He Should Read James Madison

by Don Boudreaux on February 16, 2010

in History, Law, Myths and Fallacies, Politics

In today’s USA Today, DeWayne Wickham argues that the U.S. Senate should to do away with the filibuster – the procedure that allows 41 senators (two-fifths+1 of the Senate) to block votes on pending legislation.  He alleges that the filibuster “flouts the basic idea of a majority-rule democracy” and that it “is a Faustian bargain that undermines the will of voters.”

Wickham ought to brush up on history and civics.  The “basic idea of a majority-rule democracy” in the U.S. has never meant the unobstructed and simple rule by majority vote.  The Senate, part of a bicameral Congress, is itself an institution explicitly meant to reduce the likelihood that any temporary passions of the majority are enacted into legislation.  Countless other features of government have the same aim.

Would Wickham eliminate, along with the filibuster, the Presidential veto?  How about judicial review?  Or the Bill of Rights?  Or the Constitution itself?  Each of these institutions, along with many others, often – and rightly – protects individual liberty against majorities and the “will of voters.”

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