Is Decision Majority Always Democratic? It is a common misconception to equate democracy with majority rule. If we take the term democracy literally as rule by the people, then this mean rule by the whole people, not by one part of the people over another.
In other words, the crucial democratic feature is the rights of decision making that all share equally, whereas decision by the majority and simply a procedural devise for resolving disagreement with other methods (discussion, amendment, compromise) have been exhausted.
Of course majority decision must be moire democratic that allowing minorities to decide or to obstruct the will of the majority; but in so far as it leaves the majority impotent, without any influence on the outcome, it should be regarded more as a rough and ready device for reaching decisions as the acme of democratic perfection.
Principal of Reciprocity
Defenders of majority rule point out that those in the minority on one occasion may be in the majority on the next, and that their lack of influence in one decision, or in one election, will be compensated by ‘writing’ later. Minority view, in the words, rests upon a norm of reciprocity: their turn to be in the majority will come, and other will have to respect it in the same manner as they have done.
However, this principal of reciprocity breaks down if the decision of the majority impairs a minority’s capacity to canvass its views in the future, or if the minority is a ‘permanent’ one; or is the issue being decided is so vital to the minority that it cannot be compensated by winning on different issues in the future. Each of these cases requires separate examination.
Majority and Individual Rights
When the decision of a majority (or of government acting with majority support) infringes the basic democratic rights of an individual or group, it must by definition be undemocratic.
These basic rights are those necessary to enable people to contribute to political life: the freedoms of speech, movement and association; the right to vote and stand for public office. The guarantee of these rights equally to all citizens constitutes the bedrock of a democratic system; ideally they should be given special protection in a constitution or bill rights, where they remain immune from can be justifiably suspended or qualified for everyone will be discussed later.
The principal of reciprocity breaks down, secondly, where the minority is a “Permanent” one, defined by, race, religion, language, ethnicity, or some other permanent characteristic. When the system of party competition coincides with these communities, rather than cuts across them, such a minority may be permanently excluded from governmental office and form all the prospect of political influence.
Various constitutional devices are available to prevent a condition of power-sharing, whereby they are accorded positions in the government and other public offices proportionate to their numbers; the right to veto legislation which threatens their vital interest; sustainable autonomy in the running of their own affairs.
Which these devices are most appropriate will depend upon the circumstances. Whatever the device, how now recognized as a basic human right, which requires constitutional protection.
Finally, there is the ‘intense’ minority. A group may feel that a particular issue is so important that impotence in the face of majority can never be compensated by it being part of majority of their occasions or no other issues.
Such situations simply cannot be legislated for. But a wise majority will go some way towards meeting the minority, if it all possible, rather than use its majority position simply to overrule them.
Democracy in only sustainable if people can agree to continue living together. And that requires that majorities and the government representing them should be prepared to exercise a measure of self-resistant, and do not always use the majority procedure to capture everything for themselves and their own point of view.