Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Majority Vs The Minority

Does the majority have a right to overrule the minority? I have been trying to follow the Prop 8 hearing in the California Supreme Court, and as of a few days ago, both sides were finished, and all that remained was the ruling.

One news site I read from, the San Francisco Chronicle, said that the Justices seemed the be leaning towards upholding Prop 8, and quoted Chief Justice Ronald George. "There have been initiatives that have taken away rights from minorities by majority vote [in the past]"


Now, I was discussing this with a friend of mine, who is gay herself, and she is, for very good reason, very much against Prop 8. She thought this statement was ridiculous, because the majority does not have the right to take away a right of the minority or suppress them, especially in this case. I disagreed however, at least on the actual issue of, Does the majority have the right to suppress, control, or otherwise hinder the minority's right to do something. That is what I would like the examine today.

Leaving aside the question of, What is a Right, and using it in the more generalized sense to mean something that we are entitled to, I personally think that, yes, the majority does have that right. Actually, there is no question whether it does or not, the only question is, Should it. It's easy to tell it does, because every time 1 or more people don't agree with a Law that is passed, the majority has just over ruled and controlled them.

Basically, look at the chain of command. That majority votes in people to office. Those people make the laws. The laws restrict and control what we can do. Leaving aside crime and people ignoring the laws, and accusations that the real power and decisions are not made by the people we elect, let us assume that that perfect system is how it works. Whoever, though advertising, campaigning,and money, can control the vote, can force their will upon everyone else, because they convince the majority that that will is the majority's as well.

Now, the question of, Should it have the right. Well, there are many cases where, yes, it should. For example, one man says, I think I want to kill you and take you things, then rape your daughter, and burn down your house. That is my right? Why, because I say so.

That is a minority opinion, and the majority of people disagree that we have a right to kill and rape. And so, the majority, using it's power, suppresses that minority. There are many cases like this, many good things that are prevented because they are no longer acceptable to the majority, ie, society.

On the other hand, there are many bad things which come from this, ie, Prop 8. When the majority decides to support something wrong, then there is no good way to stop it. One time this happened that could still be debated, whether is was good or bad, was seat belts. Does the government have the right to Make you wear a seat belt? The majority got it into their heads that we should wear them, and so it became law. Now, on the other hand, seat belts save lives, every day. So you could say, okay, fine, it's good. Well, now they are talking about banning talking on cellphones while you are driving. Does the majority have the right to do that? You can cite the same safety statistics, but in the end, it's still invading the privacy of your car. Cigarettes are another issue, but right now, the majority still want to allow them, even though that could change rapidly in the future, given the nature of the "public property" bans.

All of these are cases where you have to decide one by one, should the majority have been allowed to force it's will upon the rest of us, the disagree-ers, the minority? It's not a question of Does the majority do it, only, should they. And if not, then what are we going to do about it.