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"

"Fifty-one percent 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.

- Alexander Fraser Tyler,'The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic'. TM2000-25: 118-120 DEMOCRACY: A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of direct expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic-negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Results in demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.

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.

"The people cannot delegate to government the power to do anything which would be unlawful for them to do themselves." Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stone-washed denim. Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library. And since women are a majority of the population, we'd all be married to Mel Gibson. Democracy isn’t merely about "the people" getting what they want, it’s also about the people getting what they deserve. Mobs get what they want every time. Citizens make informed choices and then live with — and learn from — the consequences. Those lessons inform how we view not merely candidates but parties and philosophies. "We gave those guys their shot and they blew it, I won’t be voting for that crowd again," is an indispensable reaction in democratic politics.
        - Jonah Goldberg, "National Review"

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."

"Self-government means we should be free to govern ourselves, not each other." "Wrong doesn't turn into right, just because the majority agrees to it." - ? "It is my right to defend myself and I can authorize my agent, the public servant in government, to help me defend my rights. But I have no authority to violate the rights of others so I cannot authorize the person in government to do it either."
        - David Bergland

"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 by democrats.
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."

An election is nothing more than an advance auction of stolen goods. - Ambrose Bierce If a politician found he had cannibals in his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.

        - 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 ballot box."
        - 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.

- Frank Herbert, "Children Of Dune" It would be a healthy exercise for every politician to look in the mirror every morning and remind himself that he holds office only because, in a two-man race against another mediocrity, a modest majority of those half-informed people who imagined that their votes mattered reckoned that he was the lesser evil. And they weren't too sure about that. - Joseph Sobran A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years. - Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators." - PJ O'Rourke "Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce (Roman coin): and then everybody would shamelessly cry, 'Long live the King!' The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them." - Éttiene de la Boétie "Most of the presidential candidates' economic packages involve 'tax breaks,' which is when the government, amid great fanfare, generously decides not to take quite so much of your income. In other words, these candidates are trying to buy your votes with your own money." - Dave Barry "It's illegal to say to a voter "Here's $100, vote for me." So what do the politicians do? They offer the $100 in the form of Health Care, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps, tobacco subsidies, grain payments, NEA payments, and jobs programs." - Don Farrar "There are many farm handouts; but let's call them what they really are: a form a legalized theft. Essentially, a congressman tells his farm constituency, 'Vote for me. I'll use my office to take another American's money and give it to you.'"
        - Walter Williams

"The people of Nebraska are for free silver, and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later."
        - 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.

- George Bernard Shaw The Roman government gave them bread and circuses. Today we give them bread and elections... - Will Durant "Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone." - Frederic Bastiat The policies implemented by governments are the policies that win elections, these are obviously not necessarily the policies that should be implemented. "Once politics become a tug-of-war for shares in the income pie, decent government is impossible." "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." "The whole idea of government is this: if enough people get together and act in concert, they can take something and not pay for it." - PJ O'Rourke But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. - Frederic Bastiat, "The Law" THE PROCESS

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.

- Winston Churchill "I find it astonishing that here wise men speak on public affairs, while fools decide them."

        - 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.

- Robert A. Heinlein, "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. Happy is the land where elections are exercises in boredom.

        - 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.

- E. B. White Every country has the government it deserves - Joseph Marie de Maistre ( 1811 ) Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. - Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness Wise men argue causes, and fools decide them. - Anacharsis Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote. - Terry Pratchett, "Mort" Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. - H. L. Mencken It has been my observation that one of the prices of giving people freedom of choice is that sometimes they make the wrong choice. - Odo, ‘Shakaar’, Star Trek DS9 We once worried that democracy could not survive if an undereducated populace knew too little. Now we worry if it can survive us knowing too much. - Robert Bianco, Radio-TV editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule--and both commonly succeed, and are right. - H. L. Mencken Of course the government and the newspapers lie. But in a democracy, they're not the _same_ lies. - GURPS Illuminati, Steve Jackson Games Let me give you an analogy that I find striking. Suppose the way we bought automobiles was you create a group of 10,000 people and you say, "Alright. In two weeks, we're going to have an election. Whichever model of car wins, you all get one." In that system, you would not spend the next two weekends test driving because you would say to yourself, "With 10,000 people out there, even if I figure out what's the right car for me, which is going to take quite a lot of time and effort, reading Consumer Reports, test driving and so forth, my vote is very unlikely to decide it. I'm going to get what the rest of them want anyway." So none of us are going to make much effort to figure out what car we want and we'll get whatever car we happen to have seen an ad for recently, something of that sort.
        - David Friedman

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 the people.
        - 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 [1]

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 [1]

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


[1] Quoted in "Edmund Burke: His Life & Opinions" by Stanley Ayling

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