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Posts Tagged ‘majority’

Robin Hanson expresses eloquently a theme I have often touched upon:

We feel a deep pleasure from realizing that we believe something in common with our friends, and different from most people.  We feel an even deeper pleasure letting everyone know of this fact.  This feeling is EVIL.  Learn to see it in yourself, and then learn to be horrified by how thoroughly it can poison your mind.  Yes evidence may at times force you to disagree with a majority, and your friends may have correlated exposure to that evidence, but take no pleasure when you and your associates disagree with others; that is the road to rationality ruin.

I see this everyday with my liberal friends, I see it in the blogosphere, I see it in atheists and worshippers, libertarians and socialists, idealists and pragmatists. The collectivist tendency is a powerful one.

And I know it exists within me too, though it is rarely displayed on a social level, principally because there’s no one I know who I think of as an intellectual associate. Perhaps that is a good thing.

The tendency to immerse oneself within echo chambers is hard-wired into the human psyche. It is a survival mechanism and it is an enemy of rational thought.

Robin Hanson’s words deserve to be remembered everyday by each person who thinks of himself or herself as a rational, intellectual being.

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Damon Root has an excellent article at Reason where he discusses liberty and federalism in the context of a draconian South Dakota law that, if the voters decide so, would ban virtually all kinds of abortions.

Look at it like this. The United States Constitution guarantees a number of specific individual rights, including free speech and the right to keep and bear arms. But what about those rights that aren’t listed? Do we have the right to drink apple juice? How about the right to grow a mustache? More crucially, what about the right to be left alone? The Constitution mentions none of them. So if a majority of voters agree that we don’t possess these (or countless other) rights, what’s to stop the government from restricting our liberty?

Which brings us back to the voters of South Dakota. There’s nothing inherently noble about a majority of people agreeing on a particular issue. Indeed, bad ideas often prove more popular than good ones. It’s only when popular majorities are anchored to the idea of inalienable rights that they’re most entitled to our respect. Without that underlying commitment to individualism, majority rule can and frequently will degenerate into the loss of liberty for unpopular minorities. The racist policies of the Jim Crow South, after all, were often extremely popular among white voters.

So before we get too misty over the will of the people of South Dakota, let’s remember that James Madison warned us about the tyranny of the majority, not the tyranny of unfettered individual liberty.

Read the whole article.

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