Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Majority rule, minority rights

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Throughout history, there has been an understanding between the government of state and its constituents. From the times where such philosophers as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke put forth their respective theories of a state of nature and social contract, mankind has been enthralled with the separation of government and the population it controlled. John Locke proposed that there has always been a need for a "social contract"-that is an understanding between the government and the people for the sole reason of protection and organization. Even in the early days of the roughly adhesive Babylonian governments, the people strove for organization and protection of their property. Before that, according to Hobbies, the people of the world existed in what he called a "state of nature."

This state of nature existed before the population of an area realized the need for a structure and a steady way of life. They may have been fed up with the plundering of their land. Lock explains that the constituency gave up the rights to rape, murder, and steal in order for protection of property. With this action, the people put what they thought to be an equal balance of power into the government's hands. The government, acting as a whole body, has seemed to, throughout time, take advantage of the people that it represented. This paper will attempt to show how this feeling of superiority that governments have purveyed through the history of the United States.

In 1894, there was a strike of Pullman Palace car factory workers outside of Chicago. These workers belonged to the American Railway Union. The union decided to refuse to move trains with the Pullman Cars thus shutting down virtually all railways in and out of Chicago. This caused much strife between the workers and the government. This was the first time that the government had to get a federal court injunction to make the workers go back to work. (Miller 1996) The reason that the government needed the injunction was because the Pullman workers were responsible for mail delivery. The workers ignored the injunction thus prompting President Cleveland to send US troops to quell the strike.

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This move worked and ended the strike. The government displayed its power against its people. It had to choose between the rights of the union to strike and the need of the population to get its mail. There were other incidents that have also displayed these tensions of government choosing between majority rule and minority rights. (Strom 1990) There was, for instance, the Red Scare of 1919.

Before the Russian Revolution, the citizens of the United States were able to believe in any political system they wanted. They were not just held to taking capitalism as the "way to go." One such group was a group that came to be known as the Wobbles. This group was a band of young, radical individuals who were basically fed up with American Federation of Labor. They felt that you were owned, so to speak, by your boss.

Through the readings of Karl Marx, many were led to believe that Communism was the correct route for social and economic prosperity.

When the Russian Revolution occurred in 1917, the United States passed a string of laws, both on the federal level and state level that prevented these Communist beliefs from seeping any further into the common American psyche. Many of the Wobblies were consequently arrested for nonsensical reasons. Many states opted to adopt laws that made the Wobblies illegal and forced it to go underground. Because of the national scare of the spread of any type of Communism, the government was forced to take extreme measures to stop any part of it from spreading. This is a clear example of how tensions grew out of the governments need to chose between majority rule, (in this case the common citizen), and minority rights, (in this case the Wobblies).

There were other incidents that portrayed these tensions. One such incident being McCarthyism of the 1950's.

In the mid 1940's, after the end of WWII, the United States and the other democracies of the world began moving apart from the new Russia. One reason for this was the Berlin Airlift where Russia sectioned off their part of the conquered Berlin, Germany and would not let any other allies in. This was the start of the cold war. The cold war was a fighting war. It was a war of the proverbial "cold shoulder."

In 1950, under growing public pressure, the United States passed the Internal Security Act over President Truman's veto. This law required Communists and Communist Organizations to register with the US government. (Miller 1980) It called for deportation of Communist immigrants and prohibited the immigration of anyone who had belonged to a Communist Party.

Now persons who had once been a communist, had been associated with communists, or just were radical, were subjected to intense investigations both private and public. Many were fired from their jobs due to this. Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted what he dubbed the Red Hunt which ultimately failed due to his lack of evidence and his butchering of the truth.

He had gone too far and was reprimanded by the Congress for actions that were not becoming of a senator. All of these actions taken by the government evoked not only its dislike for Communism but also how its ear was always open and adjusted for the majority. These poor people were not given a chance to live private lives and practice what they believed to be true.

In conclusion, it has been shown, throughout the history of the United States, that the majority of many take precedence of the minority of the few. No matter whose views are correct and just, a person's views should not be suppressed and condemned by many. That person should also not have to go through the persecution and embarrassment of this shunning. Those who survived it are heroes.


Miller, N. 1980. “A New Solution Set for Tournaments and Majority Voting: Further Graph-Theoretical Approaches to the Theory of Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 24.1:68-96

Miller, N. 1996. “Majority Rule and Minority Interests.” In Shapiro, I. and Hardin, R. eds. PoliticalOrder: Nomos XXXVIII. New York: New York University Press

Strom, K. 1990. Minority Government and Majority Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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Majority rule, minority rights. (2017, Mar 14). Retrieved from

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