Tyranny of the majority

I remember talking about this term in high school. I thought there was rule (The Bill of Rights?), or law, to discourage this kind of abuse to a minority. So I looked up Tyranny of the majority on wikipedia. There is an article, but it’s pertty scant on information.
So. is there some rule to prevent a majority of folks in California from putting forth a proposition to change the state constitution, depriving people of that state from enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population?
No, I am not gay. Yes, I am pissed. I have a big problem with bullying. But this is an honest question, and I do remember learing about some measure that is supposed to prevent such bullying.

There’s no formal rule, just a political philosophy kind of embedded in many of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The details of what these mean are up to the courts.


The solution is the reason why it’s incorrect to call the United States a Democracy.

It’s the job of elected representatives to be cooler heads who have to look at the logical foundation for all of the various sides. The lobbying system also helps with this.


Also the division of government–i.e. executive, legislative, and judicial–serves to give extra weight to individuals with lofty ideas (executive) and people who make sure that basic rights are being met as per the body of law and morality so far agreed upon as the ideals we would like to meet (judicial.)


Circumventing these for the sake of “Democracy” is going against a lot of hard work and examination of political structures prior to 18th Century. That people think it is what we have and that it is an ideal is somewhat unfortunate (IMO.)

The amending formula for the Constitution for many countries(including the US) is quite onerous to prevent this kind of situation.

The only thing would be a provision of the US constitution (one of the civil war amendments, maybe 14th) that says no state may deprive any citizen of equal protection of the laws. This sounds good, but it has been used by one or another Supreme Court to allow "separate but equal schools’ and to disallow them (among other things, separate schools were never equal, never as well funded, etc.). It has been used to permit anti-miscegenation laws (after all, they as much of a restriction on whites as on blacks) and to outlaw them (since “black” was interpreted to mean not 100% white, the application was inherently unequal). I am sure I could find more such cases if I knew how to search, you see what the problem is. Nonetheless, a law based on Sharia that required non-muslims to pay higher taxes than muslims, would clearly violate the constitution.

I don’t know what has happened since, but PA used to have a law that workers had to be given break time after so many hours of work. But the hours for women were lower than those for men. Did that violate the law? You could argue both ways (women have smaller bladders, but only on average).

It’s a tricky term, because strictly speaking the only way to prevent it is to allow tyranny of the minority.

But the idea, as it applies to the US, is to have all sorts of checks and balances so that any given majority (especially one that is ~50.1%) has some difficulty in passing its agenda. So, a constitutional amendment requires more than a simple majority to pass, and the Constitution had to be ratified by more than a simple majority.

Ultimately, though, you can’t have democracy without some sort of tyranny of the majority. Democracy means that you, at some point, vote on stuff and you have some means of passing stuff without a unanimous vote. Sure, technically you could require a unanimous vote, but then nothing would ever get done.

I vaguely remembered this from somewhere, and accidently came across it in wikipedia:

He said “marry”, not union.
My lasagna is ready. :slight_smile:

Notice he referred to “men” and not people. Clearly, he was thinking about men marrying each other. :slight_smile:

The “tyranny of the majority” refers to the idea that in a democracy, the majority makes the rules. So, in a pure democracy (meaning that every little thing is voted on by everybody), the rules will all be made by the majority, and any concerns of minorities are swept aside.

The U.S. Constitution works to stop the tyranny of the majority by granting different rights to different groups of minorities. For example, the First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. So, the majority can’t vote to shut up someone expreessing a minority view.

…except Sarah Palin.

This is exactly why the original U.S. government did not allow referenda, by the way.

You can blame the turn-of-the-century progressives for putting all of these popular measures in, and for making California’s constitution ridiculously easy to amend.

Vox Imperatoris