Arostotle on Democracy
It is difficult to imagine that someone does not like the democratic state model nowadays, especially if this person is intelligent and well-educated. Freedom and equality can be certainly called the priorities of the modern society: people hear it from the media, school teachers, university professors and authors of fiction. However, love for democracy is not an obligatory thing for an intellectually active person. Many philosophers of the past doubted the value of democratic government and Aristotle was among them.
According to Aristotle’s Politics (13-17), democracy is the rule of the majority. It is based on the principle of freedom for all citizens of the state. Aristotle notes that people all equal and that is why they submit to the laws which they create themselves. In addition, the democratic state guarantees that everyone can live as they want to, in case it does not violate social norms.
He believes that there are two types of government: non-virtuous and virtuous. Though, he says that in the society where everyone is equal in the right of decision-making, the majority consists of poor people. It is nearly impossible to imagine that the majority of citizens in the state can be virtuous. In addition, poor people will put the individual welfare above the common good. That is why Aristotle writes that from all possible ways to rule the country democracy is not the best one.
Though, the philosopher writes that oligarchy, the rule of the rich people, is even worse than democracy, because it has two opposite groups that participate in the conflict. He states:
Democracy is more stable and less prone to factional conflict than oligarchy. In an oligarchy there are two types of possible conflict, namely, conflict between the oligarchs themselves and conflict between the oligarchs and the people. In a democracy, however, there is only conflict between citizens favoring democracy and citizens favoring oligarchy, as no serious factional conflict arises in the people [that is, those favoring democracy] against themselves (Aristotle 27).
Majority rule is one of the key characteristics of democracy. According to it, the decisions are made on the base of the biggest half of the votes. This way to rule the state has both advantages and disadvantages in the modern society. It is good a priori in the contemporary world, because it guarantees freedom and equal rights for all people. However, there are certain drawbacks in the majority rule and some of them did not change from the times of Aristotle.
The majority of people still value individual good more than common one and that is why some groups of people might not feel equality as they are supposed to. In modern society the majority guards its own interests and it is often called “tyranny of the majority” or “tyranny of the masses” (May 49). This leads to the restrictions of minority rights.
Kenneth May (62-64) writes that there are several conditions that are necessary in making objective majority decisions. The first thing is that the decision making process should be anonymous and neutral. The social position or the welfare of the voter should not be important and all the decisions should be treated equally.
Even though the modern society values democracy and majority rule, the nature of human beings did not change from ancient times. It often leads to inequality, subjectivism and abuse of authority. As a result, the government becomes non-virtuous, as Aristotle wrote.
Aristotle. Politics. Web.
Guinier, Lani. The Tyranny of the Majority. Free Press, 1994. Print.
May, Kenneth O. A Set of Independent Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Simple Majority Decisions. Econometrica. 1952. Print.