It is an inarguable, empirical fact, that citizens of a Democratic Republic, such as the United States, universally and willingly, recognize that the rules, and laws, promulgated by societal authority, expressed through its duly elected government, are legitimate, and accordingly, determinative. Yet, it is undeniably and simultaneously the case, that the national mantra (and a predicate principle of our sovereign nation) that each citizen has an absolute guarantee of its non-interference with individual, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It might be useful to, once more, observe that, the two antonymic concepts are conceptual mutual enemies.
Simply put, democracy is rule by the majority vote of the national population. It is obvious that any determination may be contrary to the will, and conceivably, limit the liberty, of some members of the voting minority. That this not uncommon, is illustrated by the currently debated issue as to the legality of the general use of marijuana. As the law currently exists, it is criminal to sell or use marijuana; despite an evidently popular argument that the law, criminalizing such sale or use, interferes with liberty. We, do not, ourselves, smoke or use the Statutorily prohibited substance, but have, in various past writings, legally observed, that unless government can, demonstrate a public or health rationalization for such prohibition, its criminalization may be considered arbitrary, and accordingly, legally invalid and unenforceable. As noted, in previous writing, it is a fixed matter of established, American precedent, that, unless a rational expectation of harm can be demonstrated, societal proscription of liberty, is legally invalid and unenforceable.
Examples of properly adjudged, legal and justifiable abridgement of liberty, are found, in the matters involving the false cry of “fire” in a crowded theater (speech), the marriage to plural spouses (religion), non-peaceful protest (petition), the right to commit suicide (life). It is, and has been an established principle of law that every one of our assured freedoms have limitations (concerning interference with the rights of, or potential damage, to others). It was the French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, who is historically credited with the designation underlying concept, of the “Social Contract,” pursuant to which, man, voluntarily and contractually, surrenders some of his natural liberty, in exchange for the benefits derived from living in society.
Completely absolute and unharnessed majority rule, could result in, as termed by political scientists, a “tyranny of the majority,” in which, those not included in the voting majority, might find themselves under their absolutist rule. For this, and other reasons, (our often quoted) Thomas Jefferson, declared that, for a democracy to succeed, what is needed was informed, literate citizens. Citizens can keep themselves adequately informed, regarding vital national and personal issues, especially, proposed legislative and executive acts, which could be perceived as infringing upon guaranteed citizen liberty. Those, who, in order to satisfy their self-interest or political beliefs, would stifle or limit the rights of others, can be defeated by voters who remain vigilant, or, as necessary, by recourse to legal action. It may be of some utility for the informed citizen, to review media which traditionally espouses views, in opposition to his,
Of the greatest importance to a democracy, is for the informed, literate citizen, to think, independently, based upon his personal perception of events, rather than “tribally,” viz., as part of a confederate group, or for irresponsible or social reasons. We are a country that has historically prided itself upon the independent and creative thought of its educated citizenry, and will continue to remain strong and successful, as long as this reliance is realistic.
We have, unfortunately, noted sundry, misguided approaches to the attempted ascertainment of the objective and unbiased sentiment of the voting public. There have been programs, in which the sponsor or organizer, of a public, panel discussion, dutifully and responsibly, arranges for participants who represent the opposing points of view in question; but far too often, selects those who espouse the extremist versions thereof, and logically, their nuanced, solutions. The sophomoric belief, that by inviting such extremist opponents, the issue will be entirely covered and have a complete, full and fair airing, is laughable. This reductive ignorance, completely ignores the far greater number of individuals, on each side of the argument, who may have significantly more moderate views. The understanding and appreciation that contested points of view, are not, usually, reductively identical, takes a bit more mature judgment, and at least a modicum of exercised reason.
We cannot resist reciting another, entirely whimsical, but, fictional, instance of an attempt, at the accurate ascertainment of the public need. A would- be entrepreneur, inexperienced, but wishing to enter into the men’s shoe business, inquired [ of the (reductionist) producer of the above panel discussion] as to what sizes of shoes should be purchased, for opening day. The always confident, reductionist, prudently and confidently advised, that, in order to avoid mistake, to order the average size man’s shoe size, as a start. In appreciative compliance, the new, inexperienced entrepreneur, after performing a little arithmetic, then, confidently, ordered an entire store inventory of size, 8 ¼ which, of course, fit, and sold to no one.