By Robert W. Hoffert
Publication by means of Hoffert, Robert W.
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Additional resources for A Politics of Tensions: The Articles of Confederation and American Political Ideas
Thus, its purpose and role in society is not merely one of practicality. Its purpose and role is moral. Laws, governments, and public life must contribute to the strengthening of substantive justice over injustice and mere process. The health of a community and its citizens requires a particular kind of order, not mere order. It requires an order as consistent with the natural order as is possible in history, which can only be achieved if the moral responsibility of politics is recognized and attentively pursued.
Democracy in the individualistic view must create a politics that speaks to and for the individual. The people rule when individuals are free and when the government that they have authorized provides an orderly protection for that freedom. Within a democracy, the greatest threat to the rule of free individuals comes most directly from the majority's will. When majorities rule, their constituent members perceive themselves as acting in harmony with their freedom as individuals. But majority decisions are always based on a collective principle - the authority of numbers - not on individual preference, not on reason, not on truth, not on justice, and not on the will of gods in heaven or in nature.
A majority's ruling rules simply because of the number of people who support it, regardless of the wisdom or folly of their decision and even if there is no shared rationale for the decision backed by those numbers. Majorities, therefore, must be checked. Two techniques have been important to the individualistic tradition's checking efforts. The first of these is a strong advocacy for an antimajoritarian principle to counter or balance the majoritarian impulses of any democracy. That antimajoritarian principle is minority rights and protections.