What If the Majority is Wrong?

The concept behind democracy is flawed because the majority often is unaware of the facts, misled, misinformed, or manipulated.

Growing up during World War II caused me to wonder:

What would I be thinking if I were born in Germany, Japan, or Italy? What would my life be like if the majority in my country wanted to conquer the rest of the world? What were my personal options if I disagreed with the majority? Go along? Do as I was told? Serve the cause? Be patriotic? Sacrifice my life? Or rebel? Today, I ask myself the same question. In this self-proclaimed superpower, must I always accept the decisions of the majority?

In my senior year of high school (1951) I won my school’s contest that involved writing a speech explaining “Why I Speak for Democracy.” Rereading the words in that speech today, I realize just how brainwashed I had become. I hadn’t read Plato’s Republic or Orwell’s 1984 yet, nor experienced life in the “real” world where the majority rules in the United States of America, and the minority of the citizens must conform or else!

Later I worked in Argentina for eight years during the “Dirty War” to stop the insurrection that sought to bring Cuban Communism to that country. Many supposedly innocent persons died at the hands of the military dictatorship. Some victims were sympathizers with the insurrectionists, but others were not. The practices by the government and its enforcers to rid the country of dangerous “terrorists” were later considered inhumane, illegal, and subject to punishment. But the question posed during the Nuremberg trials of World War II war crimes was not easy to answer in Argentina: Who was responsible for the deaths of the innocent? At what level of military command were the soldiers guilty of killing people without trials? What choice did the lower level troops have to resist the orders of the generals and admirals in charge?

The experts who have studied the recent Great Recession have uncovered the root cause of the mortgage crisis that led to the collapse of mortgage financing in the banking industry. Eager homeowners were permitted to buy homes with financing terms which leaders of this country elected by the majority deemed to be beneficial to the economic progress of this nation. Daring citizens felt that the inflating housing market was not dangerous to the long term welfare of this nation because those in charge knew what they were doing. Who was responsible for this disaster: the debtors, the creditors, the bank examiners, the heads of the Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, Wall Street, Main Street, or the members of the media who were asleep? Many of those faithful lemmings who followed the majority off the mortgage cliff are suffering now, but only in retrospect is that lesson learned. No one has been charged with crimes against society.

That unfortunate situation begs the question: Who truly knows what to do in “good times” or “bad times,” the majority? Who listens to enlightened minority voices warning the innocent about the perils being ignored? What can sincere citizens do in the future to avoid such debacles? Already the State of California is virtually bankrupt and the Federal Government is rapidly moving in the same direction undertaking trillions of dollars of future obligations. The general consensus of the uninformed public is that a government entity with the power to assess taxes can’t go bankrupt. Is that commonly shared belief founded on solid historical experience?

The majority of US citizens are busy “making ends meet” and providing for their immediate families. The majority of them don’t want to cure the ills of the world nor pay for fixing the broken down cars and sick bodies of their neighbors. Whose responsibility is that? And why are there so many things that need fixing? Why aren’t there jobs for the people out of work, remedies for terminal illness, enough money for the entitlements demanded by needy citizens, and peace with the Muslims? Achieving those ends is what the majority thinks is best for this country and its hard-working citizens.

Who can dispute that?

No politician will who wants to have an elected job. The majority of the voters must be right.

Let’s placate them with promises of a bright future and “no tax increases!” That’s modern democracy in action. Everyone everywhere ought to accept the will of the majority even when it’s wrong. Humans can’t predict the future, but their leaders must undertake the impossible task of making decisions about the future. Unintended consequences and uncompromising opponents subsequently may prove that the majority was wrong. Then there will be a new majority elected to bring about change. However, change isn’t always beneficial to everyone involved. It usually creates a new minority of dissatisfied citizens.

The optimist thinks that someone will come along shortly to fix the obvious problems. That’s what smart humans do when a system fails, no? The alarmed pessimist angrily and sometimes vociferously laments the reality. However, he is aware that the next fix could damage the system further or irrevocably. Action is demanded, and the representatives of the majority sooner or later decide to do something. Such was the history of the new healthcare legislation that awaits implementing regulations.

The realist ignores this polarization between opposing parties and continues to work the system as best he can, fully aware that there is no Utopia – worse things could happen tomorrow or better things. The best that might happen to an individual is a slight tweaking by some unseen human hand that removes those obstacles in the system that impedes his journey.

Of course, the realist also recognizes that the will of the majority is frequently manipulated by a few clever demagogues who are connected to those who have deep pockets in their name brand jeans. These ambitious humans seek the attention of the media who earn their wages from spreading government propaganda and “conventional wisdom” – always in the best interests of the nation of course! The general public must get used to the idea that freedom to resist the will of the majority passively or actively is still allowed in this country, but frowned upon.

Chic Hollis is a longtime drummer and motorcyclist, who served in the US Air Force in North Africa. Married 4 times with 5 children born in 5 different countries on four continents, Chic is a politically independent citizen of the world interested in helping Americans understand the reality that is life overseas where many intelligent, educated, and industrious people aren’t as privileged as we are in the US. He studied Latin, Greek, Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German and ran several large companies. Sadly, Chic Has left this planet and we miss him very much, but we are very pleased to display his amazing writing works.