The majority vs the “idiots”

While majority rule is a cornerstone of democracy, it is important to remember that the majority doesn’t always have all the answers.

“There’s always some idiot who thinks he knows more than what the huge majority knows,” read a comment posted on The Journal’s Facebook page, in reaction to a link to a widely read opinion article carried by this portal.

The op-ed piece, penned by lawyer Dr Mark Said, was titled Perhaps Labour needs a revamp and examined the Labour Party’s shrinking lead in the polls, even though “it has the credit of coming up with and implementing a plethora of commendable social measures, much-needed legal and institutional reforms, a consistently ever-growing national economy, and budget after budget that truly projected its socialist ideology and did the utmost to stand with the people in any circumstance.”

As the English-language portal owned by the Labour Party, we at The Journal pride ourselves of offering a platform for people to come together to discuss and analyse news, current affairs, and relevant issues in a genuine and purposeful way. As declared in our mission statement, “our goal is to provide a multifaceted and open-minded insight into matters that affect our lives, whether they are of local, national, or global concern. We do not shy away from tackling controversial issues, and do not hesitate to ask challenging questions.”

That comment, as well as less articulate but similarly dismissive ones such as ‘40,000 maġġoranza’ or ‘Viva l-Labour’, make no attempt to use reason and well-formed arguments to challenge the author’s claims. They shut down any possibility of meaningful discussion. Reading them took my thoughts on a detour back to the 1980s when, as a Nationalist Party activist, along with others, I would often respond to criticism towards the party or the government it led with a simple reference to the party’s then-dominant majority: “51%”.

French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the 19th century, identified the potential for a “tyranny of the majority”. He warned that the majority’s voice, however powerful, could stifle dissent and freedom of expression. Importantly, this threat extends not just to those who oppose the majority party or parties, but also to those within the majority itself who hold differing viewpoints on specific issues.

Democratic structures can be effective when they can both address the needs of the people and adapt through open consideration of constructive internal and external criticism. While majority rule is a cornerstone of democracy, it is important to remember that the majority doesn’t always have all the answers, and minority voices deserve to be heard and considered. History shows that the majority isn’t always right, and progress often comes from critical thinking and from those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Illustration: Hermann Mueller/Getty Images

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