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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Republic: a Constitutionally limited representative government

Related Link » Majoritarianism in its place
“First, democratic as may be, these polities [liberal democracies] must not permit majority opinion to prevail in all circumstances [tyranny of the majority]. There are fundamental human rights that must not be breached and there may also be entrenched rights - embodied, for example, in a constitution [see Bill of Rights in US Constitution]. That a majority is in favour of violating someone's fundamental rights is not an acceptable reason for doing it, and if a legislature or judiciary can see that this does not happen, so much the better. Second, it is an assumption of representative democracy that political representatives, while broadly representing the interests and opinions of their constituents, do so according to their own best judgement. They are not mandated delegates, obliged to do the exact bidding of those who elect them. [...] These are not ‘illiberal and anti-democratic’ features of pluralist democracy; they are integral to it - and something to be uncomfortable about only if one thinks unrestrained majoritarianism on all issues and in all spheres should be the guiding principle. But it shouldn't. There is no single principle that, prevailing, would ensure for us a just and liveable world. We have to operate with many values. That's more messy and can lead us into situations of tension or, sometimes, overt contradiction. But it's the way of the world. If you know something better, bring it on. Simple majoritarianism isn't it [see Churchill's famous dictum].” [emphasis added; [editorial remarks] inserted]
— Norman Geras, December 16, 2009

Norm discusses eloquently a recurring misunderstanding among multitudes of very vocal, passionate, and politically-challenged protesters. I have also attempted on quite a few occasions (see, for example, here, here, and here) to inform those who seem not to understand how a constitutionally limited representative government, namely a republic, differs from what Norm refers to as majoritarianism.

Majority rule, if not constitutionally limited, can and does lead to tyranny. This is why our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. They did so by institutionalizing in our blessed Constitution, the concepts of: representative government (not government via mandated delegates); protection of individual rights from the tyranny of the majority (via the Bill of Rights); and, the beauty of a tripartite government's checks and balances (via Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches).

(click to enlarge)
h/t Theo

Post #1,046 Republic: a Constitutionally limited representative government

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