Which is worse: a democracy where minorities are oppressed or a dictatorship where minorities are protected? Before you answer that question, do keep in mind that every single human being on earth is in the minority at some point – whether its because of your gender, skin color, religion, political beliefs or what have you, at some juncture in your life there are more of them than there are of you. All of us are minorities and thus all of us are a potential target for a democracy ruled by demagogues – ruled by those who single out a minority as the source of evil which must be destroyed.
In a very real sense, the primary purpose of government is to protect minorities – because only when minorities are protected can justice be said to exist to any extent, at all. It doesn’t matter how democratic a nation is or how regularly it votes – if a minority is being oppressed, then it is an unjust society and the government is not carrying out its primary function. Government must ensure that each of us – especially when we are in the minority – are as far as possible allowed to go about our lives without let or hindrance from anyone else. Given this, better, say, a military dictatorship which will protect all the minorities than a democracy which deliberately attacks some minorities.
Of course, vastly better than either is a government of free people which also protects minorities. Once upon a time, our government was the best example of that humanity had ever devised. It is in tatters and shreds right now – so bad that the government is deliberately breaking the law in the matter of the debt limit, domestic spying, ObamaCare implementation and other matters and hardly a peep is raised about it. But it is still to some extent in existence – we are still partially free; partially protected in our minority rights, that is.
What is happening in Egypt should send a chill down our spines – because that is what democracy becomes when people are convinced that a vote of the majority rules all. The Morsi government won the election fair and square and proceeded to do whatever it pleased – because “the people” had said so. Of course, it wasn’t all of the people – the people will never be unanimous. There will always be a minority which doesn’t agree – and the first duty of the government, even if supported by 99% of the people, is to ensure that the 1% disagreeing get what they want, even (and especially) if that is no more than to be left alone. In the United States there are plenty of Americans who now think like the Morsi supporters: they’ve won the election and so they get to do whatever they want and the minority must knuckle under. That, however, is a failure of democracy – a failure to understand that we have a democracy not to determine what everyone must do, but to ensure that everyone can do as they wish, as far as practical.
For democracy to work there must be built in to it massive prohibitions against government action – for the very purpose of ensuring that a transient political majority doesn’t get it in their heads that victory at the polls is last word in government. Our Bill of Rights is our primary bulwark against the failure of democracy. What many people – mostly on the left – don’t understand is that if they don’t keep up the bulwarks, then the whole thing will come crashing down in to revolt and eventual civil war. Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed – but, remember, only their just powers. Just powers cannot be all powers because all powers cannot be granted to the government for the simple reason that not all people will consent to it.
I urge everyone not to tempt fate. Do not push things too far. Resign yourself to the fact that people will disagree and will have a right to disagree even to the point where you are offended. We are straying very close to a precipice right now – our government has grown arrogant; our political pressure groups think they are invincible. Some people are thinking that “history” is on their side, again (the Nazis and Communists thought that, too). Democracy is failing – here and around the world – because in too many lands a temporary majority thinks it has the right to re-order everyone’s lives. Stop it. Now. And let democracy be a success, again.