This blog entry is based on a comment I wrote in response to an article at http://nationalinterest.org/feature/switzerland-the-ultimate-democracy-11219, which, whilst highlighting the pros of Direct Democracy, makes reference to the ‘tyranny of the majority’. This is my response…
This concept of the ‘tyranny of the majority’ always fascinates me, or more accurately annoys the hell out of me. Isn’t that actually true democracy? Exactly how can a small group of people (i.e. politicians) who ride roughshod over the will of the people, promoting their own political agendas, careers, and vested interests over the best interests of the nation as a whole be considered a better alternative? On whose say-so are the laws passed in a representative democracy in any way fair, or, to turn around the accusation, ‘non-tyrannical’ if they go against the will of the majority of the public? It’s a nonsense.
Switzerland’s population comprises 28.9% foreigners – outside micro states and the duchy of Luxembourg, the highest proportion of foreigner inhabitants in Europe. To say that these immigrants are in any way persecuted suggests that they are masochists. They are hardly oppressed enough to vote with their feet, so maybe the the touted ‘oppression’ isn’t quite ‘oppressive’ enough to make them want to leave.
The article raises the issue that there is a vague suspicion that the Swiss may have voted to ban ritual slaughter originally as a means to oppress the Jewish population. Is there any evidence for this outside the vague suspicions of the multiculturalist’s agenda? Perhaps it should be taken at face value that most westerners and animal rights groups find the slaughter practices of certain other cultures against our norms of decency with regard to the humane treatment of animals. In any case, it doesn’t seem to have had Jews fleeing the country in droves, unlike other more ‘culturally enlightened’ countries in recent years, where the active promotion of multiculturalism has led to an emboldening of less enlightened attitudes and practices. Witness the history of honour killings, child rape, veiling, Muslim patrols, and, ironically, the flight of Jews in droves from several European cities where Islam has taken a foothold. Most recently, witness the shocking events in Rotherham.
What’s often overlooked in the dash to promote multiculturalism is that a country’s inhabitants have a right to their own culture and they have a perfectly legitimate right to maintain that culture – part of the very aspect of the nation which attracts visitors and immigrants. Since culture encompasses morals and values, an indigenous population should have every right to seek to protect its own culture and to prevent the promotion of other cultural practices or symbols which conflict with the indigenous culture.
And yes, this even extends to preventing the building of minarets. In what sense does the desire of a minority to build a minaret trump the majority’s desire not to have a minaret any more than an individual’s request for planning permission to build an eyesore would trump the majority’s desire for the eyesore not to leave the drawing board? Is the minaret required for worship? Even if it were, why should the majority tolerate something they don’t want – even if their desire to not have it were regarded as baseless by others?
The ‘tyranny of the majority’ is not really tyranny, but represents another misuse of language, in the same way that ‘race’ has been misused to encompass religion, or Israel, the only viable liberal democracy in the Middle East, is incorrectly described as ‘apartheid’.
Muslims are still free to worship and even to build mosques in Switzerland. There is no suppression of actual human rights – merely behaviours which don’t fit in with the host culture, and the majority of a host nation has more of a right, as the established population, to a vague dislike of foreign cultural practices than a minority does to promote them.
The Swiss are clearly keen to avoid the ‘tyranny of the minority’ of elsewhere – where cultural vandalism happens on the say-so of minorities, or more often than that, not the minorities themselves, but a minority within the minority, or of cultural Marxists, keen to push their cultural relativist agenda, encouraging multiculturalism, segregation, misunderstanding, and ultimately behaviours which, whilst tolerated or normal in other cultures (child marriage, child abuse, wife-beating, homophobia), are illegal in Switzerland.
Can those who oppose ‘tyranny of the majority’ say in all honesty that they are happy with political decisions made on their behalf? I have yet to meet someone who is. A quick check on social media suggests otherwise. Even if they are happy when they ‘get their way’ and legislation is passed which they support, but the majority oppose, what kind of anti-democratic mind endorses this state of affairs?
True democracy means we occasionally don’t get our own way. A mature democrat will accept the will of the majority, even when it goes against their own views.
Ultimately, the majority doesn’t have to justify its actions to anyone. So long as it doesn’t transgress real human rights (as many of the immigrants’ own cultures do), it has an absolute right to do what it wants. And despite the protestations of some, the number of foreigners living in Switzerland tells us all we need to know about the reality of the situation.
Back to the wider point of Direct Democracy, we, in the representative democracy world, have widespread disillusion with politics, as has been clearly demonstrated by turnout in elections over several years now. The electorate knows that politicians, once elected, can ride roughshod over electoral promises or public opinion. Worse still, they can do that with absolute impunity and without the threat of recall. We have widespread criticism of politicians and the decisions they make across mainstream and social media, and the rise of the anti-politician, such as Russell Brand. This latter development is particularly dangerous. I wonder if we can cite any historic examples of charismatic ‘leaders’ preaching messages against democracy and advocating revolution. Hmm….
We see demonstrations almost every weekend around the country over a wide variety of issues, and yet it doesn’t take much to realise how ineffective these are in comparison to the power of the citizen initiative or referendum. And here’s the odd thing… Most demonstrations I can recall in the UK involve issues which one would normally associate with demands of the political left. The only exceptions which come to mind are the Countryside Alliance’s demonstrations and the marches of the EDL (although these were countered by the AFL, which, oddly enough, seems happy enough to march alongside proponents of conservative values, so long as they aren’t western ones).
Ironically, however, those who demonstrate in the streets to get their way, who complain about any proposed privatisation of the NHS or about UK intervention in foreign wars are not the ones who are advocating the kind of system which could see them win the argument – i.e. Direct Democracy. Rather, it is the younger political wing of the Conservative Party and UKIP (more commonly seen as merely an anti-EU party, or by lazy thinkers as BNP lite) which argues for initiative, referendum, and recall – the core components of Direct Democracy: people like Zac Goldsmith, Daniel Hannan, and Douglas Carswell: the latter having recently defected to UKIP following frustration at the lack of political reform in the Conservative Party.
There is a clear answer to the disenfranchisement of the electorate and that is Direct Democracy. Switzerland shows that, as conservative as it is perceived to be, liberal and progressive measures do make it to a public vote and occasionally become law, whereas such policies don’t usually get anywhere near becoming laws in representative democracies, due to the lobbying power of special interest groups and big business.
Wilful electoral withdrawal by the majority of the electorate and the governance of special interest groups and influence of big business is of far greater concern than any imagined ‘tyranny of the majority’.