Monday, January 25, 2016

(Non Political) Tyranny of the Majority

Marathon, FL

Last week, Libby and I were debating political systems with Ray and Pat. The subject of “The Tyranny of the Majority” came up. That phrase was mentioned often in The Federalist Papers, and it is frequently on the tip of the tongue of libertarians like us.  I have always thought of it in exclusively political contexts.

VHF 68 is the channel for general boat-to-boat chat here in Boot Key Harbor. The cruisers net is on 68. People chat on 68 all day and into the evening. But this morning, I began at 6 AM to chat with others striving to see the five planets and the ISS space station flyover. We got a complaint from another boat. Apparently they leave 68 on as they sleep, and we disturbed them.

It reminded me of when I was working in Sweden in the 70s. I worked night shift, while living in a hotel. One day a man stopped me and went into a tirade about how rude I was to make noise opening and closing doors at 6 AM, thus disturbing his sleep. But there was no thought given to how my sleep was disturbed at 9 AM by someone mowing the lawn.

The interesting point is that The Tyranny of the Majority is not just a political issue. It happens in everyday life. The majority of people who sleep at 6 AM, feel free to protest vigorously if their sleep is disturbed. The minority of people who sleep at 6 PM, have no right to protest at all. All consideration and empathy goes to the majority, zero to the minority. Is this a universal human trait? I can’t say for sure, but maybe yes.

If life was like the parliamentary system that respects the rights of the minority, quiet hours would include 6 AM 90% of the time and 6 PM 10% of the time. 

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