Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do you really want Democracy?

“Tolerance…[is] the last virtue of a dying society”—Aristotle

When you hear the word democracy, what comes to mind?  For me, it’s about fairness, and yes, equal treatment under its banner; it’s about listening to every voice and giving equal credence to them.  It is, as G. K. Chesterton said in his book Orthodoxy, “the elementary liberal doctrine of a self-governing humanity.”  Chesterton further said, (also quoted from Orthodoxy), that:

This is the first principle of democracy: that the essential things in men are the things they hold in common, not the things they hold separately.  And the second principle is merely this: that the political instinct or desire is one of these things which they hold in common.

The Merriam/Webster online dictionary says democracy is (1) “Government by the people; especially: rule of the majority”; and (2) “A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” ( 

The online site: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia says this:

Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.  It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination (

So, “vested in the people,” “self-determination,” and “self-governing humanity.”  These are some of the catch phrases which attempt to capture what democracy is in succinct or pithy form.  But how do we deal with the emerging idea (perhaps emerged idea would be more accurate) that a minority voice should be heard at the same decibel as a majority voice?  As already stated, a dictionary definition of the word democracy is “Government by the people, especially: rule of the majority” (emphasis added).
It is only fair that majorities have disproportionately more power and say than minorities; not as people individually examined (each person, regardless of whether or not they get attached to a majority faction or minority faction of a society, is to be considered).  However, once individuals are heard, they begin to be classified and attached to the collective voice of a faction they identify with.

If there are, for example, 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans, or even 50 African Americans and 10 Caucasians, however it is divided out, it has to be (if we are to remain purely democratic) that the 50s be 5x as loud or noticed as the 10s.  Said another way, let’s say there are 100 individual people who form a democracy: 63 are Caucasian, 17 Hispanic, 13 African American, 5 Asian, and 2 other (this exactly mirrors the demographic makeup of America as of 2012).  In this scenario, 63 Caucasian voices, vs., let’s say, the 17 Hispanic voices; who is, and should be louder?

Whites in America are the ruling race (or ethnicity) and should rightly, according to the democratic ideal, be so.  But tolerance without root is license and anarchy, allowing the minority voice to overwhelm the majority one.  If whites were to exist in smaller numbers than blacks, for example, in let’s say South Africa (Oh yeah they did) then whites would be the minority and ought to have been made to voice only at the decibel their total numbers suggested.  Because whites were the minority in South Africa, but for years the ruling class there (before apartheid was eliminated), it was an unfair government which had to go, especially, if democracy was their aim.

But alas, too many, I fear, are not really about a fair democracy; they are about their own way in a wider berth expression than even what their collective numbers can create.  Indeed, as Bob Dylan said: “Man is opposed to fair play; he wants it all, and he wants it his way” (from the song Licensed to Kill).