I always thought it was an ironic observation, a kind of "how can you possibly denigrate democracy?" thing. But the older I get and the more closely I look at it, the more I wonder if he wasn't being quite frank about it. Democracy isn't as great as it's made out to be, and the phrase "tyranny of the majority" is quite an apt one.
Unless, of course, you look at complex "democratic" systems like the UK and the US, where it is possible to get a tyranny of a minority. Politicians have been corrupting the use of democracy almost from the get-go, by making it look "difficult" to understand all the complexities of the issues they decide for us. They never let us have a referendum on anything, they never let us decide anything. They don't even have to adhere to the manifesto pledges any more, so all that we now do, especially in the UK, is to give a party effectively dictatorial powers for a number of years.
As we've seen with Jacqboot "Tits" Smith, Jack "The Hat" Straw, David "If I can't fuck it I'll Spy on it" Blunkett and Gordon "If I can't tax it I'll eat it" Brown, this is not a good thing.
Tyranny of the majority is a barely acceptable idea, but tyranny of the minority is what turned everybody in the world against South Africa. And that is pretty much what we have here: less than 22% of the UK population voted for the shower of shite and yet they still command an enormous majority in the House of Cunts, I mean, Commons.
So, here's my thinking on how to make democracy meaningful:
1. Once we repeal any legislation introduced since 1997 and any legislation introduced as a result of EU directives, and introduced all the legislation that was part of our election manifesto, every new bit of legislation would be subject to a referendum.
2. Amendments to legislation would also be subject to a referendum.
3. Certain kinds of legislation would require not only a referendum, but also a high level of quorum. So, changes to things like civil liberties or increases in government intervention would require not only a majority among voters, but would also require minimum levels of voter turnout. This would hopefully limit the opportunities for ballot-stuffing offences.
4. All referenda would have a minimum quorum of 25%, i.e., all laws would have to be passed by direct decision of at least 25% of the voting public.
And if anybody thinks that this would slow parliament down dramatically, you'd be right:
I love gridlock.
The worst thing in politics is ''bipartisan consensus.'' Bipartisan consensus - that's like when my doctor and my lawyer agree with my wife that I need help.
New Labour has introduced more laws into the UK canon than were introduced by the entire preceding list of parliaments, kings, queens and Ollie Cromwell.*
Instead of introducing half-baked, badly-thought-out and ambiguous laws by the truckload, Parliament would have to make sure things were clear enough to get by everyone. They would also know that they'd only be able to get a handful of laws through every year, so they'd make sure that they would have a better sense of priorities.
Via Damo Mackerel in the comments, this:
*This may not be strictly true, although we do still have a year to go.