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Mr. Kipling when in an imperialistic vein has often railed against the practice of counting noses to determine principles. So obviously did he favor an aristocratic government that men set his objections aside as prejudiced. But Walter Lippmann's challenge to the right of majorities can not be avoided so lightly. In the current issue of Harper's, he logically asserts that no virtue rests in 51 percent of the nation from the simple fact of their majority. The denial of the fundamental tenet of democracy by Mr. Lippmann, one time editor of the New Republic, and at present in charge of the New York World's editorial page, is of more than passing importance. His conclusions are not the product of a cynical aloofness but the result of experience in the school of politics.
The only raison d'etre which Mr. Lpipmann finds for majority rule is the superior force of the larger number. No divine right crowns the policy of 51 percent of the people as wise and that of 49 percent as unwise. To the logic of this statement, there seems to be little objection, but the friends of the ballot box argue that in practice it is better to let the majority have their own way. In an editorial of last Sunday's New York Times, the reasoning of expediency was well set forth.
All such arguments in the end fall back on the evidence of tradition:--under the democratic system, the United States has reached its present pinnacle, therefore experience has proven majority rule justified. As a matter of historical record, universal male suffrage has operated in America little more than a century. Before that time, propertied oligarchies led the people with considerable success as is witnessed by the Revolutionary War. The establishment of the American Constitution also was the work of men elected under a rigid property qualification.
Thus the argument of tradition can he applied to both sides of the case with facility, for one can scarcely imagine a populist disowning the Constitution. The disturbing thesis that the 51 percent have no right to rule therefore appears still unconfuted save by the call to arms. The threat of physical force or mental boycott is the logic which better than any other justifies the will of the majority.
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