"There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong...." ~ James Madison
The Second Question
Exclusive to STR
October 30, 2006
It is quite scary how indoctrinated people get in school nowadays. Asking any normal teenager about politics, he or she will quickly and proudly declare they cherish "democracy." That's just the way it is, it is kind of a trump--say you are for democratic (put whatever you like here) and you win any discussion.
Democracy has become a religion, and thus you don't have to present real arguments or evidence to support your view. It is like answering "God made it this way"; how can anyone criticize this statement without being a heretic? You cannot, and that is kind of the point. If religions were more than feelings and non-fact-supported beliefs, they would not stay around for long.
If you have to prove there is a) a god, that b) his son was here 2,000 years ago but c) didn't make any real change, but instead decided to d) disappear just to be able to come back, and that e) there is a heaven and hell where you f) will end up if you commit a "sin"--then you are in big trouble. There is no way you can prove that using whatever tools available: reason, logic, empirical facts or whatever. Everything points in the very opposite direction--that there is no god and that things simply "are."
So there must be a reason religions have gained such a strange position where human means of gaining knowledge are claimed not to be applicable. That reason is of course that some people gain a lot by people not asking questions, just doing as they're told. The religious elite gain in power, wealth and reputation from having a large number of believers following orders. The shepherds are the beneficiaries of having sheep--it is hardly ever the other way around.
And just as there is a reason religions are "untouchable" by human means of gaining knowledge, there is a reason democracy too is "untouchable." What is so interesting with this is that democracy, however old in theory, has only been practiced large-scale for a century. Still, it enjoys a very special status as a solution to any problem--as long as there is voting, people seem to buy whatever consequences.
Of course, there are people gaining from this: the political elite. And compared to their religious counterparts, they seem to be doing a much better job. It took them less than a hundred years to create what took Christianity hundreds of years.
But the interesting thing with "democratic religion" isn't really the power elite. It is the status democracy has gained in the minds of millions--if not billions--of people all around the world. Whenever something is good, people tend to claim it is "democratic"; and whenever something is bad or evil, they say it is "un-democratic" or "anti-democratic."
Since whatever has to do with democracy is good, you are bound to hear people claiming democratic mantras as arguments for their views. Try asking students an open question about something that has to do with morals or politics, and they will surely answer something about democracy. Ask them about anything, like how to raise children, and they will start discussing what is the "democratic approach" and which is not. And to support their view, they claim the "right" of the majority.
This is how far you can go without people getting upset, and this is where I ask the second question. Whatever they say, I ask them "why"--and I won't take more empty rhetoric for an answer, I just keep on asking. Why does 51% have a right over 49%? Why do you say the few always have to adjust to the many? Why is an opinion "right" simply because many share it? Why doesn't everybody's views count? Why cannot voting ever be a bad thing? Why do you pretend there is such a thing as a "common will" or "common good"? Why is democracy a good thing only whenever you think the decision made is right? Why does voting legitimize running over those not taking part in the voting?
Asking the second question completely takes them off guard, they have no answer. Some respond to such questions with an "I don't care what you think, you're obviously crazy and don't understand" look on their faces and continue talking about something else; some take the questions as insults and snaps back something about me not being "a real democrat"; some get real hostile.
Very few realize they have really made no attempt at all arguing for their view, and that they have no answer whatever to the follow-up questions. These people are sometimes born anew and start thinking for themselves as a change--and they might actually find new, better ways. Perhaps they will eventually end up libertarians?