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The need for a just government and the prevention of tyranny

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I will appreciate it. The button to the right will take you to PayPal where you can make any size donation of 25 cents or more you wish, using either your PayPal account or a credit card without a PayPal account. The Need for Formal and Informal Mechanisms to Prevent "Tyranny of the Majority" in Any Democratic Government Rick Garlikov In any institution in which a majority of citizens or members can pass laws or rules that apply, not just to themselves, but to all members of the group, judgment is required to distinguish potential laws which are reasonable and fair from those which are tyrannical because they are unnecessary, unfair, and justifiably intolerable to the minority that opposed them.

How does the Constitution prevent tyranny?How does the Constitution prevent tyranny?

And formal mechanisms need to be in place, wherever feasible, to prevent tyrannical laws from being passed by those whose judgment in such matters might fail. The founding fathers of the American republic were not unaware of this problem, and some of the provisions of the U. Constitution can be viewed as ways of addressing it even if that is not necessarily their expressed or realized intention.

James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 51: If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.

Again Madison from the same work: A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. A case can be made that the American Civil War resulted because of that, and I will return to this point later.

And because the problem of the tyranny of the majority is still not resolved today, nor even generally understood, it needs to be addressed as much as ever.

Madison had thought that the greatest safeguard against the tyranny of the majority was the large number of sects and divergences of interests and opinions that divided people in ways that made it virtually impossible for coalitions to form stable majorities. While that is often the case, historical divisions have arisen over characteristics that have brought about numerical minorities which have been more than temporarily placed in that status.

The phrase often used is "permanent minorities", but "permanent" is too strong because the problem is not that one is in a permanent minority, but that one is in a minority with no likely possibility to be in the majority in the near future or within even a few generations. Race, ethnicity, color are such characteristics in many societies today, but there are philosophical and other kinds of minorities as well.

Moreover, majorities in any legislature often merely impose their will on those numerical minorities with opposing philosophies for as long as they are able, which means at least one election cycle, if not many. In some of these cases, the minority viewpoint may be "represented" in the legislature, but it is not attended to by the majority, and is therefore not what might be called "effectively represented.

He wrote of the dangers of "mutable government" in Federalist Paper 62, and a small part of what he said is: Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule which is little known, and less fixed.

In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the the need for a just government and the prevention of tyranny of their own passions?

  • There are not likely to be such bodies;
  • It is no wonder that Southern states felt their legitimate interests were not being fairly represented or were not likely to long continue to be fairly represented in the Congress, even though they had, and would continue to have, their duly-elected share of representatives serving and speaking there;
  • And, although, contrary to the belief of many, the Constitution is not totally immutable, it is so difficult to change, and requires such broad support for change, that only those changes which are acceptable to a vast majority of citizens in a vast number of different blocks or segments of the country i;
  • As journalist Chris Hedges points out, "There were once radicals in America, people who held fast to moral imperatives.

Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.

The greater the obstacles meant, at least for Hamilton, the greater need for mutual accommodation. The electoral college is one such mechanism, but there are a great many more. I will describe and discuss them shortly. What I mean by "accommodation" in the sense I am using it, as opposed to "compromise," is that each side can get what it wants without having to give up anything important to it.

In a compromise, each side often gives in, or gives up, something it wants in order to get something else. Or it does something it does not want to do in order to get something it does want.

  • There are civil and political issues that are very much like this, in that what seem to be mutually opposing positions are not really mutually opposing at all;
  • When one is represented only in the former sense, generally one may as well not be represented at all;
  • The Constitution tries to prevent tyranny in a number of ways;
  • It is also better than finding "common ground" in the normal sense, whereby each accepts only the lowest common denominator solution between them, which may not solve the problem of either;
  • That is the purpose, or at least a feature, of devices such as a bicameral legislature or an electoral college.

In accommodation of the sort I have in mind, no side has to give up anything of importance. Accommodation is about finding what is often referred to as "common ground" but in a sense that is perhaps different from how even that is usually meant. What I have in mind can perhaps best be described by example.

The need for a just government and the prevention of tyranny

Suppose a married couple is divided over whether to go out some evening; one of them wants the two of them to go somewhere together; the other does not want to go out at all. There are a number of solutions that might count as compromises, but those will not be as good as an accommodation. Compromises might be that from now on they take turns deciding and perhaps they flip a coin for this time, so that one of them gets to decide what they do this time and it is the other person's turn to decide next time.

Another compromise might be to go out for a little while -- less than the one wants, but more, of course, than the other wants. Or they might decide to go out but to a quieter place or a closer place than the one partner wanted to.

Or they might decide to go out tomorrow night even though the one partner did not want to go out either night. Those would all be compromises. Go lie down or go take a long bath or shower; and I'll fix dinner and rub your neck a while if you are still awake. If you fall asleep, I'll wake you when dinner is ready, and then after dinner if you still don't feel like going out, we won't.

The needs or desires of both partners will have been accommodated because they were not really mutually exclusive in the way they sounded at the beginning.

The need for a just government and the prevention of tyranny

There are civil and political issues that are very much like this, in that what seem to be mutually opposing positions are not really mutually opposing at all. I presume that if the anti-slavery forces could have raised sufficient funds to buy all the slaves, transport them to the North, the West, or somewhere else, and set them free, and also made it profitable for former slave owners to hire workers to replace them at decent wages, the slave-owners would have willingly sold, and slavery in America would have ended.

Whether former slaves would have been better off if that happened would have depended on how they could have adapted, how they would have been allowed to adapt, and how they would have been helped to adapt to such a dramatic change in their lives.

But the point is that the North would have got what it wanted and the South would have got what it needed in order to give up slavery willingly.

'We The People' Against Tyranny: 7 Principles For Free Government

It was not that slave states wanted slaves just in order to enslave people. Southern economics, white homes, and white culture had become dependent on slavery.

  1. With mechanisms in place that make it difficult to pass laws because philosophical numerical minorities can readily prevent enactment, the ideal strategy would be to make proposed legislation as palatable and accommodating as possible to as many people and "factions" as possible. Madison had thought that the greatest safeguard against the tyranny of the majority was the large number of sects and divergences of interests and opinions that divided people in ways that made it virtually impossible for coalitions to form stable majorities.
  2. With common sense and sensitivity apparently not forced on legislators by nature, nurture, or the ephemeralness of power, it is left to formal voting mechanisms to try to force cooperation.
  3. Quotes on firearms rights to protect themselves against tyranny in government -- thomas jefferson, 1 thomas jefferson papers, 334 today, we need a nation of minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms.
  4. That is the purpose, or at least a feature, of devices such as a bicameral legislature or an electoral college. First, having two different houses of Congress, a Senate and a House of Representatives, places an obvious obstacle to simple majority rule.
  5. They were not afraid. The Constitution also gives a President veto power over even those majorities that might comprise both the House and the Senate, again thwarting majority rule where sufficient widespread support beyond the simple majority cannot be achieved.

And other than being "free" only in the sense of no longer being "owned", blacks would not have been well off, and in fact were not well off, simply to be turned loose in the South -- without education, without socialization, without reasonable and sensitive plans for their inclusion into culture, government, and economics-- in a climate of prejudice, hate, and fear among well-armed, majority white people.

Yet anti-slavery forces wanted to politically force an end to slavery without regard for the consequences of ending it that way. It is no wonder that Southern states felt their legitimate interests were not being fairly represented or were not likely to long continue to be fairly represented in the Congress, even though they had, and would continue to have, their duly-elected share of representatives serving and speaking there.

I believe that there is an ambiguity in the notion of "representation" in that it can either mean one's position is able to be presented, or it can mean one's position is actually taken into account and seriously and meaningfully considered when it is presented.

When one is represented only in the former sense, generally one may as well the need for a just government and the prevention of tyranny be represented at all. What is necessary is that people have representation in the latter sense. By the way, it is not that I am defending Southern states as such. Those states, while bemoaning their lack of effective representation and heeded voices in the Congress, certainly gave little concern to listening to and the need for a just government and the prevention of tyranny numerical minorities in their state and local communities.

The victims of tyranny of majority at any level of government are just as often the perpetrators of it at other levels, or when the numerical numbers get turned. There are not likely to be such bodies. When those needs are intolerably and unreasonably ignored and thwarted, there is a tyranny of the majority. So there are a great many safeguards though not enough built into the Constitution that can be seen as essentially trying to prevent that from happening, and that can be seen as attempts to ensure accommodation of minority positions and needs: First, having two different houses of Congress, a Senate and a House of Representatives, places an obvious obstacle to simple majority rule.

There are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. If the founders had wanted simple majority rule with that number or proportion of total representatives, they would have set it up so there would currently be 535 members and just one chamber, and a majority vote of 268 would carry any measure. But with the membership being divided into two houses, with the Senate's having 100 members, and needing a majority of them, that means that, simply from the standpoint of voting alone that is, not by causing procedural delays in voting, etc.

Hence, for a vote to pass, it needs not only to have majority support, but it needs to have the support of, in some sense, at least half the states, and thus it needs to have somewhat widespread support. Moreover, because Senators are elected for six years instead of the two for which Representatives are elected, legislation must be judged more likely to appeal to citizens over time than simply to appease temporarily fashionable passions. The bicameral Congress is also meant to be a protection for the rights of smaller states, since, presuming that Senators actually represent their states' positions, a majority of states need to give their assent to any proposition, not just a majority of the U.

The electoral college, though different now from the way it was originally established, still operates intentionally in opposition to majority rule in this same way. It happens, so far in America as of this writing, with some regard to race, with some regard to religious affiliation, and with some regard to gender.

It happens also, though in alternating cycles, with regard to what are currently deemed generally "conservative" versus "liberal" values. By requiring a candidate to get at least some widespread support across a set of divergent groups, and not just simple majority support, the electoral college serves as a partial safeguard against those who might be able to find and win over a majority group based on some simple or single characteristic.

It is not foolproof as a safeguard in this way, but it is important, and sometimes formidable. When my younger daughter was in sixth grade, she attended a new middle school that opened its first year with just two of the three grades it would subsequently have.

It began with sixth and seventh grades and would from then on, have sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. They held a student council officer election in the spring of the school year for student government positions the following year. For some reason, there were far more seventh graders than sixth graders that year, and because they voted for "their own", the seventh graders won all the officer positions.

The sixth graders felt that was unfair but were told that was just how democracy worked. Well, it is not how American "democracy" or at least American government works, nor how it is supposed to work, regardless of the misconception. Had there been a mechanism, something like the electoral college system, whereby sixth and seventh grades were represented in a more equal way to make up for their unequal population numbers -- a way that required the assent of some implicit coalition of both groups -- either there would have been some sixth graders elected to the student council offices or at least some seventh graders might have been elected who were more acceptable to the sixth grade class.

Potential seventh grade officers would at least have had to court some part of the sixth grade vote instead of being able to ignore it altogether.

That is the purpose, or at least a feature, of devices such as a bicameral legislature or an electoral college. The Constitution also gives a President veto power over even those majorities that might comprise both the House and the Senate, again thwarting majority rule where sufficient widespread support beyond the simple majority cannot be achieved. Hence, the policy under consideration must have wider support and is not as likely to be tyrannical.

By its committee system, Congress also has a mechanism that requires more than simple Congressional majority rule. For a bill to get to the floor, it must generally have a majority committee affirmative vote. This is designed to give relatively greater expertise and specialized attention greater influence over the fate of bills than just majority opinion.

But the greatest obstacle to simple majority rule is the Constitution itself because no legislation passed by a simple majority which is inconsistent with its provisions is valid law.

  • But the newly elected 2001 Congress, being as closely divided as it is, might allow legislators and the President to hone the ability to create measures that not only accommodate each other but that accommodate a broader segment of their constituencies;
  • They held a student council officer election in the spring of the school year for student government positions the following year;
  • The provisions of the Bill of Rights can be overridden more or less whenever a strong majority wants to Jim Crow, Japanese internment, Sedition Acts in WWI, preventing Mormons from practicing polygamy back in the 1800s, etc;
  • Start studying ap gov chapter 2 quiz questions learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards e establish a comprehensive set of social welfare programs to assist people in times of need a prevention of tyranny b all of these were among the most important;
  • Unfortunately, the government today has discarded this principle and now sees itself as our master, not our servant;
  • While that is often the case, historical divisions have arisen over characteristics that have brought about numerical minorities which have been more than temporarily placed in that status.

And, although, contrary to the belief of many, the Constitution is not totally immutable, it is so difficult to change, and requires such broad support for change, that only those changes which are acceptable to a vast majority of citizens in a vast number of different blocks or segments of the country i.

Two thirds of both houses each, or two thirds of state legislatures must propose an amendment or a Constitutional Conventionand then three fourths of the states through their legislatures or constitutional conventions must ratify the amendments.

This is no easy route to tyranny by a mere majority. My contention here is that while politics and government legislation seems to be about getting sufficient numbers of votes, the underlying principle is that proposed legislation, and candidates seeking certain offices, such as the Presidency, must appeal to sufficiently widespread and diverse groups of people that no simple majority can hold absolute or potentially tyrannical power just on the basis of sheer numbers.

There is another aspect of American government that I believe would prevent tyranny of the majority, though it is an accidental or derivative feature, one which seems often to be unappreciated by particular Congresses.

It is also one which once unappreciated invites further lack of appreciation in retribution.

The idea is that because majority rule in Congress is at best temporary and secure only until the next election, it would be wise not to pass laws that are intolerable to the minority party, so that they do not do the same against you when they become the majority.

To do otherwise is to invite a damaging feud or the political equivalence of the nuclear policy known as 'mutually assured destruction' M.

Unfortunately political groups, here or abroad, are not usually wise in this regard. Or they tend to hold the belief that if they could just get a law on the books it will become less objectionable somehow before the next election.