Corby: Protecting the Majority from the Minority?

Wednesday, 29th July 2009 at 12:09 UTC Leave a comment

Its a while since I last saw a news story unfold that clearly highlighted the difference between a majoritarian and minoritarian view point and their affects on two groups of people who are clearly equal in their claim to citizenship. But today saw the Chief Executive of Corby Council telling the media that they are acting to protect the majority from a council tax rise by not simply settling with the small number of people who’s lives they are claimed to have ruined.

I should point out that, whilst I don’t trust a Council to own up to something like this, I’m not totally convinced that the case has been proven, haven’t read the report, and didn’t follow the earlier stages of the case too closely. That said, I think its pretty obvious that steel production produces the kind of chemicals that would cause these defects and that these defects occurring so often in a population are quite alarming. There is logic to the claim, but I wouldn’t say I knew enough to make a judgement call.

So then we see the Press Conferences, and the first comes from Corby Council. They aren’t going to accept liability for one reason only; they don’t see a clear enough scientific link drawn out in the judgement. Then the questioning commences, and the issue of money comes up. We’re told of the number of residents in Corby, the immense value of the regeneration work that is supposed to have destroyed these few people’s lives. Essentially, the argument moves through to one of “the Majority” who have benefited from redevelopment and “the Minority” that have suffered.

Now, conventional democracy dictates that one should please 50%+1 of the population; the Majority. This makes a lot of sense, especially when you think about the poor Majority and rich Minority of old. Now that the average income is over £20k and the poor are seen as the minority (though this is partly because so many people who are objectively poor refuse to be seen that way), and that the rights of the majority are supposedly sorted out, attention has largely focused on minority rights (something highlighted by the new interest in Trans and Disabled rights, as smaller and smaller groups take turns to be the next Human Rights frontier), the world of majority democracy is becoming increasingly challenged.

Essentially, it is the recognition that, beyond a few key issues, the world is made up of minorities, and that all minorities deserve to have certain things protected. Once the man from Corby Council had stated and restated the view that the council still wants more proof before conceding, he essentially admitted that they are playing the traditional role of defending the majority tax payer from the minority interest that could demand a huge payment.

This is where the simple majority ideal of democracy falls down. There will always be people who feel like losers in a situation, and there will always be people who’s desires and even needs are irrefutably set against those of others, but I do believe this is a pretty clear indication of the need to raise the bar from serving the majority to serving everyone, from seeking 50% approval to seeking a consensus resolution. Its a challenge, but it is the next step along the way to developing a deeper democracy.

Corby may be playing along with the currently-held conception of what democracy is about, but like in so many other cases, the majority they refer to is largely constructed, bearing no relation to any other issue. I’m left to wonder, therefore, whether they really are acting in residents interests if they can’t be seen to be serving all residents more equally, regardless of the quantity bringing such a case as this one.

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Entry filed under: Community, democracy, Health, Local Council, News, Participation, Politics.

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