The Power of the Minority
I know it is common, in this country, to believe that our government acts based upon the so-called will of the majority. This leads to another idea we refer to as the “tyranny of the majority”. Unfortunately this set of ideas is completely false in a representative government that is based on the idea of 50%+1. Our government is based on just such an idea, both in the way we elect our representatives and in the way that our representatives pass laws.
Let’s ignore, for a moment, the true complexity of Congressional law making, or the fact that Congress has delegated wide swaths of its power to bureaucrats that are not accountable to the voters. Consider this set of facts, instead:
- A member of Congress, whether Representative or Senator, is elected by achieving a plurality in their district or state, respectively. We’ll assume, for this argument, that they always receive 50%+1 votes to be elected and that there is 100% voter turn out.
- A law is passed in Congress by a vote of 50%+1 of the House and the Senate. Again, we’ll ignore the exceptions since they aren’t particularly important anyhow (impeachment, and such) and we will assume that all members of Congress vote on every law.
- Finally, we’ll assume absolutely honest Congressmen who represent as accurately as possible the wishes of the folks that voted for them.
What does that add up to? Well, if you followed along, 50% of Congress, representing only 50% of their districts, pass laws. That means the will of a mere 25% of the voters will decide how much you and I are taxed each and every day, what laws govern us, whether we have a ponzi scheme called Social Security, which judges will become Supreme Court Justices, and so on. In practice it is even worse than that, since legislation has to get through a committee before it can be voted on. That means that less than 10% of the population will indirectly decide whether a piece of legislation becomes law, or not, assuming that we only consider the Senate. In actuality, in the House, a mere 2% of the population is represented in deciding whether a bill leaves committee, or not.
I feel better about pure representative democracy now!