I’m not a fan of democracy

Now that I have that inflammatory statement out of the way let me explain what I mean by it. Democracy is defined as the rule of the entirety by a majority of its constituents. If that majority is sufficiently large or the options are sufficiently close that may be acceptable. However if either the options are diametrically opposed or the majority is rather small (or worse both at the same time) this turns into oppression of the minority by the majority.

As a matter of fact that was the reason why James Maddison advocated for a republic rather than a democracy in his Federalist Papers. He knew in the 18th century that in a pure democracy there was a real risk of the majority faction acting counter to the interests of a large minority or even the interest of the entirety.

No system has demonstrated the truth of this better than the United Kingdom’s form of first past the post democracy combined with democratic referendums. And no historic event demonstrates this better than the referendum on leaving the European Union.

In the Brexit referendum 52% of all votes cast voted to leave and 48% voted to remain. If one takes voter turnout into account that means that a majority faction of 37% voted for Brexit. While that result means there is (or at least was) a majority for Brexit, it also means that 37% of the population are now forcing their will on the 63% who did not vote for Brexit. On the other hand, just remaining is not a viable option either since that, by the same logic, would mean that 34% would force their will to remain on 66% of the people.

The solution to this conundrum is not ignore expressions of voter preferences, but rather to stop worshipping at the altar of pure democracy and majority rule.

As I said above, pure majority rule democracy of the flavour so popular in the UK leads to chaos and oppression whenever the options are diametrically opposed or the majority is small. In the case of Brexit both are the case.The solution is to accept that democracy is not the answer to running a country. Instead we should take our lead from the American founding fathers like James Madison. We should strive to establish a form of government that balances the wishes of the majority with those of the minority. Abolishing first past the post is a first step. Electing multiple MPs per constituency who are chosen by proportional voting would be an important step which would also counter gerrymandering. Requiring supermajorities for all referendums and many issues decided in parliament might be an additional safeguard.

Whatever the UK decides to do going forward, we need to acknowledge that its form of democracy has failed to serve the entirety of its people and caused a painful division in the country that may take decades to heal.