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The will of the people

 
 
sumac
 
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 05:47 am
When, if ever, should the views of the majority of the populace be ignored?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 12 • Views: 2,831 • Replies: 49
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Mame
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 06:32 am
@sumac,
Perhaps when they're unaware of the majority of the facts and the ramifications of the various possible actions.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 06:39 am
@sumac,
When the will of the people exhibits a lack of education of provable facts, or common sense and/or decency and it fails to serve the welfare of the general populace:

As trivial example and analogy, there's an exhibition-sport (some readers may not know of this) here in North America called MMA fighting. Make no doubt about it - this is a bloodsport. Young children watch this senseless violence (real blood shed) and it's VERY popular now. Prof. boxing has become more obscure and its popularity has declined. MMA has filled this void and rides the popularity on the shoulders of WWF (wrestling theatrical exhibition). The problem is the rules are still in process of being shaped (knee stikes, elbow stikes, kicks when opponent is down, etc.) to reduce the chances of maiming and death.

The will of the people is to have these exhibitions in prime-time and placed in front of the eye's children. Canada just responsed by blocking broadcast of MMA shows due to the concern over welfare of their populace. I support this decision to overide the will (arguably) of the general populace. Hockey is bloody and violent enough, but it's part of the fabric of Canadians culture for decades. MMA makes NHL Hockey look like a spelling bee. Some may argue and debate over conclusions drawn from research that shows that children emulate and copy the behaviors seen in such exhibitions.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 07:27 am
Lack of knowledge, ignorance, whatever you call it. An important key, but there is bound to be more of this discussion.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 08:06 am
When the will of the majority violates human rights.

This is the reason we have rights guaranteed in the Constitution. The majority doesn't need their rights defended.
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  2  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 08:47 am
Even assuming that the "will of the people" actually exists outside of some Romantic fable, or that if it does, it can be determined in an objective manner---the more complex the society, the less likely a general will is meaningful--- the question still remains whether it is capable of providing any sort of guidance for real action: a million times zero is still----zero.

We commonly recognize that majority opinions in the sense, as I take it, in the first post does not apply to many horizons; one does not, for example, take a show of hands to determine if a scientific law is correct, or if a particular religious dogma is true, of if my coffee pot is black. The question seems to present itself: why do we think that within the political horizon that the will of the people holds some special place of honor?

Indeed, one can peruse human history and not find an actual instance in which the wisdom of mankind did not put some checks on the absolute authority of majority opinion, which at best is a fickle beast and at worse has been a juggernaut drawing its power from the shouts and riots of very lowest of human emotions.
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 09:00 am
@jgweed,
jgweed said:
Quote:
The question seems to present itself: why do we think that within the political horizon that the will of the people holds some special place of honor?


My precise question. As a contemporary example, the Tea Party movement seems to imply that politicians need to conform to their views.
IRFRANK
 
  2  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 03:07 pm
Ok, who's seen Idiocracy ??

That might answer the question.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 03:24 pm
@sumac,
Maybe not, sumac. I suspect that it is a collection of viewpoints, each of which might be good for some particular person, but not good for the nation. Taxed Enough Already is a cool tag line, but we're not sending anyone to congress to abolish all taxes. Only the ones that we don't approve of as individuals. Polititions must surely address the group, but not necessairly conform to whatever platform they might come up with.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 04:21 pm
@sumac,
sumac wrote:

When, if ever, should the views of the majority of the populace be ignored?


When a group of nutcases is shouting "Hang 'im, hang 'im!"
spendius
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 04:50 pm
@Mame,
That's a tricky one Mamie as Dr Samuel Johnson explained. As did B.F Skinner one of your most famous behaviourists. You must be a Christian at heart.
Mame
 
  2  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 05:18 pm
@spendius,
No, I'm certainly not a Christian at heart - I'm talking about crowd mentality.
spendius
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 30 Aug, 2010 05:21 pm
@Mame,
Oh but you are. You proved it.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 08:38 am
@sumac,
Whenever expression or execution of that 'will' denies or infringes upon what that society's defined as a basic "right" due to all individuals.

There has to be a boundary or limit that says, essentially, "No matter what the state or other voting decide should be done, your <yada> will not be violated because we decide this <yada> is far too important for all of us.." . What those boundaries or individual "rights" should be - obviously - is up to the members participating in whatever social contract we're talking about.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 09:05 am
@sumac,
I don't really have an opinion on when the will of the majority ought to be "ignored." However, it is significant that the constitution of the United States is written to protect against both majoritarian and minoritarian tyranny.

The Electoral College reduces majoritarian tyranny sighificantly, and for all that people often complain of it, it was absolutely necessary to secure the ratification of the constitution. At the time that the draft of the constitution was sent out for ratification, the state of Virginia had the largest population, with Massachusetts not far behind. Between them, in an absolute majoritarian democracy, Virginia and Massachusetts could effectively have chosen the President, chosen all of the executive officers and written all of the legislation. They could have amended the constitution at will. They could have dealt between one another to accomplish these ends, and dictated foreign policy as well--all while ignoring the rest of the states.

The representatives of the other states were not dumbies--they knew this, which is why the Electoral College and the provisions of the powers of the Senate were necessary to secure ratification. In particular, the Electoral College assures that all the states have a significant role in choosing the President, and that no mere populous coalition can dictate to the rest of the nation. As the demographics of the United States work now, without the Electoral College, the megalopolis which stretches from Boston to Washington, Florida, Texas and California would elect every President, and the rest of the country could go try to piss up a rope. Without the Senate, the Representatives of those same states would have the control of the Executive cabinet and all foreign policy.

If the President--who is chosen by the several states as much as by the people at large--vetoes a bill, it requires a two thirds vote to override that veto. Washington want a four fifths provision, but the convention wouldn't have it. It works well enough as it is, and a four fifths provision would make the Presidential veto nearly bullet-proof. Three fifths of the several states must ratify amendments to the constitution. Once again, this prevents a coterie of populous states or areas from colluding to create the government they want while the rest of the country is free to be damned.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 09:13 am
@jgweed,
Quote:
Indeed, one can peruse human history and not find an actual instance in which the wisdom of mankind did not put some checks on the absolute authority of majority opinion, which at best is a fickle beast and at worse has been a juggernaut drawing its power from the shouts and riots of very lowest of human emotions.


This is not quite true. Athens had a "pure" democracy, and manipulating the mob allowed Demosthenes to defy Philip of Macedon until finally he invaded Greece, and defeated the combined armies of Athens and Thebes at Chaeronea--after which he was free to dictate terms to almost all of Greece. (Not necessarily to the Lacedaemonians, but nobody in Greece any longer had any respect for Sparta, nor did they fear them with Philip in the driver's seat.) There was absolutely no check on the power Demosthenes derived from the mob, whom he was able to manipulate through his oratory. In the end, Athens suffered for it, and one could argue that the rest of Greece did as well. Philip actually "bent over backwards" for years hoping to avoid the clash with Athens--and Thebes suffered even more then Athens in their defeat--although Philip understood the dynamics at work and let the Thebans off fairly easily, the Sacred Band was destroyed, and Thebes was never again a formidable military power, as once it had been.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 09:17 am
Thanks, Set, that was all fascinating.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 01:25 pm
@sumac,
it WAS? Shocked
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 01:46 pm
@Ragman,
Sure was.
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Aug, 2010 01:49 pm
@sumac,
Frankly, not to me. Delving into the history of democracy is a self-indulgent excursion that IMHO drifts off-topic, which for some folks can be fun. Call me deluded, but I thought in this topic we were discussing modern civilization.
 

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