The tyranny of the majority: the paradox of democracy

Percussionists peform with ancient instruments 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Pedro Ugarte

As the picture shows, many times in a democracy the majority is constituted by masses of people playing a drum at the same tone with the only harmony of repeating the same as their partner. Democracy is, by no doubts, the best system that approaches the ideal goal of guarantor of human rights and freedom although through the rule of the majority.

The challenge of being democratic in a global world relies precisely on being inclusive enough to foster all beliefs and get to a result -that even not coming from unanimity- it fulfill general principles of well-being. However, not always the result goes in the correct direction and biased interests, weak leaders and wrong strategies transforms the minority in the assertive solution. In systems in which transparency and accountability is not working the political message of shift leaders becomes the only vision that the “majority” of citizens get. The consequences are devastated and we enter in what Tocqueville refers as the “the tyranny of the majority”.

Paradoxically Justice is it also ruled by the majority keeping aside the strength of a law framework as the main pillar for guaranteeing human rights.

Brexit process is a good example of how a legal referendum would not result on a democratic output. Leading by a mistaken and biased political message from their leaders it creates exactly the contrary of a democratic goal: undermining  rights without deliver alternative solutions. That was the real challenge: a misinformed and frustrated majority of citizens that trust in leaders that ultimately were not submitted to any process of accountability.

Fortunately last election´s results were a way to show dissent and to move towards accountability by the “citizenship road”. Is it here that a democratic system exposure its capacity to fix their own mistakes by itself.

I am seeing also another road to counterbalance the mistakes of the majority that is the effectiveness of using the power of global institutions. The best way to fulfill the lack that a democratic process delivers is through a global framework that assures accountability of national processes. Even if is it rules by the majority it could boost guarantees for the rights of the minority.

 Global crises exposures United Nation´s institutional weakness* at the time of delivering accountable and transparent national political systems. However, is it still good to see that a global framework “in action” is capable to deliver the challenging fact represented by the “tyranny of the majority” even if it means enter in contradiction with an equality principle; indeed, if the majority rules equality will come only through the standards mark by the majority.

Even if the “tyranny of the majority” marks the shadow of a democratic system, the light of freedom makes it always worthy. The counterweight relies on a strong system based on effective accountability and transparency, when it fails, democracy collapses and the citizenship loses all power.

The way to turn tyranny into wise focused decisions is through a well-informed, educated citizenship within a responsive political system based on transparency and accountability. That is the essence of democracy and the reason of why is a reliable and sustainable system.

However, this it not happening and the tyranny of the majority under an elite with strong private interests rules the world ….. adrift…..








*Picture: Percussionist perform with ancient instruments 2008, Beijing Olympic Games, Pedro Ugarte.


* “United Nations: a big elephant playing with a weakened planet”

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