Is the opinion of the majority-in government or in any other circumstances-a poor guide?
The entire idea of democracy centers around “majority rule”， where laws and standards are put into effect if most of the citizens support it. However, if people concentrate on only the majority in each circumstance, they often forget the voices and rights of the minorities. Simply because a person is in the minority of an opinion does not mean he can be ignored, for in a true democracy all the citizens are guaranteed the same rights. Thus in some circumstances strictly following the opinions of the majority is a poor guide to determining what actions to take.
The days before America’s Civil War, when slavery was prevalent, demonstrate that following majority rule often fails to respect people’s moral rights and liberty. The majority of white people in the early 1800’s supported slavery because of the benefits they received from the suppressed blacks. Thus, the government reluctantly allowed slavery to be legal in America, despite the terrible sufferings of the slaves. The degraded slaves underwent uncountable terrifying experiences-they were beaten, separated from their families, and forced to toil laboriously in fields their entire lives. And because the government believed “majority ruled”，the slaves lived in such conditions until the Emancipation Proclamation was written during the bloody Civil War. Had the government not followed the opinions of the clamoring whites, slavery could have been abolished much sooner, and much suffering could have been avoided. Thus, in this circumstance of freedom vs. suppression, the opinion of the majority served as a poor guide to follow by the U.S. government.
Furthermore, the effects of majority rule impact Americans today, for there are many unsolved, controversial issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, and homosexual marriages. In the case of “gay rights”， the majority of Americans oppose people of the same sex marrying, and most of the states’ laws reflect this opinion. However, ignoring the wishes of gays and lesbians by enacting these laws will leave many of them unhappy because they cannot legally “tie the knot” with the person they love. The U.S. Constitution declares that everyone has the right to pursue happiness, but by banning gay marriages, some may be barred from the happiness of marriage. In addition, many oppose stemcell research because they are angered by the fact that embryos are created and then destroyed. Once again, though, if the government passes a law banning such research, the minority may suffer. Stemcell research may save lives by using the cells to specialize in a certain area. Those who would benefit from the discoveries of stem cell research may die