Opitz on Majority Tyranny and Democratic Despotism

Sunday, June 25, 2006
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The June 2005 issue of The Freeman includes a reprint of “Freedom and Majority Rule” by Edmund Opitz – originally written in 1977. Opitz ponders the role of government and law, and the oppression created by a majority-rule democracy. He nimbly secedes “I” from “we” by asserting that the results of popularity contests aren’t necessarily binding on us as individuals, especially when you consider the fact that those who win such popularity contests form a minority rule that exercises a legal agency of compulsion. He explains that what contemporary politics considers to be a “majority” is actually a numerical minority molded by an even smaller minority of self-interested men.

Opitz notes:

How often have you heard someone declare, “In America, we are the government”? This assertion is demonstrably untrue; “We” are the society, all 215 million of us; but society and government are not at all the same entity. Society is all-of-us, whereas government is only some-of-us.

Thus, a mob rules scenario is represented as such:

The dictionary definition of a majority is 50 percent plus 1. But if you were to draw up an equation to diagram modern majoritarianism it eould read:

50% + 1 = 100%; 50% -1 = ZERO!

The Opitz solution is not anarchy, but rather, changing the character of a people through religion, ethics, art, and education, which in turn will elevate the intergity of politics. (Opitz is a limited government adherent.) However, the issue I would ponder is is this: what happens in a state where the elected mob has unlimited control – thus, a legalized monopoly – over the aforementioned categories that most determine a person’s character? What we see is a progressively oppressive state that never reigns in its powers – it only enlarges them.

The Kirkean system of liberal-arts-for-all can never be successful when the mouthpieces for the “some-of-us” majority are at the helm of that, too, and thus centrally planning that aspect of life as well as everything else.

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