Friday, July 6, 2018
On Limiting the Power of Majorities to Oppress Minorities and Individuals
One common objection to libertarianism, which comes from the right, is this: Why should people be allowed to ignore the decisions of the collective, or ignore the results of a democratic decision?
I believe that people should be free to ignore democratic decisions, but only when the democratic body (or collective) doesn't hold up to its end of the bargain (or the contract, or social contract, union contract, Constitution, town charter, business charter, whatever the case may be).
Libertarians do not hate democracy, we are skeptical of democracy. The same can be said of our position on unions. We have no problem with forms of democracy that are entered into voluntarily, especially if they are direct, participatory, inclusive, and if possible, unanimous.
We feel that democracy, just like republicanism, should be part of government, but only in small doses, only if it's limited. And we feel that democracy should be limited because we worry about what is called "the tyranny of the majority"; that is, democratic decisions sometimes cause the oppression of minorities and individuals.
That's why most Libertarians feel that something ought to limit what democracy can do. The point of a democratic republic is not that government should be able to "steal from the rich and give to the poor", instead the point is that the people should only be allowed to vote on how to allocate the resources which are voluntarily given to the government, instead of taxed away in our paychecks before we even receive them.
The very history of America, and the Constitution, are steeped in the tradition of having democracy, but in a limited fashion. The whole reason that we have a Senate and an Electoral College is that requiring a supermajority - slightly more than 50% - reduces the risk that individuals and minorities will be oppressed as the result of the decision.
Supermajoritarianism thus requires more consensus than a mere 50.1% approval, and requiring more than a majority protects society from the risks associated with political change occurring not only too rapidly, but in a flip-flopping manner (suppose abortion's popularity were 49.9% one year, and 50.1% the next, for example).
Of course, protecting "minorities" begs the question: What kinds of minorities? Certainly we want to protect ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious minorities, as well as ideological minorities. But protecting the 1% minority that receives the vast majority of the new wealth created, is not our priority either, because the Libertarian Party wants to eliminate corporate welfare. So of course not all minorities deserve protection; the 1% already has protections and privileges, privileges that we want to eliminate.
The freedom to disregard the results of a democratic election, is somewhat related to the right to challenge the results of that election. Nobody who voted Bernie Sanders in the primary was obligated to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Another argument against majorities: We have juries for a reason. Some of the decisions our government is making put people's lives on the line. And when someone is in jeopardy of life and limb, we give them a jury trial. And if even one person on the jury isn't convinced that they di the crime, or that the law being applied is appropriate, they get to cause a deadlock of that jury by themselves, and a mistrial is declared. That's because the only way to guarantee that a democratic decision is fully voluntary, is to make it unanimous.
If you're curious about the history of conflict between democracy vs. the rights of individuals and minorities, a great book to read is Dred Scott's Revenge by Judge Andrew Napolitano. He explains the "utilitarian" nature of democracy, and why he feels that utilitarian thinking led pre-Civil War Democrats to treat human beings like slaves, and utilize them as if they were tools.
Another thing to consider: What happens when the union chosen by a majority of the workplace, is a union that is bought and paid for by the employers and management? What if there is a minority of workers who have more radical demands than the union in power?
Wherever such a situation exists, the majority oppresses the minority, and democracy hurts workers. I'm not saying that democracy always hurts workers, I'm just saying that that's the way things are rigged, and they're that way because of federal labor laws that the Libertarian Party would like to repeal or amend (like the Wagner Act, the Taft-Hartley Act, and others).
A "wildcat strike" is what happens when some workers go on strike without the permission of the union leader. I believe that participating in wildcat strikes should be just as easy and legal as quitting your job.
Originally Written on June 29th, 2018
Edited and Published on July 6th, 2018