Democracy rests on the notion that majority rules. To give you an example, let’s say that you, Bill O’Reilly and I are on a deserted island. If you and I voted to cut out Bill-o’s tongue, despite his protests we could do so while remaining faithful to the democratic process.
Two is greater than one. Power is in the hands of numbers.
The difference, of course, is that in the island scenario we would by necessity be practicing direct democracy rather than representative democracy. In ‘Murica we vote for transient power-holders on the basis of their promises and our judgements of both their sincerity and inherent capacity to fulfill those promises.
We are free to choose to whom we are a slave to.
So now imagine (a convenient) 100 people stranded on a deserted island. The majority, which let us say is roughly 51 people, elects Bob for a year-long term. One of Bob’s campaign promises was to cut out the tongue if Billo, and once elected he made it his first order of business.
This would be representative democracy. We don’t vote for every decision, but we vote for decision makers with a limited shelf-life.
The insane nature of democracy as illustrated above may not come across so clearly for those of you who don’t quite feel the same way about that pompous, chronically-interrupting douche-bag impervious to logic and fact as I do, so let me provide what may serve as a more effective for-instance.
Say that the representative elected in the former scenario had among his campaign promises not only the removal of Billo’s tongue, but also that the one black and two homosexuals of the otherwise straight, white population of 100 should be burned at the stake. Well, fact of the matter is that this is all still very democratic. After all, majority rules. The People have spoken. If you don’t like the way the island society works, well, start swimming, minorities.
Smell the distinct odor of unethical, inhumane, yet all-too-human bullshit now?
Let us rewind to when those 100 stranded islanders accepted that they would in all likelihood never be found and needed to erect a social order, a system of governance. As talks went along and democracy was a concept attracting support, some members of the stranded saw the disastrous potential of majority rules. They wanted to secure the liberty of the minority of the population, focusing on securing the rights of the catch-all minority of one to ensure that individual rights stood as untouchable before the masses, immune to the rabble. They decided that the potential injustice inherent in democracy should be kept in check by certain impervious laws protecting individual liberty.
Impervious: yeah, that was an issue, but giving the individual the power to stand up to the determinations of the democratic process should they ignore the no-trespassing zone of personal freedom was about as close to assurance as they could achieve. So a Bill of Rights was fashioned.
As a result, the social system of the islanders was a hybrid of democracy, the rule of the people, and the republic, or the rule of law. An experiment that they felt held promise. The injection of hope for the individual against the power of the herd.
Individuals have the right to the freedom of speech. It didn’t matter if that speech offends others, is contrary to the tastes of the majority or even minorities for that matter.
I have the right to find Billo a self-stroking sentient phallic being faithfully jettisoning verbal feces in place of ejaculate, but he has the right to exist and spew poo to his army of sycophant sheep like a diarrhetic Gallagher on amphetamines. People can cry or hate me when I subject their religion to analysis and rant regarding how it is absurd, divisive and insulting to the human species. My rights are as secured as their own, so I will not be apologizing to O’Reilly, Glen Beck, George Bush, Anne Coulter or the present or past Popes. They can say what they wish and I can say what I want, and we have the right to do so without apologies or justifications to one another.
This means that individual freedom exists for bigots, racists and homophobes, too, not just those who share, say, my own particular taste. You don’t have to change your mind no matter how much I think it stinks to high hell, but you cannot make your taste The Law for All, as that would be an attack on The Liberty of Each. But try telling that to the FCC.
It goes beyond the noises we make with our mouths, however, the things we bleed through our bony fucking fingers and which we pound out on the keyboard and other forms of personal expression. For instance, this also means that people have the right to own guns regardless as to how much those boom-sticks might scare your sissy pants off. This means that two people of the same sex can get married no matter how insecure it makes you feel, or however much you believe in your petty god and his commandments. This means that each person has the right to put any drug in their body that they desire. Your meaty receptacle of consciousness is your own damn business. Just not in the eyes of those fighting the bad fight in the ineffectual and resource-siphoning War in Drugs, it would seem.
Much of the infliction on individual freedom comes, interestingly enough, under the guise of preventing potential infliction. Driving under the influence of particular drugs, for instance, or doing anything under the influence of specific substances is made into a crime. Abortion is made illegal.
Take regulatory agencies. Elected representatives create regulatory agencies never voted for — such as the Health Department or the Food and Drug Administration — to protect The People from themselves. Like organisms, these organizations have the basic instinct of self-preservation. As a consequence, they find problems where there are none to be found so their existence is seen as justified, their work a necessity. Generating the illusion of need is a crucial survival technique in their case.
The same, perhaps, could be said of the government as a whole.