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Tyranny of the Majority

By Nanook - Posted on 04 November 2011

Tyranny of the Majority

A common observation we hear from various "Occupy" movements is that the "old system" has failed. The "old system" must be thrown out. Many people around the world agree with this. But when asked how they would do it, their replies are usually phrased as generalizations, like: "get rid of the BAD guys", "make things BETTER", "eliminate CORRUPTION", "get rid of corporate INFLUENCE".  While these statements at first appear to make sense, they are actually very limited. Why? Because they do not declare any concrete ACTION to take.

There is one action, however, that is always brought up in one form or another: establish a DIRECT DEMOCRACY.  Representatives, even in a democracy can be bought. Many current Congressmen and women have been bought by big business. So, they say, get the representatives out of the way and let people vote directly. This approach, at first, also appears to make sense. What I want to show is that it also fails, and for a FUNDAMENTAL reason: VOTING itself, the way we now do it, is fundamentally FLAWED!

I know this is a hard thing to swallow. Isn't VOTING the BASIS of the whole concept of DEMOCRACY?

Sure… in a way. But why is the way we do it now the ONLY way? It's not. Most people are just not aware that there are other ways.

But first, it's important to explain why it is "fundamentally FLAWED.

First, the way we vote now leads to what is called the TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY. If a controversial issue is put up for a vote, think what happens. Let's say the vote is 52% to 48%. That means, 48% of the voters don't get what they hoped for. So, ask yourself, even though the result was decided by voting, for the 48%, how is that any different from having a monarch dictate the decision for them? The 48% have had their freedom compromised.

Second, the actual situation is much worse than just described. Let's say the decision up for vote is controversial and complex. Each political party prepares their version of a bill. Because there are parts of both versions that MOST people have problems with, no matter how the vote goes, more people than indicated by the vote numbers don't get what they want. For example, let's say the vote is version A - 52%; version B - 48%. The 48% obviously don't get what they want because they voted against it. But what about the 52% who voted for winning version A? Let's say version A had provisions that half of those who voted for it don't agree with. But they went along with it to get the whole bill passed. That means 74% ( the 48% against plus half of 52% ) haven't got what they would have wanted.

Third, what about the issue of RIGHTS? A basic assumption of the Constitution is that it protects "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But look at the following example. A mob forms and decides they don't like what someone else is doing. They decide the person should be hanged? This "lynch mob" takes a vote. The vote is unanimous: 10 to 0. The person they don't like is not allowed to vote. MAJORITY RULES is the cry! They prepare to hang him. Is this justice?

A "principled" person among the mob figures this out and objects to leaving the un-liked person out of the vote. A new vote is taken allowing the un-liked person to also vote. The vote is then 10 - for, 1 - against. MAJORITY RULES is the cry! They prepare to hang him. Is this justice?

Another "principled" person speaks up protesting that something is missing. The decision was unfair because it has been made without "due process".  A court and jury haven't been used. O.K. So the mob selects one of their members to be a judge, 2 are selected to be the lawyers, and the remaining 7 are sworn in as the jury. Not much question about what the outcome of that "trial" is going to be: GUILTY! The un-liked ( minority ) person is hanged.

The point of these examples is to show how voting, the very foundation principle of majority rule, can fail miserably. And while an extreme case was chosen for the "mob" example to make the process clear, our Constitution actually INSURES that this will happen regularly by creating a "spoils" system, which allows winning political parties to load the government with a "mob" of their supporters.

It doesn't have to be this way. Majority rule isn't the only way. Using the concepts I present in my description of PERSONALIZED DEMOCRACY, ALL of the problems shown above GO AWAY! Almost EVERYONE gets their way. The ultimate goal of democracy, FREEDOM, is almost achieved.  SO! How does it work?

Let's start out with a new example. A bunch of neighbors decide they want to go together as a group to the beach. Using our current model of democracy, two people, Jim and Jill, are selected to prepare lists of things they need to take. A vote will be taken on which list to use – MAJORITY RULES! Sounds fair, right?

Jim presents his list: 6 coolers of beer, pretzels, 10 Frisbees.  Jill presents her list: hamburgers, buns, potato salad, green salad, soda for the kids, napkins, hand wipes etc. 3 pages!  Two other people are selected to "debate" the lists. Joe speaks for Jim: "short and sweet list; not much to carry." Jane speaks for Jill: "Our list is much better. Jill considered everyone. It's an all day event. We'd starve if we accepted Jim's list." Joe responds, "Jill's list is hopeless. There's no beer, pretzels OR Frisbees."

OK. Time to vote! The vote is 53%/47%. 8 men, including the bachelor on the block, voted for Jim's list; 7 women voted for Jill's list. Jim's list was the winner!  Well - almost. The women then had their own meeting and decided to boycott the event. So, everyone lost.

While this is obviously an overly simple example, it is an accurate analogy to show how the democratic system of voting we have now is DESIGNED for failure.  Here are some of the reasons:

- The process immediately limits (over constrains) the choices. Only 2 alternatives are available to pick from. This is a major failure of a two party system.

- By limiting the choices, it creates a simple, black and white, adversary environment. The use of just 2 options, yes / no, or A vs. B, "characterizes" the process as a contest, thereby implying "opponents". This model feeds on strongly inherited psychological drives which tap into strong human emotions.

- To develop a "winning" strategy, the issues are exaggerated to clarify them and "polarize" the voters. People are then FORCED to select from sets of exaggerated options that neither side really wants. The process changes from a "selection" process to an "avoidance" process – voting to NOT GET something we most don't want.

- To avoid losing votes, many issues that might have value to many voters, but are controversial for a few, are left out, further narrowing the result. 

- Because of a similarity to warfare, also typically a 2 party process, people are pushed to take "sides" early, so personal animosities can be added to the processes, losing site of the real issues. The vote may then be decided based on social issues ( political parties ) rather than any of the real issues involved.

- When the choice is finally made, only those items included in the winning package are kept. Any "good" items in the losing package are lost.

- The significance of the individual is lost. The outcome is a conglomerate number, e.g. 53% / 47%.

But how can this process possibly be done any other way? We have to VOTE, don't we?  Fortunately, there are many alternatives. Most of them are pretty SIMPLE, once they are explained. Let's plan for beach day again. This time, however, NO VOTING!

Jim and Jill "volunteer" to be supply "coordinators. Jim offers to start. "I think we need beer, pretzels and Frisbees. Who wants beer?" This is where the process changes. 12 hands go up, some with one finger raised, some with 2 fingers. Jill counts the fingers and writes down: beer – 18. "Who wants pretzels?" 6 hands go up. Jill writes down: pretzels – 2 bags. "Frisbees?" 4. Jill also has some ideas, "obviously we're going to need food, drinks for adults and kids, utensils, games, toys. Let's start with the food. Any ideas?" The group replies, "ham burgs and  hot dogs for sure; sausages here; I'll make potato salad; Phyllis has to bring her apple pie; I'll do the photography … etc. "

Let me list, specifically, how this is different.

There is NO "conventional" VOTING. But voting is actually going on. In this case it is "inclusive" voting. That is, each individual person is "voting" their assent to include something.

There are NO constraints on the choices. 

There are NO adversaries.  There is NO contest. Sure, issues of cost will come up. But since each person will be expected to "pitch in" for the things they receive, that also becomes a decision totally in control of each individual.

There is NO need or value for exaggeration.  People get what they want, in the form they want, at the level they want. They also DON'T GET what they DON'T WANT.

The choices are not limited any more because "some people" might not want them.

There is no longer any reason for "taking sides" or aligning with a group to get what a person wants. Choices become completely personal and are made entirely based on issues, not affiliations.

No one is denied what they want because it was not in a "package deal". Every item is decided on individually. Furthermore, during the process, if someone overhears someone else list "chocolate fudge brownies", which they didn't even think of, they can ADD those to the list, without causing any hardship to the other person who came up with the idea. That is, NO ONE is forced to forego anything because it was on the losing side of a vote.

And, NOTE WELL, the FREEDOM of EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL is no longer lost because we have chosen a poor process! This was no longer an 8 to 7 vote with 7 losing and 8 going along with Jim's limited viewpoint. Every person's voice was TOTALLY included. And, more profoundly, this approach would work just as well if 100, or 1000, or 1 million people were coming to the beach with us!

Applying Personalized Democracy to Healthcare

So, let me explore one more example to anticipate challenges from the critics. Let's take a currently hot topic:  HEALTHCARE. It was a tragedy watching Congress, and our whole society, struggle with this. Let's re-approach building a new healthcare system using an "inclusive" model.

First, we would create a new HEALTHCARE FINANCE AGENCY (HFA). Their job is not to assemble a polarized bill for a vote. Their job is to create a HEALTHCARE FINANCING SYSTEM that meets the needs of EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN IN THE COUNTRY.  That is, if a congressman came to the home of anyone reading this, the congressman should be able to tell that person HOW the bill meets ALL their needs in their particular living situation.

Job number ONE, is for the committee to reach out to EVERY SINGLE person in the country to find out WHAT THEY NEED, and WHY. Job 2 is to pull all of this information together and determine what patterns emerge. Job 3 is to develop a base line MODEL that covers all the patterns AND all the exceptional case.  Job 4 is to adjust the system so it INTEGRATES with EVERY OTHER financial system the government is responsible for. When this is all done, the result is placed before the public for approval. Since everyone gets what they want, the "vote" should be almost unanimous. If it isn't, something was left out and it should be reworked.

So, how might the system look?

To minimize the need for government to employ a large group of people to do this, HFA would farm out most of the work to a thousand small, medium and large companies. The KEY, however, is that HFA would establish and maintain the detailed rules about how things are done. The agency would directly negotiate with ALL the hospitals. So, from the hospital standpoint, it WOULD look like one large payer. But from an operational standpoint, based on providing excellent service, it would work like the private sector. Here are a few more elements.

Who is covered? EVERY citizen or legal visitor in the country. Medicare and Medicaid would be terminated. NO ONE, like legislators or the military, get any special deals. HOWEVER, people who don't want to be in the program can opt out. During a 6 month "open enrollment" period, every person in the country either signs up or they sign a waiver indicating they want to stay out. After this "open enrollment" period, anyone can switch their choice, going into or out of the program.

Of course, there would be a cost related to switching. It would be based on both the person's medical history AND financial history. That is, someone who opted out who later gets ill and wants to join would have to pay the equivalent of all previously missed payments to the system plus a "late joining fee". BUT, they would also be given "an allowance" for all medical payments provided for them by previous private insurance. ( Remember, the goal is caring for citizens, not punishment. )

What is covered?  EVERYTHING that is considered reasonable preventive or necessary medical care.

How is it paid for?  Each person must make monthly payments. Employers would not be required to contribute. Employers could, of course, choose to pick up some of the cost as a benefit of employment. If they do, it must be an across the board benefit, not just an executive perk. All businesses would be expected to process payroll deductions if requested by the individual.

Most important, the payment structure would be graduated. That is, the cost to be a member would not be FIXED amounts per year like we have now. The cost would be fixed PERCENTAGES of income ABOVE the poverty level.  People whose income is below the established poverty level would not pay for coverage.  The percentage would also be adjusted based on each individual's medical issues and service variations. All of the variations would be available to ALL members. This is parallel to the beach example above. The service variations would include things like private rooms, ability to select physicians, home vs. office care, day care for children, level of self care, level of family-provided care, access to entertainment, food selections etc. The medical issues would include things like how people CHOOSE to deal with KNOWN health risks. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, drug and alcohol abuse would put people in higher payment brackets.

In short, the system would attempt to give every member as much flexibility as possible, covering them completely for medical conditions BEYOND THEIR CONTROL, but, RESPONSIBLY assigning them costs related to their choices and the TRUE costs of service.