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 stem?cell 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. Stem?cell 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.
美国南北战争前，奴隶制猖狂，就说明了多数人做主的原则常损害人们的道德权利和自由。19世纪初，多数白人支持奴隶制，因为他们受益于被压迫的黑人。所以当时的政府不顾奴隶的悲惨遭遇，半推半就地让奴隶制 在美国合法化。被蹂躏的奴隶们惨遭无数可怕的经历——被拷打，背井离乡，被迫终生耕作。正是政府信奉“多数人做主的原则”。奴隶们生活在这种状况下，直至南北战争中解放公告的诞生。如果当时的政府没有顺着白人 的喧嚷行事，奴隶制可能会更早被废除，许多悲惨的遭遇也可避免。在这自由与压迫的问题上，多数人的意见误导了美国政府。
多数人为准的原则甚至影响到当今美国人民，诸如许多尚未解决的有争议的社会问题：堕胎、干细胞的研究及同性婚姻。在同性恋者的权利问题上，多数美国人反对同性婚姻，这反映在多数州的法律上。然而以法律来 制约男女同性恋的愿望，不让他们相爱的人结合，破坏了他们中许多人的幸福。美国宪法宣称人人有权追求幸福，但禁止同性婚姻也就阻碍了一些人的婚姻幸福。进一步说，许多人反对干细胞的研究，因为他们不能容忍胚胎 的培养而又被销毁。如果政府又用法律的形式来禁止这些研究，一些人将会遭难。干细胞的研究把细胞运用在特殊领域里，可能拯救许多生命。那些本可受益于干细胞研究的人们可能会死去。