Majority


Majority’s are the amplified views of the select, influential (manipulative) few.

Probably, that is why most of the views on any issue could be clubbed into few categories (corresponding to the number of factions pushing a particular view).

Of course, another reason could be the limited number of opinions that could be formed on any issue. For instance, response to 2 + 2? would be unique, i.e., 4. But, it is a fact, and not ‘view’.

But responses to “Do you like vanilla ice cream?”, fall in three main categories–‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘neutral’. Again, this is an individual taste, and one’s choice would not have a significant impact on our society. Importantly, the choice does not come bundled with an ‘ought’ or ‘ought not’ (‘O/ON’).

But there are issues, where O/ON does get typically involved, and fall in the domains of law and judiciary, public policy, resource allocation especially when limited, etc.

Simple examples of passionate polarization of opinions would be. Should we allow:

1. Sale of alcohol?

2. Research on and sale of genetically modified food?

The ‘most accepted’ benchmark to reach a decision is: the fraction of all people having one view v/s other contending views. We call the largest fraction ‘majority’.

The idea seems appealing. Since childhood, we are told of virtues of a majority’s decision, and the power it wields.

When a child does something wrong, and if the explanation is ‘he also did the same’, our common retort is ‘if he jumps in a well, would you also jump?’ Good argument. But when the defense is ‘everyone does it’, we do not ask, ‘if everyone jumps into the well, would you jump?’. This is owing to a deep seated prejudice that majority is always right.

Majority would be right, especially in issues of public interest, if it would:

1. Have access to adequate information to base opinion on.

2. Be ethical to place justice above personal gains.

3. Not be blinded by communal affiliations–religion, region, gender, etc,

4. Have sufficient wisdom to understand all the factors, and weigh them accordingly.

5. Be immune to influence by propaganda.

How often are all the criteria met?

I am unable to propose an alternative way to reach decisions in matters of O/ON, but we should stop considering decisions reverentially, only because they would have been reached by a majority.

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22 thoughts on “Majority

  1. Very apt article for a day when MLAs (chosen by “majority” of voters in their constituency) decided to do something very praise-worthy.(Hurling stuff at people seems like the “in” thing now-a-days.)

  2. That’s why we have the judiciary…

    Democracy is not only about the rule of the people but also an independent judiciary (rule of the law) is an important cornerstone.

    Ever since I was a kid, my mom used to tell me – Normally, people are idiots so don’t think what everyone does is right 🙂

  3. Free Conscious Will, that’s the only truth.
    Majority is a mask, at least in the current scenario where an adult is not able to understand what to do in life and what not.
    To be honest, I didn’t read this post, I came here 3-4 times to read it but the mere concept of majority made me run away from it 😀

  4. Hey since for some reason, I cant comment on your latest post, I’ll comment here instead..

    That was one of the most entertaining poems I’ve ever read.. 😀

    Now for the comment on this post,

    I think the “Majority wins” rule has a very obvious flaw..our inherent “herd mentality”, which arises from the need to seek acceptance and approval and safety in numbers..

    But I also, cannot think of an alternative way to reach decisions without conflict..

    I always find this quote by George Orwell rather intriguing tho, and since you’ve written so thoughtfully about it, I’ll write it here,

    “A lunatic is really only a minority of one.”

    🙂 Lovely post.

  5. @ Insignia:

    I was going to only put up first sentence of the post.

    But later, I felt I needed to expand to justify my position.

    And I’d come to know of the unfortunate communalism-driven events in Maharashtra assembly later from your post.

    The first line was one of the first conclusions I had drawn about the human society, about 8 years back. And it has stayed with me.

    I hope this answers your doubt. 🙂

    TC.

    @ MGeek:

    Thanks, but this post was a coincidence!

    The most prominent thing that was in my mind was absolute crap being propagated by a scientist about Bt brinjal, which had prompted so many bloggers to shun it with one-tenth baked knowledge of botany, digestive system, ecosystem, carcinogenesis, etc.

    That’s why such a strong stress on possession of ‘information’ to base decisions on.

    But yes, this post and points contained in it are quite generic, and with some further refinement could be applied to all issues, where O/ON are to be decided on the basis of ‘majority’

    TC.

    @ Uncommon sense:

    I hope you do not want me to take your statement literally. 🙂 For instance, majority feels, it is good to breath air! 😉

    On a serious note, I would usually base my opinion and decisions on case-by-case basis depending on amount of info available, and how much could I process it.

    It is later, that I would think of what the majority thinks.

    We have to remember, majority consists of individuals, and if we are able to make out how they got ‘amplified’ to form a majority, then we might be able to make out how much to trust majority’s decision, e.g., whether to watch a movie or not, only because it would’ve become a huge hit. 😉

    Thanks for your comment!

    TC.

  6. @ Rakesh:

    Yes, you’re right. Judiciary is supposed to act independent of popular opinion.

    But the laws, which they employ as template are made by legislators, and who in turn are elected on the basis of their assurance of what laws they would make make!

    And sometimes, judiciary might get influenced by popular opinion:

    The trust that bought a monk’s Ferrari…. (click)

    Okay, of course, all this is theory of representative democracy! 😉 The facts cannot be openly talked about. 😛

    To digress a bit, one of the problems with representative democracy is that I/majority might like policy ‘A’ of a party, but not policy ‘B’, and might yet end up voting for it. So, the party would get still elected, without complete support from the ‘majority’ on an issue-basis. For instance, policy A could be the 8th pay commission [;)], or reduction in cost of fossil fuels just before elections, and policy B could be reservations in kindergarten, old age homes, graveyards, playgrounds, swimming pools, relaxation of fine imposed for farting in public, place in cinema halls, etc., for all people whose surname begins with a vowel and not a consonant. 😉

    I think with advancement in technology, we could actually move on from purely representative democracy to true democracy, where common people could vote on individual issues relevant to their constituency rather than only for the elected representatives, on a short term-basis, say, every month. Likewise, voting could also be done for national issues. I might do a post on it, on getting time. 🙂

    I’m very impressed with your mom’s wisdom, truly! My parents always used to tell me, “why don’t you simply do what others do!”. 😉

    Thanks, and TC.

  7. @ Tarun:

    “Free will”? Well, that’s a heavy word. 🙂 Though, I’ve done a post on it.

    But yes, you’re very right. If majority of people end up taking wrong decisions in their personal lives, or decisions that they regret, then it is absurd to expect them to take ‘appropriate’ decisions with even involvement of more complicated factors.

    So, did you finally read the post? 😉

    TC.

    @ Darshan:

    Hello, and welcome! I believe you’ve been following my blog for quite some time, now. So, it was a pleasant surprise to get your first comment after so long. 🙂

    And I could not understand your distinction between being ‘situationally’ v/s ‘fundamentally’ wrong. Could you please explain further?

    And the unfortunate fact, is majority, irrespective of being right or wrong, prevails. For instance, a mob that lynches innocent people.

    Thanks for your contribution!

    TC.

    @ TUIB:

    Well, that post is closed to commenting. You could consider it personal. And it’s funny if you found it entertaining, as the poem was not about my cell phone.

    Anyway, coming to this post, yes you’re very right, about the need people feel from approval by numbers. That’s one of the things I was hinting at. Maybe, that’s why easily thing that the highest selling cell phone in the market must be the best, without actually giving much thought.

    Yes, ‘majority’ is a necessary evil.

    But it might be possible to make it less evil, if we concentrate on each of the 5 points I’ve mentioned, and make people inherently capable of making better choices and decisions as individuals.

    Of course, like so many other things, that will have begin through proper grooming in schools and in families. And I don’t see any possibility of that. In fact, we’re moving from bad to worse, with regard to independence in decision-making.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, quote and the compliment! 🙂

    TC.

  8. Tarun,

    Then, I did not understand your comment. 🙂 Could you please explain what you meant by ‘free’ and ‘conscious’.

    ‘Conscious’ could mean choice made with awareness, and balanced view, and by ‘free’ you might have meant independent of others’ choices, or free of threats/pressures. Am I right? TC.

  9. Woww, this is so awesome. ‘Majority is always correct’ has been around for a long time.

    But then, there’s also this that the best way to take a decision is considering the majority.
    Isn’t that what they do in voting and all? The party that wins the majority votes rules. Even if its not the best party…but a majority of people consider it to BE the best party. Otherwise, how else do we arrive at a conclusion?
    The population should be educated enough to KNOW which is the best party, right?
    But then, you already know this.
    Anyway, you should totally get into NCERT and start writing textbooks.
    We would learn sooo much more!

    • Me la habian recomendado y fuí a llevarme 2 litros para tomar en casa. Aparte de que la prepararon en un envase de corcho que la mantuvo pereectamfnte durante horas, es la mejor horchata que he tomado desde hace años !!!!.

    • Tyvär är det sant, baksidestexten är viktig. Framsidan fÃ¥ngar uppmärksamheten men texten gör att man vill läsa boken. En bra sammanfattning ska, som ni sa, stickaut och det kan den göra pÃ¥ olika sätt.(Kontaktannonsen är frÃ¥n ”Blod och choklad”, ellerhur?;))

  10. Veru well put. Lately though the last bastion of supposed reason judiciary (sans lure of power and pelf which we all know is not true) is being pressurised by media. In this regard the flaying of Sagarika ghosh one such I-know-it-all mediaperson by top lawyer of the country Jethmalani makes a good viewing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpQNfLdAyg8 See how lawyer sounds helpless when he can’t get the basic premise of sovereignty of law through. But then again that law was devised by bunch of people who were driven by interest of getting elected by largely uninformed masses. Mind you judiciary has to reason within four walls of consitution can’t exceed its brief. So basically we are stuck democracy is no perfect institution and in any democractis society you must reconcile with the views of majority there is no better governance system. You may not get the ruleof genius but you will also not get arule of despot seems like reasonable middle ground. Having said that continuous efforts towards enabling the majority to make an informed decision should be our endeavour.

    • Anil,

      I must say, you’ve got what I meant to convey through this post, quite perfectly.

      That video was funny. Actually, I’d never seen Sagarika Ghose talk before this!!! I was truly wondering if she is all that brilliant as her degrees from esteemed Institutes need imply. Recently I also read that piece on ‘right to orgasm’. I got further convinced that this lady does not have it in her to convince anyone by reason. She’s of course, above average in intelligence, but that’s about it. All she’s good at is rhetoric.

      Thanks!

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