The tyranny of the supermajority - how majority rule protects minorities

McGann, AJ (2004) The tyranny of the supermajority - how majority rule protects minorities. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 16 (1). pp. 53-77. ISSN 0951-6298

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Abstract

This article demonstrates that majority rule offers more-protection to the worst-off minority than any other system in that it maximizes the ability to overturn an unfavorable outcome. It is known (May, 1952; Dahl, 1956) that majority rule is the only decision rule that completely respects political equality. However, it is frequently argued that other decision rules (such as a system of checks and balances, which are implicitly supermajoritarian) better serve the goals of protecting minorities' rights and preserving stability. This article argues that this trade-off is illusory and that majority rule actually provides most protection to minorities. Furthermore, it does so precisely because of the instability inherent in majority rule, which overcomes the problem of majority tyranny.