Better Democracy NZ is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation.

Our mission is to foster the improvement of New Zealand's democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the

Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tyranny of the majority or minority?

Tariana Turia is crying foul over the Wanganui District Council decision against the insertion of the letter 'h' in the city name.

The Te Tai Hauauru Member of Parliament says, “It is a classic example of the tyranny of the majority over a minority in this so-called democracy – and we have known what that has been like all of our lives”.

While Maori certainly have claims to having been victimised in the past, are we to bow to every whim and wish of every minority faction? This is hardly a case of Maori being victimised. It is simple democracy in action. It would appear to me that Mrs Turia suffers from a "victim mentality". Every minority (we are all part of some minority) seems to wield the "tyranny of the majority" stick whenever decisions don't go their way.

Democracy is simply the will of the majority. If it isn't based on this concept then surely the opposite must apply, the "tyranny of the minority". Either we are ruled by what the majority of people want or by what the minority of people want. I may not always agree with the majority but that is a reality one must accept in a modern world. We can't make everyone happy.

In a 2006 Wanganui referendum, 72% of those who voted wanted the name to remain as it was. Surprisingly, at a recent Council vote on the issue, there were seven against the change and five in favour. One can only assume that the five who voted for the change had no interest in the democratic process of referendums or the will of the people of Wanganui.

Mrs Turia say, “It is very clear to me that we need leadership that doesn’t mind making the hard decisions. That is what leadership is all about”.

In argument to that I would say that the people of Wanganui (or New Zealand) no longer want dictatorial leadership. They want leadership that gives people options and leadership that is prepared to listen to what the majority of those who voted for them want.


Dominic Baron said...

Like you Steve, I accept the will of the majority. Particularly when it is clearly expressed in a properly run referendum.

Personally, I am happy to use the name of Whanganui because it is the correct spelling according to the Maori community. But as the good citizens of Wanganui, by a large majority, see no reason to change then I have to respect their choice, and so should the Maori community.

On the wider issues raised by your post I can't help wondering at the reasoning that labels a majority opinion as "tyranny". Surely it is when minorities impose themselves on majorities that real tyranny occurs? Who were the tyrants in apartheid South Africa?

And much closer to home, given the massive opposition to her vile bill, who was the tyrant: Sue Bradford and her tiny clique? Or the vast mass of public opinion that was repelled by the notion that any physical disciplining of children by their parents was to be criminalised?

Finally, coming to that over-used word "leadership": I always react with deep suspicion to those who use it, because they obviously believe that they are "leaders".
And those who believe that they are "leaders" always end up dictating to the majority and never listening to and reapecting the will of the people.

Anonymous said...

Hwanganui the Great

I also believe in democracy but as a US President once wisely said only if the "democracy" is made up of educated or well-informed folk.

But even in the original Athenian democracy the hoi polloi (i.e. majority" were criticised by their more educated minority that the lawyer-politicians knew how to make the weaker arguments the stronger and the stronger one's weaker to foist their opinion on the majority!

I don't pump one drop of Maori blood but as a linguist would have my blood curdle to have to write Sjeiks Beer every time I quote the bard but if the "imperialists" named Maunganui Mount Maunganui and Hwanganui The Great Wanganui, let's toe the line of their history and ignore rising nationalistic feelings that have often put the "imperialists" to shame.

Please don't Sheik Stan

Rusty Kane said...

Like Dominic I also agreed with the “h” .. And have publicly said so .. But I do not live in Wanganui therefore not part of the referendum.. If I was I would have still been in the minority of those who live in Wanganui .. Who have clearly stated through referendum they wish for the statuesque to remain .. that is their wish and majority decision .. Those in the minority like myself need to respect their wishes as a majority democratic decision .. There maybe in the future another referendum on the issue.. to see if Wanganui's citizens thoughts have changed .. But for the foreseeable future the name of Wanganui city remains Wanganui through the cities ratepayers inehiated referendum .. good on you Wanganui I sometimes wonder up here in Taranaki if we were aloud a referendum on the naming of our mountian if the mountains commonly used name would be Egmont not Taranaki. At the time of the name change, there was a mojority public outcry wanting the name to remain Mt Egmont for the same reasons the citizens of Wanguni want the name Wanguni to remain. Without a referendum there was a compromise and they called the mountain Egmont/Taranaki. Today without the referendum (and just a thought) who calls it Mt Egmont these days.. Another reason why governments hate peoples initiated referendums, governments don't get their way and still beilive the people don't make the right decisions.. Bring back Egmont die hards are now the minority.

Rusty Kane NP