The Tyranny of the Majority: Direct Democracy


Caleb Garbuio, Columnist

Direct democracy is impractical and unethical because it empowers mob rule at the expense of order and security. Mob rule eliminates Locke’s contract between citizens and government, where freedom is traded for safety.
Direct democracy’s proponents claim it empowers citizens to vote on policy issues if elected officials fail their responsibilities. Yet, proponents assume that a population’s majority will know which policy changes result in positive outcomes. Recent history shows that direct democracy doesn’t always result in pleasant outcomes.
In 2008, California democratically passed Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, which remained illegal until the U.S. Supreme Court deemed Prop. 8 unconstitutional in 2013.
This case highlights the structural problem with democracy when it comes to legislating a minority population’s rights. The majority should never determine the rights and privileges of others because the proportionate majority is pursuing their needs while neglecting the needs of others.
Direct democracy wrongfully assumes everyone’s opinion is of equal merit. This concept originated from the sophist philosophy in ancient Greece. Sophist philosopher Protagoras remarked, “Man is the measure of all things,” meaning individuals construct truth. If individual perception is truth, then the best policy is one accounting for the shared majority of truth.
This concept is laughable because there are external forces that shape individual perception. These struggles shape individual realities, and individuals form groups from their external realities. Since each group is unique, then different groups have different realities.
If society is separated among groups, then a just society gives each group a platform to meet their needs. This is not an option within a direct democracy because larger groups determine policy outcomes. Therefore, democracy promotes the exclusion of some to meet the needs of others.
Since North Carolina’s Democratic primaries are around the corner, voters can choose from many candidates. Some candidates make promises that may sound great, yet won’t keep their promises once elected. Thus, informed voters must research each candidate’s policies and choose who they think will honor their word.
Direct democracy rightfully terrified our Founding Fathers. However, democratic elements when properly incorporated are necessary to promote a just society. America is a representative democracy aiming to give everyone a voice. However, its execution requires a well informed populace. Thus, America’s future rests in our hands.