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Equality Vs The Tyranny Of Majority

3673 words - 15 pages

“Tyranny of Majority” is a phenomenon in a democratic society where decisions are made by the majority group and the decision oppresses the minority group, comparable to that of tyrants. The term was first used by John Adams in 1781. It was later popularized by Alexis de Tocqueville in his book: Democracy in America; and further spread by John Stuart Mill. In their works, both Mill and Tocqueville are concerned about the existence of the tyranny of majority in democracy and saw the necessity of a civic culture that supported liberty and diversity in order to prevent such tragedy. With the idea of preventing the aforementioned adversity caused by the excesses of democracy, Mill’s proposal is to build up the political institutions. On the other hand, Tocqueville emphasized the importance of local politics participation by all of the citizens as well as dependence on the good mores of the people. While it is apparent that Mill owed a lot of his political thought to Tocqueville, proven by his works throughout the years, he also assessed many of Tocqueville’s principles, resulting in a different solution to the tyranny of majority.
It is inevitable that Mill’s view on democracy is heavily influenced by Tocqueville. One of his earlier works was the review of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which was written in 1835. According to Mill, true democracy would only exist if the government were under the control of the people. He wrote, “in no government will the interest of the people be the object, except where the people are able to dismiss their rulers as soon as the devotion of those rulers to the interests of the people becomes questionable.” (Mill, 1835, p. 110) In his earlier works, Mill was not too convinced by Tocqueville’s idea that a democratic society can be evil too.  He claimed that Tocqueville was just exaggerating when describing the tyranny of opinion in America. He wrote, “Without pretending ourselves competent to judge whether our author overstates the evils as they exist in America, we can see reasons for thinking that they would exist in a far inferior degree in Europe.” (Mill, 1835, p. 122) The reason being is that according to Mill, America has “no highly instructed class; no numerous body raised sufficiently above the common level, in education, knowledge, or refinement, to inspire the rest with any reverence for distinguished mental superiority, or any salutary sense of the insufficiency of their own wisdom” (1835, p. 122). In other words, Mill saw America as more backward than Europe; therefore it was more likely to be evil compared to the educated Europe. Even so, in his later works, Mill acknowledges that dominant public opinion is as evil in Britain as it is in America, as described by Tocqueville. 
In the first review of Democracy in America, Mill was still nonchalant regarding the tyranny of majority. However, in the time between the first and second review of Democracy in America, Mill started to see the flaws in the...

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