The majority is often wrong. In fact, I’d go as far as to suggest that the majority is wrong about almost everything most of the time. It’s an assertion that would require an encyclopaedic tome to fully justify, but for commonsense purposes it will probably suffice to simply say DDT, CND, Globalism, credit default swapping, greenhouse gas theory and 1930s appeasement.
Unfettered majority rule is as big a threat to personal liberty as Harriet Harman. Whether it be seeing the danger of fascism too late or imagining that the Soviet Union really just wanted to be friends, the majority opinion is a potential tyranny….unless it is controlled by a place of experience, where broader, calmer and more mature minds can put the opposite point of view – and thus slow down a flawed rush in the wrong direction.
This was of course the original idea of the House of Lords. But after 1906, the commoners began slowly but surely diluting its powers of veto. It is still true of the US Senate to some extent – and the checks and balances of that system are something we sorely lack over here. More to the point, controlling Executive arms of government hate being turned down, or told to go away and think again. This is a large part of the reason for a decline in our British democracy…into a system that simply lets us vote, as opposed to listening to what ‘ordinary’ people need.
Some years back, the late Auberon Waugh wrote a column in the Spectator called Another Voice. It was wonderfully ( at times insanely) contrarian, but it was also the best smasher of trendy nonsense in the newsagent. JFK’s appalling father Joe did at least give a great response to the question “How did you get rich?” “Easy” said the old patriarch, “I watched what the other saps did, and then did the opposite”.
Jack Straw is allegedly about to float plans for a new Upper Chamber. As a born contrarian, I would like to make two suggestions.
First, as an elected Lower House has produced little beyond bigots, liars and crooks, perhaps an unelected one based on something more than heredity might be a good idea. And second, maybe the key selection criterion should be ‘people who made a success of their lives by ignoring the majority’.
The idea of Another Place called The House of Contrarians appeals to me greatly. I think we should give it a try.