Long live democracy!

Tue, 13/02/2007 - 06:56 -- James Oakley

Exodus 23:1-3: You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

I should have seen this before but: Doing what “the many” things is right is not the same thing as doing what is right.

I know,... it’s siding with the many to do evil, and siding with the many to pervert justice that is in view here. Siding with the many in and of itself is not wrong.

But that is precisely the point. Modern democracy is built on the assumption that this is either a contradiction in terms, or at least unlikely. The assumption is that if “the many” want something, that legitimates it. Exodus says that what the many want is neither here nor there. The category is not “will of the majority” versus “will of the minority” but good versus “evil” and “justice” versus injustice.

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