FREEDOM AND MAJORITY RULE
Society enforces uniformity; Liberty affords diversity.
A decadent nation stars its degenerates and stones its prophets.
The ignorant majority approve of mediocrity; that is why a genius is hated in his day.
Experiment is necessary to discovery; he that is hampered will never be great.
The reason some eminent men escaped the mob was that it did not discover their greatness.
The common cannot understand the uncommon. If you cannot stand to be misunderstood, don’t be great.
It is only through the law of equal freedom that every man will be the peer of every other man.
Invasion is as degrading to those who impose it as to those who endure it.
Self-reliance is essential to the development of the individual; paternalism is his enemy.
Majority rule is a necessary evil. As a great statesman said of governments} it seems necessary because we have not developed some better system to take its place. The Indians had a better system. They continued their pow wow until all agreed on a mode of action before taking it. But civilized men so disagree on both tactics and principles that they are contented with a bare majority approval. It is self-evident that general approval is superior to disapproval of nearly half of the population. But as we have not attained to that just, and therefore higher, method of the savage, we shall likely continue majority rule a long time yet.
Possibly the worst thing about majority rule is that many people think it is just. About the only time that any of our people doubt its justice is when they have been badly treated by the majority trampling on them or their principles.
No one believes in majority rule in all public matters even. For instance, any man being tried for his life would not consent to be hanged because a majority of the jury were in favor of it; he insists on living until all twelve jurymen vote to hang. In this he is just like the Indians-he wants it unanimous.
Majority rule is a big improvement over one-man rule, or the rule of the tyrannical few; but its defects and wrongs should be understood, so that its proper limitations will not be ignored or forgotten. If majority rule were a perfect principle, then there would be no limitation to it. If power itself is justified, then majority rule should be unlimited, for it is the representation of the greater power. But those upholding majority rule also believe in the rights of the minority, which means limiting the rights or power (which means the same thing) of the majority. Now, why is this? Let us consider some of the objections to majority rule, so we may understand its limitations from the standpoint of justice.
One objection to it is that it rests on power-the power of numbers; that is, instead of breaking heads (as formerly), people now count them; they use the ballot instead of the bullet, to settle a dispute. But the ballot is just a modified bullet. In the past most disputes were settled by war; but after ages it was learned that a large army could conquer a small one, so men arrived at the method of enumeration instead of extermination. It was easier to count than to kill, so they used the ballot instead of the bullet; but it is of the same nature; it rests on power, and not on justice.
The majority may think that enumeration is the correct method of arriving at justice, but history shows the majority have been mistaken too often to establish confidence in mere numbers.
To multiply ignorance is not to obtain wisdom. It requires more than mere heads to establish justice. Heads need reason in them, and it seems that only a small minority of any people are well supplied with that article.
Another objection to majority rule is that every three men out of five are the rulers, which means that all rights go to the three and none to the two.
If majority rule were just, there would be, no valid objection to this; but pushed to its limits it means slavery for the minority, for logically there cannot be a limit to the power of the majority.
Considered as a principle, the question arises, Can it be pushed to where it ceases to be a correct principle? If so, what is the limit? Will a little added to it make it bad, and just where does the thing cease to be good and become bad? To believe in it as an unqualified principle is to believe that might makes right.
Another objection to majority rule is that crime can only be committed by the minority. The majority say what is crime and what is justice; and, like the king, the majority can do no wrong.
If it were to be accepted that justice is on the side of majorities, then in case of litigation between two groups of individuals all the judge need to do would be to count the number of individuals on each side of the case, and give the decision to the larger group; or in a suit between a large and a small company, to decide in favor of the larger and stronger company (and this is often done).
The majority in political power make laws for their own financial benefit, disregarding the interests of the minority, and the minority will do the same as soon as it becomes the majority; it will proceed to make its interests the law by repealing what the other majority enacted. Thus the conflict could go on forever by appealing to numbers – that is, power – to settle their conflicting interests. The weak become the strong by adding to their numbers, and a new rule or law is set up.
Thinking people are convinced that justice cannot be arrived at by such methods -that is, by a draft on force.
Another serious defect in a majority having absolute power is that it would prevent progress; the majority is not capable of initiative, and it opposes everything new. It is always a minority, and a small one at that, which proposes the advance, discovers the new. If it had been left to the majority, the world would never have had such things as railroads, telegraphs, telephones, steamboats, automobiles or flying machines. The majority of people scouted all these things when proposed; its attitude forced the small minority to take all the chances of failure itself. The minority must pay the cost and overcome the opposition of the majority as well.
At the time a question of interest or benefit to mankind arises, the majority is “agin it.” It is a deplorable thing that the majority of people mistrust the strange, new things.
It requires much teaching before the advanced idea can be accepted by the mass of the people. This task must fall on the fearless teacher, one not bound by old ties and opinions, one willing to pay the price exacted by the majority.
After an educator has built up a movement in favor of anything and has gathered support enough to enact it, the politician arrives with a whoop-hurrah and announces himself as the leader of the movement, and the majority will accept him as such, and reward him with honor and office, while the real leader of the thought will get little honor or reward, since he usually dies before it is accepted. And it is just as well, for he could not have played the politician’s game to obtain the reward. The real educator does his work at his own expense. He sows the seed, the politician gets the harvest; the majority follows the politician, and the politician follows the majority, and in this vicious circle they get nowhere.
A political convention shows how this majority rule works. If the minority in a party advocates a progressive move, it is put to a vote in the convention, and when defeated, the minority is prohibited from advocating it during the campaign; if they refuse to advocate what the convention has decided to be right, they will be barred from the platform and press. The cry of majority rule is raised against them, and if they persist in advancing what they believe, in spite of the majority, they will be called traitors to the party; on the other hand, if they abandon their ideas and advocate what they do not believe, the party will reward them with office.
This is the way dishonest politicians are made. Now, if those who believe in the progressive things get no opportunity to advocate them when and how will they ever be propagated and accepted? The answer is plain. The propaganda must be carried on by independent individuals who have too much manhood to bow their necks to the yoke of the party or the majority. Those who consent to majority rule consent to being ruled by their conquerors when they are outvoted. In order to get a chance to rule sometimes, they will consent to being ruled at other times. The deplorable thing is the willingness to rule or be ruled; no man who does not violate the principle of equal freedom should consent to be or be subjected to the rule of others.
You can get only the slow ones into a majority group; the progressive ones have traveled beyond the ground occupied by the former. Would you have these progressive ones called back and made to conform to what the majority approve? Majority rule is rule by the many without regard to principle.
Today they may declare for a thing, tomorrow declare against it, and they will assert that it is just. But a standard to judge it by they do not possess. If they were guided by a correct principle, a law of today would not need to be repealed tomorrow. The will of the majority is an uncertain guide and needs a principle like the law of equal freedom to prevent its many absurd moves.
Bernard Shaw says: “Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.”
In politics the minority is the hope of the future, as it has been the savior of the past. The majority takes a step forward only as it has been driven by the minority. The majority can prevent, to a great extent, any progressive move, but it cannot initiate a forward movement. If you want to accomplish something new or progressive, don’t wait to obtain the assistance or even the consent of the majority, or you will grow old without seeing it accomplished.
The minority should have the vetoing power, just as the President has, so they could prevent the enactment of laws injurious to their rights and liberties.