Majority, n.: That quality that distinguishes a crime from a law.
"There is more to freedom
than free elections. Britain is defined not by the one day in five years
that it goes to the polls but by the broader framework of which that vote
is an expression. If you look at healthy nations, competitive electoral
politics is often the final stage of their journey: property rights, the
rule of law, enforceable contracts and many other things come first. The
thug nations from Africa to Central Asia are developing the knack of holding
elections while remaining, in all other respects, tyrannies."
- Mark Steyn, "The Spectator"
of a nation can establish a totalitarian regime, suppress minorities and
still remain democratic."
- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Voters don't decide
issues, they decide who will decide issues.
- George Will
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship.
TM 2000-25: 120-121 REPUBLIC: Authority is derived throughout the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them. Attitude toward property is respect for laws and individual rights, and a sensible economic procedure. Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences. A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass. Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy. Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress.
Because if you don't,
you must be content to be governed by those who do. In a democracy politicians
have to listen to those who turn out for elections, and the voters are
now overwhelmingly middle-aged and elderly. If you're young, you should
worry that sooner or later politicians will have to listen to their demands
to take your money to fund their pensions.
- Nick Cohen, on why people should vote, "The Observer"
In his famous speech
to the electors of Bristol in 1774 Edmund Burke drew a distinction between
a delegate, who merely mirrors and records the views of his constituents,
and a representative, who exercises judgement according to his own conscience.
- Alex Danchev
"If it be admitted that a man, possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach? Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with the consciousness of their strength. And for these reasons I can never willingly invest any number of my fellow creatures with that unlimited authority which I should refuse to any one of them."
"When important issues
affecting the life of an individual are decided by somebody else, it makes
no difference to the individual whether that somebody else is a king, a
dictator or society at large."
- James Taggart
"If you would not confront
your neighbor and demand his money at the point of a gun to solve every
new problem that may appear in your life, you should not allow the government
to do it for you."
- William E. Simon
"Democracy is the form
of government that gives every man the right to be his own oppressor."
- James Russell Lowell
"You promise you will
spend a pound; then, you tell them you are spending it; finally, you tell
them you did spend it. That way, you get to spend every pound three times."
- Donogh O'Malley, former Fianna Fail Cabinet Minister.
A society is not "free"
merely because the freedoms the people are doing away with are those they
voted at the last election to do without.
- William F. Buckley, Jr.
There is nothing I
dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each
arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each
other... how few aim at the good of the whole, without aiming too much
at the prosperity of parts.
- John Adams, Second US President
Popularity was never
my mistress, nor was I ever, or shall I ever be a popular man. But one
thing I know, a man must be sensible of the errors of the people, and upon
his guard against them, and must run the risk of their displeasure sometimes,
or he will never do them any good in the long run.
- John Adams, Second US President
When over ten percent
of the voting population have something that they like, such as a no-strings-attached
provisional driving licence, no politician - under pain of ejection at
the next election - is going to dare take it away from them. Likewise,
when your radical reformations to improve a service (health, for example)
are going to entail, for several million voters, uncertainty, scrutiny,
changes of employment conditions, and in some cases the sack, you will
not remain an elected politician for very long. Thus, if a problem is allowed
to fester and grow for long enough, it can become completely insuperable
In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher wanted to close down uneconomic coal mines, which resulted in a nationwide miners strike. The strikers were supported by nearly all other union members as well as millions of voters, yet she took them on with gusto and eventually, after nearly a year, defeated them, and at the same time enfeebled the union movement as a whole. You might think that drubbing such a large demographic disproves the rule, but there was a crucial element of difference. She was a Conservative, and her union opponents and their supporters were committed, traditional Labourites, who didn't vote for her anyway. So she and her party had nothing much to lose. Her democratic mandate would not have been so safe had she assaulted the City of London, say, in similar fashion.
Thus, if you don't solve problems when they first manifest themselves, you eventually lay your successors open to an impossible situation. And you will get away with it because by then you will be long out of office. Who now blames Clement Attlee, creator of the NHS in 1948, for the inevitable problems he institutionalised into it?
- Tony Allwright, on his "Tallrite Blog"
"The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money."
- HL Mencken
Being elected to Congress
is regarded as being sent on a looting raid for one's friends.
- George Will
Take our politicians: they're a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize.
- Saul Bellow
People don't have to
buy my papers, but they do... The pocketbook is more accurate than the
- William Randolph Heart, media tycoon
Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.
"The people of Nebraska
are for free silver, and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments
- William Jennings Bryan, running for election
A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.
The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
- Opinion of a foreign king after visiting Athenian assembly (Plutatch, Solon 5)
What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it.
- Kevin Myers, "The Irish Times"
Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.
When the leaders choose
to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents,
in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become
flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of
- Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790)
Society is indeed a
contract... it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living
but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are
to be born.
- Edmund Burke 
The tyranny of the
autocrat seldom attacks the poor, never in the first instance. They are
not its proper prey. It falls on the wealthy and the great, whom by rendering
objects of envy and otherwise obnoxious to the multitude, they may more
easily destroy; and when they are destroyed that multitude which was led
to that ill work... is itself undone for ever.
I hate tyranny... but I hate it most of all where most are concerned in it. The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny... as much injustice and tyranny has been practised in a few months by a French democracy as in all the arbitrary monarchies in Europe in the forty years of my observation.
- Edmund Burke 
In a democracy the
majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions
upon the minority... and that oppression of the minority will extend to
far greater numbers, and will be carried on with much greater fury, than
can almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a single sceptre.
- Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France"
From the time of Herodotus
democracy has meant, first and foremost, the rule of the people. Elections,
open, free and fair, are the essence of democracy, the inescapable sine
qua non. Governments produced by elections may be inefficient, corrupt,
shortsighted, irresponsible, dominated by special interests, and incapable
of adopting policies demanded by the public good. These qualities make
such governments undesirable but they do not make them undemocratic. Democracy
is one public virtue, not the only one, and the relation of democracy to
other public virtues and vices can only be understood if democracy is clearly
distinguished from the other characteristics of political systems.
If a country holds competitive, multiparty elections, we call it democratic. When public participation in politics is increased, for example through the enfranchisement of women, it is seen as more democratic. Of course elections must be open and fair, and this requires some protections for freedom of speech and assembly. But to go beyond this minimalist definition and label a country democratic only if it guarantees a comprehensive catalog of social, political, economic, and religious rights turns the word democracy into a badge of honor rather than a descriptive category. To have democracy mean, subjectively, "a good government" renders it analytically useless.
Constitutional liberalism, on the other hand, is not about the procedures for selecting government, but rather government's goals. It refers to the tradition, deep in Western history, that seeks to protect an individual's autonomy and dignity against coercion, whatever the source — state, church, or society.
- Fareed Zakaria, "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy", "Foreign Affairs" Magazine
# NOTES ON SOURCES
 Quoted in "Edmund Burke: His Life & Opinions" by Stanley Ayling
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