Blog #7 Democracy, the Enemy of Liberty

It is disappointing to observe, at times, the conflation of the basic and competing, concepts of the elemental words, “Democracy” and “Liberty”.

History reveals that democracy is not the natural state of societies. Rule by a king or queen, chief and the like, was traditionally the case. The 6th Century Greeks can claim the kudos for the origin of the word “democracy” (government by the people, instead of a Ruler) if not the practice. It seems that the right to participate in Greek democracy (viz.,to vote) was restricted to male landowners as distinguished  from most of that population, slaves, women and “foreigners.”

Today it is an established American truism that majority rule (more than 50%) is the preferred (binary) decision- making formula; after all, rule by a supermajority  only vests decision making  power in a needed  minority. Bentham and Mills’ “greatest good for the greatest number,” affords problems for the lesser numbers.

In a democracy, those who do vote not with the majority are understandably concerned with the limits set on society. The ever- present fear of “the tyranny of the majority” was the concern of our founders who added an addendum to the Constitution, “”The Bill of Rights”, protecting all citizens (including significantly, the minority) in general language as to enumerated rights. Generally speaking, individuals are not accountable to society for acts that affect only the actors but only are accountable for acts which harm others, The legal limit between governmental power, exercised pursuant to the will of the majority, while not arbitrary, all too often  requires scrutiny, and, where needed judicial determination.

I have too often heard a Member of Congress (who should know better), demand certain action simply because a majority of his constituency favor it. They need to be tutored in High School civics before they can do great harm.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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