You and a group of friends are trying to decide where to go for lunch. The group has been stuck on the decision for 15 minutes already, with no result. Perhaps one of the most common ways to pick is to do a vote, or in other words, go with “majority rules.” It’s In-N-Out with 5 votes to McDonald’s with 2, so In-N-Out will end up being the restaurant chosen. This seemingly effective method of choosing actually presents harmful consequences, especially when dealing with cases more serious than picking where to eat.
The “majority rule” method is most commonly referred to through its role in the Supreme Court. In a majority rule system, the option which earns more than 50% of the votes wins. One reason this may be harmful is that it undermines the voice of the minority. Although there are certain rules to try to prevent the minority from being disregarded or stripped from their rights in United States Laws, such a system in other countries may result in larger issues.
“Majority rule is a way of choosing, while democracy is a system that ensures that the government is responsive both to majorities and to individuals,” said Professor Michael Munger in this video.
For example, a country that is ruled by a so-called democracy may have wealthy and elite government officials, while 70% of the country is composed of poor workers. Such majority rule-making decisions would not be beneficial to the country, as the government is solely focused on itself.
To make it simpler, let’s bring it back to daily-life scenarios. Having majority rule become a habitual way of decision-making may lead the minority to hide their feelings. Take a group of elementary schoolers – those who have a lesser-favored opinion may feel the pressures of keeping away their true thoughts, such as “go with the flow”.
Some may argue that when decisions are to be made quickly, majority rule is the most logical and quick way to come to an agreement. This is true, to some extent. Majority rule can be a great system, but any abuse of majority privilege will reverse all benefits. When the majority always gets what they want, they start to believe that their beliefs must be what is correct.
It’s hard to completely erase majority rule from the society, especially as it is already so deeply implemented in many places. However, the emphasis should be placed on how to ‘use’ it safely. Perhaps, next time a group of classmates wants to decide on which ice cream to buy for the class party, listen to everyone’s rationales before coming to a resolution. Sometimes it is the minority who have valuable ideas; they just need to be heard.
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