Quran, and they suddenly become advocates of secularism.

We cannot allow ourselves to be carried away by thoughtless majoritarianism. We must examine the validity of an idea not on the grounds of how many believe in it, but on the grounds of reason and logic for why we should believe in it.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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