Tonight was a reflective night while reading my textbook for my college course, and even more after listening to the lecture from my professor. In the lecture, the entrance of the phrase “tyranny of the majority” comes front and center when speaking about the French theorist named Montesquieu and again with James Madison’s essay called Federalist #10.
I am going to make an effort to read all of those essays that were written, as they are in my library, but this tyrannical phrase feels very relevant and important to discuss further in a reflection of current times. The separation of powers that both Montesquieu and Madison theorize about are the same in some ways and very different in others.
(Bear with me…I will elaborate further in a moment.)
Power is what runs the world. Power is also what we fought against when gaining independence away from the Crown’s monarchy in the 18th century when the American Revolution took us to the Declaration of Independence.
Which takes me back to Montesquieu…
As the creator of the separation of powers ideology, Montesquieu had a great theory, but it fell a little short. He argued that the government knew how best to care for its people, and that the size of government was the key to success of delegating power.
Madison’s idea of power different, but still had the same kind of theory. The difference was that size didn’t matter but the interests on the table were key to allocating power between the central government and the states.
Federalism was the result of the compromise between the Federalists and Antifederalists to keep from “tyranny of the majority”. Madison and Montesquieu knew that there would be come to be greed and selfishness in the competition of power, so regardless of who was right, the key was to stop a coup, which we failed to do with the election of one very orange man.
Each of the men had conflicting views on how the tyranny would come into play in our history and futures, but the similarity is that power was paramount to democracy and had to be separated.
These theories from two men became a reality on January 6, 2021 in the attacks on the U.S. Capitol. Our three branches of government were designed to work together and for each branch to practice checks and balances. When one maniac gets too much power, it’s detriment for the nation. These reasons are why the Articles of Confederation were scrapped and why the Constitution took its place…to fix a weak, unilateral government that was under the mercy of the state’s contributions of tax monies to survive.
I would love to hear any feedback on my interpretation and have a good discussion about this topic.
7 thoughts on ““Tyranny of the Majority” ~ An Analysis”
Amy, it is great topic for discussion. Yet, what is interesting in America, we have tyranny of a minority. Because of social media and the ease of passing along disinformation, the strident amongst us can be used to dictate what we talk about as important. They may be evangelical church goers, NRA members, the more racist amongst us, etc. So, rather than talk about important issues, we end up focused on bumper sticker slogans that have blown out of proportion as a problem or even contrived.
A good example is the “build the wall” slogan. Immigration laws need to be improved, but the wall was only a symbol not a solution. It was used to sell fear. The bigger problems for people’s disenfranchisement are by far, (1) CEOs chasing cheaper labor and (2) technology advancements. Both cause the loss of jobs, but neither fit on a bumper sticker.
Hi Keith! I remember life used to make more sense, but I have come to realize that I was living in the clouds that my caretakers placed around me. When I started studying these topics and being active in political participation, you could say my mind was blown to the point I felt shame.
Media outlets and social media are a big crutch in this country and beyond. I always tell my family members, if the enemy ever wants to know our position on anything, all they have to do is tune in to our local news stations. I will have to find the paper I did regarding the public perception of media outlets on the ideas of crime rates. It was early in my last journey with college, but I am pretty sure I saved it.
That build the wall slogan was so detrimental to our whole “Land of the Free” image that we had for so long. Then the coronavirus adding to Asian hate, like 9/11 caused problems for the Muslim communities.
I’m sad that we have always been as bad as people say since my life was so sheltered. I am proud of who I am now since getting my eyes opened to the real world though.
Thanks for such a great conversation!
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Amy, please don’t lose heart and remain active. America needs voices like yours, who try to be informed as possible. It should not be this hard, though, to know the truth. Before tailored pseudo news outlets hit the airwaves and before social media took off, politicians used to campaign on rhetoric and govern off facts. We actually had some learned politicians who were in office – people with names like Kemp, Bradley, Tsongas, et al. They actually worked together. Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, and President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, were best friends and worked to get stuff done.
Now, collaboration is frowned upon and people get vilified by the most strident members of the party. I disagree with many of Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s policies, but she is a hero because she is standing up to those strident members in the face of death threats. That is simply not right, and the fact she knows of the death threats, should make a huge statement to her adversaries.
I have held up an example in Denmark that is telling. They had to collaborate to come up with a long term climate change action plan, as they could ill afford a one sided plan that would be debated and changed every election outcome. Why? Because Denmark sits at or below sea level. The US needs such collaboration on issues that have gotten to the point where we have a burning platform (or are below sea level using the above analogy).
Keep on doing what you are doing. Be informed. Focus on the issues. And, let politicians and others know what you think. Well done.
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Hi Keith! I am going to write up a more detailed response, as I am running late today. I didn’t want you to think I forgot to answer you back. 🙂 My day ran a little more chaotic than usual with my coursework and meetings. I love what I read, and I cannot wait to respond.
Hi Keith! I can finally do the reply that I promised earlier last week. It’s been a little crazy for me with this semester.
I think that collaboration is so frowned upon because of the cooperative federalism that blurred the lines between the federal and the state governments. We are always so scared for a branch to have too much power, but we also have a problem with governmental interference in personal and local matters.
I definitely appreciate your support and your comments that are so educational for me. I am new to the world stage, if that’s the right way to look at it. I always enjoy talking about how to make things better, and wish more folks, like us, that believed in collaboration would push for it.
Amy, there is a great book called “That used to be us,” by Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. America was built on collaboration in funding and resources. Most major projects are some blend of federal, state, and/ or local funding, private investment and sometimes venture capital. We have forgotten this along the way, while other countries do it better. Venture capital is important as it helps keep idea creators here. With too many politicians and pseudo news people saying things to win elections and not accomplish things, we end up not accomplishing very much. We must work together or we will fail. Right now, our Congress spends between 1/3 and 40% of their time campaign fundraising (per a retiring Congressman). That means they only do their job 60% of the time. Keith
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Thanks, Keith! I have added it to my list of books I want to read. I appreciate the education on this, and you always give me something to think deeper about. It’s scary to me that campaigning is that much of a prioritization than the job itself. I could never be that way. I would probably be a terrible politician, but I am a passionate lobbyist and activist 🙂