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Should the will of the majority always win through?

(42 Posts)
Eloethan Sat 08-Nov-14 23:06:09

It seems only right that majority opinion should determine what actions are taken.

But are majorities always right? Hasn't history shown that sometimes the very fact that an idea is gaining momentum encourages more and more people to "jump on the bandwagon", even when that bandwagon is a dangerous one?

GrannyTwice Sat 08-Nov-14 23:26:58

oops - lots of issues here! For example, should we always allow people to have an individual say as opposed to a say in choosing a representative to have a say for them? What do we mean by a majority? The choice made by the greatest number of those choosing or a majority of those making the decision? And is there any link at all between what a majority - whatever we mean by that- decide and that being 'right'- whatever we mean by that?

Penstemmon Sat 08-Nov-14 23:37:49

If the majority opinion is influenced by untruth/part truth and propaganda is it a true opinion?

GrannyTwice Sat 08-Nov-14 23:41:42

Well it might be a 'true' opinion in as much as that is what people believe but that wouldn't make it right.

thatbags Sun 09-Nov-14 08:35:47

I think one of the 'costs' of democracy is that the majority doesn't always make the right decision. For me that is not an argument against democracy but a description of how it works. There are ideas and beliefs now held by majorities in certain populations which will probably be considered mistaken with hindsight.

So, no, the majority isn't always right and I agree absolutely with your comments about bandwagons. It's one of the prices we pay for the freedom to decide. Worth it in the end, I think (hope!).

FlicketyB Sun 09-Nov-14 10:43:04

If the majority opinion is influenced by untruth/part truth and propaganda is it a true opinion?

But who decides whether when people reached their conclusions they are influenced by untruth/part-truth?

Generally speaking we use those terms to describe the arguments of those who oppose our view and react with outrage when they use the same words to describe our arguments

granjura Sun 09-Nov-14 11:23:05

A very interesting question eloethan- and one I ask myself often. Especially now that I live in a country where the people, rather than the politicians (or civil servants) make the decisions on a regular basis. People here can gather sufficient signatures to force a new law to go to the vote- and many new laws or decisions are put to the vote on local, regional or national level.

Sounds great doesn't it?

And yet, in the 5 years I've been back- I notice with every vote on manipulated the population is- by the media, publications that turn up in your letter box, etc, etc. It takes a lot of time to try and understand the issues each time- and to try and sift out manipulative information- and - and I know it will sound terrible, but here goes- i know many people who for all sorts of reasons do not have the ability to do so, and yet have the same right to vote.

And that is where it gets really complicated. I would be totally against a system where people have to have a minimum level of education to vote- and yet.... there are clearly people who have a very low level of education and a very narrow level on information and understanding- and it is worrying. Just do not know what the answer is- and have been pondering on this for the past couple of years- and just do not know.

In the UK, people elect politicians with the fist past the post system- with NO proportional representation at all- which means in you live in an area which does not represent your 'views'- your vote automatically ends up in the bin. I voted in the uk for 39 years- and my vote has always gone straight into the bin- rather demotivating, no! And then politicians with the help (or manipulation, or both) of civil servants- make the decisions for you.

So I live with one foot in two countries- with absolutely totally different ways of doing things, on 1000s of key issues (education being the one I am most involved in- especially at 6th form level)- and I compare every day, and still have not got a clue as to the answers.

POGS Sun 09-Nov-14 11:23:28

I agree with that bags and FlicketyB.

It's called democracy. The alternative would be to live in a country ruled by dictatorship or communism surely.

Mishap Sun 09-Nov-14 11:29:15

There is the fatal flaw in democracy. The idea of democracy is that you vote in your own self-interest, so that the result represents the greatest good for the greatest number. But in practice we vote tactically, and the absence of PR means that we waste our votes as has been said.

In our constituency, as in many others, more people voted against the successful candidate than for him - but the opposition was split between several other parties, so there he is.

The will of the majority does not always win through.

granjura Sun 09-Nov-14 11:30:42

Well yes- but a majority in the UK very rarely makes any decision themselves- they 'just' elect people to make decisions for them.

Due to first past the post system- there have been many elections in the UK where a Prime minister has been elected WITHOUT the majority- so what then? The UK system of first past the post gives very undemocratic non majority results.

granjura Sun 09-Nov-14 11:38:53

Wasted votes are votes cast for losing candidates or votes cast for winning candidates in excess of the number required for victory. For example, in the UK General Election of 2005, 52% of votes were cast for losing candidates and 18% were excess votes - a total of 70% wasted votes. This is perhaps the most fundamental criticism of FPTP, that a large majority of votes may play no part in determining the outcome. This "winner-takes-all" system may be one of the reasons why "voter participation tends to be lower in countries with FPTP than elsewhere."[9]

From Wikipedia- in the UK, due to the voting system- the majority does NOT make decision, but is wasted.

granjura Sun 09-Nov-14 11:42:36

The list of countries following the FPTP system may surprise you:

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, Canada, Cook Islands, Dominica, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Republic of Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Virgin Islands British, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

mollie65 Sun 09-Nov-14 13:19:59

the reality is that sometimes 'minority opinion' is accorded more weight than majority opinion - I am sure you can all think of instances where this happens in this country - whether it is acceptable is debateable.
a local referendum on political matters is probably not the answer.
demoicracy by its nature has to award most weight to the majority with the views of the minority being considered to an extent and getting the balance right is difficult (if not impossible) hmm

janerowena Sun 09-Nov-14 13:35:40

You can please some of the people some of the time, etc.

I've asked myself exactly the same questions, granjura. I've tried to weigh up regional needs vs. national, immigrant vs, aboriginal, and the fact is, you can never know how well any decision made will work until it has been tried out. Even dictatorships can work if the dictator is a good and intelligent person. Highly dangerous though. I was talking to an MP years ago about a new road that was going to be built, and he said that every single decision ever made for the good of the country on a long-term basis is going to affect someone adversely.

soontobe Sun 09-Nov-14 14:10:17

I dont think that the majority are always right.

But that is democracy in my opinion.

I think I would try to move out of a country if I consistently disagreed with the Government in power.
Even this one.

durhamjen Sun 09-Nov-14 15:07:11

Not everyone can move, though, soontobe. Where would you move to that is better than here?

Yes, is the answer to the OP, if you believe in democracy. Not everyone votes for self-interest.
Hopefully in the next election the majority of people will vote for what is best for the majority, not just to stop someone else getting in power.

FlicketyB Sun 09-Nov-14 17:28:23

Once again, I am always saying this, there was a discussion on the radio. It was someone was talking about attitudes to politics and the current disengagement. The speaker suggested it was because we had ceased to see our selves as citizens and only saw ourselves as consumers and this changes our perception of what is important when voting from what is best for society to what is best for me.

Here is the link:

janerowena Sun 09-Nov-14 18:25:57

I've also been surprised by how many younger (30s and 40s) people see themselves as Europeans first and foremost, rather than British or English or Welsh or whatever. There we are, trying to govern more locally, and they seem to be more than happy with the thought of all laws being handed down through a central European system.

soontobe Sun 09-Nov-14 18:28:49

I have always tried to vote for wat is best for the country. It was years before I realised that a lot of people voted what they thought was best for themselves.

I have been thinking about where I would move to.
I have several children, who are moving further and further afield. 2 now work in other countries.
I might try them first.

My other option, and this is a not thought through plan yet, is to stay in different countries for a variety of amounts of time.
Along the lines of 3 months in Spain, 3 months in.. etc.

soontobe Sun 09-Nov-14 18:32:49

Really janerowena?
I think it varies quite a lot according to which part of the country you are in. Where I live, I dont know anyone at all like this. Though the younger ones I know are in their 20s.
I have been shocked by just how many of them are living in a happy bubble, and have scant knowledge of any politics. And that includes bright people.
They are more than happy to carry on like this.
They seem to see all British Politics as much the same.
They ask what difference does it make to their personal lives, who is in power?

soontobe Sun 09-Nov-14 18:39:48

I have now read the link FlicketyB.
I had never thought in those terms before, but the link could be right.
That may well describe those in the 20s that I know.

If the link is true, I have been quite blind to it up to now.
I am unable to think through the long term consequences of it.
I suppose it allows more extreme groups to gain power in high places, right under our noses?

janerowena Mon 10-Nov-14 12:56:08

No, soontobe, not local. I was at a reunion dinner for people who had helped out in the Falklands after the war when I first noticed it, some Forces, some civilians, now living all over the world. People of that age pop abroad in the way that I used to pop over to France to do some shopping when I lived in Kent. The EU is often seen as the real boss.

soontobe Mon 10-Nov-14 13:28:53

I should imagine that people who are frequently abroad, and those in the SE may well think that way.

Granny23 Mon 10-Nov-14 13:56:39

I think there is a huge discrepancy between the democracy of a small group where everyone participates and a nationwide vote. If you consider a small committee - say a playgroup or golf club - where every member of the committee is present to hear and contribute to the debate and also an active member of the group concerned and therefore will be directly affected by the decisions made, then you have a close approximation of a democracy. [although I am sure we all know committees where a power crazed individual steam rollers through their own opinions]. If you consider a General Election OTOH there will be voters who have not debated nor even listened to the arguments, who will vote as they have always done, those who are deliberately making a protest vote, those voting tactically to keep someone out rather than positively to get someone in and many other permutations. Many will not vote because no candidate represents their views/interests, or simply because they couldn't care less. It is impossible to equate a FPTP system with democracy it is designed to ensure that the only choice will be between the two biggest parties.

The 'will of the majority' is constantly changing as evidenced by opinion polls, e.g in the Scottish referendum all the polls showed YES ahead a week before the vote, accurately predicted a NO vote on the day and now show YES ahead again. So a vote may reflect the will of the people on the day it is held but opinions can rapidly change if the new government fails to deliver or reneges on its manifesto promises. However we are stuck with them for 5 years.

We have a form of PR for Scottish (and Welsh?) Parliament elections and Local Authority elections and these systems do seem to reflect the voters choices more equitably and give a reasonable chance to smaller parties and Independents.

rosesarered Mon 10-Nov-14 14:50:47

No, the majority of people are not always right, it just means that more people feel that way [whatever the issue.] I wonder if there was a referendum to bring back hanging, or bear baiting just how many people would be up for it?We pay our politicians to get the right decisions.