The idea that the majority is always right, or that the majority defines rightness, is a meme which has contributed to the spread and legitimisation of democratic institutions. Nevertheless, as we have argued, it is a false idea and a mistaken justification. Despite its historically progressive role, it has also had, and continues to have, a destructive effect on political and moral discussion in the West.
New ideas always start out being held by a minority. Hence this meme automatically demonises new ideas. For example, we think the forcing children to go to school against their will is wrong. Most people still do not agree with us in this matter. The majority-is-right meme has the effect that anyone who challenges this form of coercion is challenging the democratic principle itself. And worse: since the majority is right, and in consequence has the right to rule, there is a ready-made argument that they ought to take control and suppress home education. Otherwise (for instance) weird extremists will allow their children to run around in ignorance rather than forcing them to go to school.
And so it is in every case when something better is proposed. The meme authorises, and then by the same logic mandates, the rule of the mediocre: — mediocracy.
The meme even makes it difficult to state criticisms of prevailing views without being misinterpreted. For example, if we say “Anti-semitism is rife in Europe.”, how will people interpret this statement? The principle that the majority is always right allows only interpretations like:
- the Nazis are about to come to power, or
- a tiny minority are playing up again, or
- The World’s writers are paranoid slanderers of The European People.
Yet it is possible, without any of those things being true, to hold the opinion that a large number of nice, non-Nazi people give credence to ludicrous conspiracy theories in which Jews play a large part. The idea that the majority is always right makes this suggestion almost literally unthinkable to many.
And no, we are not advocating that Europeans be deprived of the right to vote.