I had to raise that issue in the film, because the film is unabashedly about people power, but I didn’t want to imply that if only we all just made decisions directly by general assembly everything would be perfect, because I don’t believe that. I’ve been part of enough failed activist experiments that tried to equate democracy with a simple majority-rule model that I believe our definition of democracy has to be more complicated.
That said, minoritarian tyranny is actually a very big problem for democracy, and American democracy in particular. But in this case we’re talking about the minority of very wealthy people.
Looking back at American history, the majority that the founding fathers were afraid of was the majority of poor people. When they were talking about protecting minority rights, they were talking about protecting the rights of a tiny subset of affluent white men.
We’ve expanded that idea, and now when we talk about minority rights, we’re talking about something very different from what they were talking about. When considering the relationship of democracy to minority rights, we have to be clear that not all minorities are the same.
That’s what’s so funny about Mr. Starbucks, Howard Schultz. When he objects to being called a billionaire, says he wants to be called a “person of wealth” instead, he’s speaking in the language of beleaguered identity groups. But rich people are not a democratic minority that needs to be protected from majority rule.