Is Pure Democracy the Best Path to Fairness?

majority rules

I just finished reading an article from the NYT this morning entitled “Democracy Tested: Smaller States Find Outsize Clout Growing in Senate“, and as I tried my best to make it to the end still pretending I was reading an objective report (and not an editor’s opinion), a renewed admiration of our Constitution’s writers began to well up within me.  The article is rife with different examples and illustrations about where our current Senatorial structure is all wrong.  Why should states like Vermont and NY get the same amount of Federal Stimulus while their population sizes are vastly disproportionate?  The writer brings up slavery and civil rights–two issues that were sandbagged in the Senate by low-populated Southern states.  The equal voice of each state in the Senate comes across as a great hindrance and inconvenience in an era where democracy reigns (or should reign, according to many).

Many different experts are cited from both sides of the issue.  Some explain the necessity of what we call a democratic republic.  For instance, Gary L. Gregg II, a political scientist at UofL points out that “urban areas already have enough power, as the home of most major government agencies, news media organizations, companies, and universities. ‘A simple, direct democracy will centralize all power,’ he wrote recently, ‘in uban areas to the detriment of the rest of the nation.'”  On the other side, several decry the fairness of the Senate’s structure, some even claiming that “the Senate constitutes a threat to the vitality of the American political system in the 21st century” (Sam Levinson of University of Texas).

Amid all of this discussion, our author becomes woefully discouraged by the ignorant short-sightedness of our Founding Fathers who should have realized that such a disparity between the populations of New York and Delware was eventually just going to get worse.  The article ends on a disparaging note under the heading, “A Barrier to Change”.  While the Senate is “in contention for the least democratic legislative chamber [in the world],” our hopes for change are slim to none: “Article V of the Constitution [states], ‘No state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.'”  Alas!  Alack! What shall be done with this gross unfairness?

Nothing.  Praise God that the writers of our constitution did have the foresight to realize that as population disparity grew, the tendency toward pure democracy would be hard to resist.  It would seem that our nation is doomed to limp along with the ball and chain of the Senate forever.  This is not a bad thing; in fact it is quite a good thing.  It protects the small man from being bullied by the majority.  The majority is not always right, and pure democracy is not our friend.   Our author misses the important factor that the writers of our constitution sought to fetter: sin.  Mankind is desperately wicked.  As our culture loses its “culture” and begins to call for simpler everything–including government–pure democracy is going to make sense.  When we watch the presidential election on television, we are reminded every four years how stupid and outdated the electoral college is, and we grumble about an elected president who did not win the popular vote.

The “progressive” feel of today’s American culture is arrogant and prideful.  We look down on the ideas of generations past as outdated and ignorant (I mean who reads history books anymore? Boring…).  We are a nation in perpetual “arrested development”; like sassy teenagers we roll our eyes at our elders and their complete senility.  The sin of pride is as old as creation.  Man’s first and greatest fall occurred when he decided he knew better than God.  The blinding nature of pride is that we always believe we know what is best for ourselves; if that is the case, then pure democracy makes practical sense.  Pride makes us to have eyes and yet not see, ears and yet not hear.  Jesus’ call, “Him who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is a call away from pride and  to a new, clear vision through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.  When we are brought from death to live, we wake up to realize that we don’t know what’s best for us; God does.

Our culture’s desire for pure democracy is just an outgrowth of this prideful notion.  Pure democracy is a call to follow the unified voice of the majority…but what if that voice is yelling, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”?

(photo credit)

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

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