Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Does "The Will Of The People" Become "The Tyranny Of The Majority?" When It Suits Your Political Bias, I Guess

       An effort at weakening South Dakota's recently passed and just installed increase in
The SD Minimum Wage Meme
The biz guy in the pic is looney, imo
(cartoon from www.dineshbakshi.com)
minimum wages surfaced in the state's legislature yesterday.
Numbered House Bill 1094, it would remove the provision in the new minimum wage law stating that "in no case shall the minimum wage be decreased." Though there's a certain amount of silliness to the effort, considering that inflation is endemic to the American economy, the sponsors of the bill do have a point: as long as a cost-of-living adjustment is in the bill, it seems consistent to adjust wages downward as well as upward to match changes in the cost of living.  I really can't fault the logic of the Republican sponsors, though the political motivation of their maneuver is fairly transparent.  I am a strong supporter of SD's minimum wage law and consider this legislative challenge to be a muscle-flexing exercise by South Dakota Republicans who are probably intent on chipping away at the new law, which was handily passed by voters last November by a 55-45 margin.  

     Outraged supporters of the law are nonetheless getting a bit carried away with their "will of the people" defense of it. Sponsors of HB 1094 are acting well within their capacities to mount this challenge, and do so at some political risk. I say go for it. The minimum wage law merits a vigorous public examination, if only because of its pervasiveness. What irks me about the criticism of this challenge is the rhetorical argument that it somehow violates "the will of the people."  Seems to me that some of these critics are the same ones who are mad at South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley for defending the gay marriage ban that was put into place by South Dakota voters in 2006. Jackley has repeatedly noted that he is constitutionally bound to defend state law, an argument that I accept, particularly as the ban was passed at the ballot by a 52-48 majority.
     Outraged opponents of Jackley's persistent defense of South Dakota law consider him to be defending the "tyranny of the majority." That phrase is actually part of the complaint filed
The Word "Marriage" Is Gender-Neutral
Neither the majority nor history can change that
(photo from The Chicago Tribune)
against South Dakota's law by the plaintiffs in the case.  I agree with and unequivocally support the plaintiffs in the South Dakota proceeding, but wonder why the "will of the people" should characterize the minimum wage law while the "tyranny of the majority" is the way the gay marriage ban is described. Both laws were the outcomes of elections, not legislative fiat.  So how does the "will" of one become the "tyranny" of the other?

     I unequivocally support the minimum wage law, including its provision that the wage shall never be decreased.  I unequivocally support the right of same-sex couples to be married, in every legal, social and religious sense of that word. But the use of hackneyed political bombast like "the will of the people" and "the tyranny of the majority" as cheap rhetorical political devices that substitute sloganeering for clear and informed thought?  The discussion deserves better.  


  1. It seems if it can't be a slogan and slapped on a t-shirt, people don't pay attention. It is damn maddening. However, people read you, so that gives me some hope. I don't see much for gimmicky crap in your writing. There might be hope yet. Aside from that, our style of democracy is always at tension between the tyranny of the majority and the will of the people. I think in this case though, since most of us would agree LGBT are not the majority, it is therefore a way of identifying that people with no dog in the fight so to speak are making decisions for that minority--there weren't enough allies to help them get that vote. Regarding minimum wage, almost anybody that works would be affected. Just a thought.

  2. When was the last time time the US was in a deflationary period? Maybe the Great Depression? Reducing the wages of the working people during a period of deflation seems very short sighted. At such a time people delay spending because they rightly assume everything will be cheaper tomorrow than it is today. Why pay today's price if they can pay less tomorrow? Consumers end up buying only what they absolutely need for their immediate needs. Business people end up dropping prices to entice buying and consumers perceptions are affirmed and they further delay purchases. Reducing wages at such a time only feeds the deflationary spiral. A slight amount of deflation is a good thing for an economy. Economy's need money chasing goods.

    Nick Nemec

  3. Oops, my last post should read "a slight amount if inflation is a good thing"

    Sorry for the mistake.

    Nick Nemec