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TRANSCULTURAL FRIENDSHIP: OUR POLITICAL FUTURE

Chapter Four: Autocracy and Democracy

Section 9: Protecting Minority Interests

 

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 "Gypsy Dance" by the Lysaya Dance Ensemble.

 

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Justice would dictate that each group have its way in rough proportion to its numbers. In the extreme, the majoritarian system can lead to 49 percent never winning an issue. Therefore, an advanced society must find mechanisms to offset the inequities of majoritarian rule. There are three fundamentally different approaches to compensation, which may be used concomitantly.

 

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The first is institutionalized protection of minimal conditions for minorities. Thus, a society may define certain inalienable rights or minimal standards of living of which the powerful may not deprive the less fortunate. The welfare system and the legal enforcement of civil rights are two such institutions. In this way, the long-term interests of the entire society are insured against its more short-term avarices.

 

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There are two disadvantages to this "protective" approach. First, it brings the institutional organs of the society in opposition to the majority will. Thus, the majority may become less committed to the society, and costly resources of the society will be spent managing this opposition. Second, it keeps the minorities dependent on the establishment for protection. Now this may foster some positive bonding between the alienated minority and the government. On the other hand, the dependency will not promote the full development of the potentials of the minority, and will probably result in the minorities resenting their dependency. The current mess the welfare system is in would tend to illustrate these points.

 

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The second approach is power balancing. Instead of intervening instance by instance, the government adjusts the power relations among groups so that competitions are more evenly matched. This approach works especially well where the disadvantaged group is large, but unorganized. The classic illustration is the formation of unions. While once bitterly opposed, unions are now recognized as an important aspect of modern-day society. In fact, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.4, asserts: "Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

 

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Affirmative action and many minorities programs have been directed at helping minorities to help themselves, increasing the powers of the target group to assert its interests into the decision-making machinery of the society.

 

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Antitrust legislation is an example of the power balancing approach used to weaken the strong, rather than directly strengthening the competition. Theoretically, this is wasteful, and alternatives should be sought.

 

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While the power balancing approach does not oppose the government to the majority as with the protective approach, it does increase the energy expended by opposing groups in competing with each other since the contests are more equal. The conflicts between management and labor are quite costly; and the quality of their joint efforts suffers in comparison to those of the more cooperative efforts of Japanese and West German industry. On the other hand, the costliness of the conflicts may lead the parties to more enlightened relations.

 

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The third approach to the protection of minority interests amounts to the emergence of a superior political form -- "friendship." When competing power groups realize that they would both be better off pursuing shared goals rather than wasting each other's resources, they add to the total energy available to the supersystem. "Synergy" refers to the extent energies in a system are aligned rather than opposed. Increasing synergy is a way of improving the internal environment of a system, making it more competent generally. Synergy is enhanced when people and groups recognize the interdependence of their welfares, and creatively strive to coordinate their shorter term interests for the betterment of all

 

 

 

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