What Is Meant by “majority Rules With Minority Rights”?

“Majority rules with minority rights” is an important principle in democracy according to which public policy is determined by a majority of citizens, but the majority may not rightfully use its power to deprive minority groups of their rights. The protection of minority rights is an act of self-interest in a democracy, in which constant change can cause a group that forms a majority one day to become a minority.

Democracyweb.org describes “majority rules with minority rights” as one of the great concerns of democratic political theorists such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexis de Toqueville. Toqueville observed that human nature does not change simply because people get together in a group. If one man imbued with absolute power is capable of misusing power, a majority imbued with unlimited power is capable of the same abuse.

In order to preserve minority rights, a democracy must make it possible for the minority to become the majority though elections. If the majority impedes the minority’s capacity to change the status quo by restricting freedom of speech, assembly, association and petition, then the democracy is in danger of becoming a dictatorship.

The Bill of Rights Institute states that citizens can promote minority rights in their everyday life by practicing the civic virtues of respect and consideration.