Jordan has been talking about diversity, DPF has been talking about direct democracy, and in both places, people have been discussing, in varying degrees of civility, how to live with minorities, and minority groups. Oh, and Dr Tibby and I have been rehearsing our views on diversity in an earlier post. It has been a great day.
Jordan makes a great point, and it’s a point that few people over at DPF’s place have missed. Sooner or later, everyone is part of a minority. Sure, today and in respect of one particular issue, you might be part of the white Anglo Saxon majority, but tomorrow, you might just be part of the balding men minority, or the fathers with daughters but not sons minority, or the working women with elderly parents minority, or the lesbian marathon runners group, or the lone parents group, or the liable parents (c/f custodial parents) group, or the Chinese immigrants group, or the Maori group, or the Pakeha but not European New Zealanders group. Whatever. We can slice and dice in myriad ways.
That’s why majority rule is dangerous. Sure, as part of the majority, you may want x, y, or z, but it could be a different story tomorrow, when as part of a minority, you need a, b, or c.
Having said that, no government can function for long if it ignores what people are telling it. But that’s precisely why we don’t have majority rule. Instead, we have democracy. And it’s democracy of a particular kind – Western liberal democracy, in the Westminster line. It’s a fabulous system of constulation and reviews, checks and balances, revision upon revisions, processes for people to agree with decisions, processes for people to dispute decisions, processes for people to review and change decisions. We deputise some of our number (public servants, lobby groups, parliamentarians, the media, the blogosphere) to research, formulate, implement, review and criticise decisions.
We don’t always get it right. But for the most part, we don’t rush into hasty decisions. And we can always change them.
This whole process helps us to accomodate diversity. Like it or not, our societies are incorrigibly diverse. It’s no use lamenting for some lost wonderland where we were all the same and everyone just got along (and it’s highly unlikely that such a place ever existed anyway). We are diverse, and that’s all there is to it. So instead of trying to make everyone fit in with what the majority wants, we actually need to find ways to live with and work with that diversity. The Westminster western liberal democratic mode of government helps that, simply because it doesn’t allow majorities to cudgel minorities into submission.
I’m not saying that our mode of government is perfect. But it’s a lot better than anything else that’s (seriously) on offer.