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Showing posts from September, 2017

Moving beyond a tyranny of the majority

I really like the colour orange, and orange shirts. But what if a majority of the people in my life wanted to stop me from wearing orange, and decided to take a vote of those who were opposed to ever allowing me to wear orange again? What would I do!?

In the last post I made brief mention of the possibility that, under majority rules, decision-making could result in a tyranny of the majority. This can occur anytime there is a minority (which is pretty much possible all the time) who do not have the sufficient numbers to influence decisions under this approach (majority-based decision-making). In this scenario there is no incentive for the majority to take into account opposing views. Those who find themselves in the minority will have their needs and desires rejected, ignored, or worse, oppressed.

To put it bluntly - a group could decide it's not cool to wear orange anymore, and to put in place a law whereby anyone caught wearing orange would be imprisoned. All they would need to …

Why democracy doesn't mean you get your way - Part 2

If you do an online search of the word "democracy", you'll come across references to things like 'majority decision-making' or 'control by a majority'. Majority decision-making, and voting, are often assumed to be key features of a democracy.

However: neither voting, nor control by a majority, are necessary for democratic decision-making.

This may come as a shock, but there are ways for groups of people to make decisions that do not involve voting. Voting leaves very little room for nuance, for the exploration of alternatives, or for compromise between disparate perspectives.

Majority decision-making, for its part, can lead to a tyranny of the majority, the oppression of minority perspectives, the polarization of opinions, and, by definition, a portion of participants whose preferences are ignored.

So what's the alternative?

If you're part of a group that is empowered to make a decision on some issue (a board, community group, committee, etc), you…

Democracy doesn't mean you get your way - Part 1

Open Houses and Public Hearings:  Public Deliberation, not Delegated Decision-Making
Unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, showing up at an open house or public hearing does not mean you get to veto issues that are going forward to council. Quite often, participants in municipal consultation events are frustrated and disheartened that their feedback does not lead to obvious and explicit policy change. "But I live in the neighbourhood! I should be able to say what gets built, and what doesn't!" These sentiments are common, especially at the municipal level when rezoning applications are put forward, or communities are reviewing their Official Community Plans (OCP's) to accommodate new and different developments.
Which begs the question - why bother holding open houses or public hearings at all?
Making decisions democratically is not always straight forward. Once we get beyond foundational elements of a democratic society (rule of law, freedom of speech, equali…