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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Beyond Democracy

When it comes right down to it, democracy isn't fair. It allows the majority to dictate to the minority and creates an atmosphere whereby the most fervent advocates can get their way.

The United States of America was created by a small group of male property owners who felt a democracy should consist only of male property owners. Over the ensuing years, others such as non-property owners, women, freed slaves and so forth were also allowed to vote and hold public office.

In a democracy, the majority rules. This is why it was necessary to add so many legal conditions, such as the Bill of Rights, to the paperwork. Since a specific religion could become the majority and insist that their principles be the norm, government and religion were separated by legal decree. Because a specific ethnic group could become the majority and dictate to minorities, rules were set forth guaranteeing equal rights and protection under the law. In other words, a democracy requires a set of rules protecting everyone from the tyranny of the majority.

But in a democracy the majority often dictates unjustly regardless of how many rules are set up to prevent it. Take zoning laws for example. Some are reasonable while others are downright ridiculous. I've lived in communities where the neat-nicks rule the roost. You must have all building plans approved by a committee. Nonconforming styles and color schemes are prohibited. If your lawn exceeds a certain length the township will mow it and send you a bill. If you have no lawn, you will be required to install one. And so forth. The people who care deeply about the appearance of their neighbor's property are the ones who will fight the hardest to gain communal control. Those who have a live-and-let-live attitude just won't get involved and consequently wind up at the mercy of those who insist on always having their way.

Suppose a dozen people share an office or work area. Seven of them want to listen to rock music, three of them want to listen to elevator music and two of them don't want to listen to anything at all. In a democracy, those who want to listen to rock music would rule since they control the majority rock music would play all day long even though three people would prefer a different music and two of them want quiet.

Alternatively, the music could be prorated by preference. Rock music would play seven-twelfths of the time, elevator music would play three-twelfths of the time and two-twelfths of the time there would be silence. Although it seems better than majority rule, in reality everyone is now subjected to music they don't want.

The only solution is to go beyond democracy and somehow give everyone what they want without infringing on the rights of others. In the above example, those who want to listen to music must use earphones. This way everyone can listen to their desired choice of music and those who prefer silence are not being forced to suffer.

In a democracy, the majority is constantly attacking the rights of others. If the majority goes to bed early at night, they will impose a curfew on those who don't. If the majority finds certain art or literature offensive, they will attempt to censure it out of existence. If the majority doesn't partake in a particular mood-altering substance, they will not allow others to enjoy it. If the majority doesn't gamble, they will not allow others to gamble. If the majority believes a specific weekday to be sacred, they will not allow certain businesses to operate on that day.

In a perfect world, we would have little need for massive amounts of government. But as long as selfish, willful, inconsiderate, unethical people exist, there is a need for a set of rules and a means to enforce them. And since there seems to be a need for government, a democracy is undoubtedly a good place to start.

However, being required to conform to the majority in a pure democracy can be a very repressive existence.

Beyond democracy lies common sense, decency and a tolerance of others. The only fair system is one that allows maximum freedom as long as you are not infringing on someone else's freedom.