Spurn the Tyranny of the Majority

Depression Era 'Welcome'

Showing the depth of desperation in the Great Depression
Showing the depth of desperation in the Great Depression

Works Progress Administration

'No Smoking' Logo

Anyone over 30, including former President George (H.W.) Bush, can look back to a time in America when people enjoyed a kinder, gentler society.

Before and during World War II, and for some years after, people, in general, had a better outlook than we have today. And, while the bromide holds that every generation sees succeeding generations going to rack and ruin, the differences in views are undeniable.

WPA Worker's Good Deed

It would be simple to fill this space with illustrations of how attitudes have changed. My earliest memory in this regard, for example, is of a pre-World War II WPA (Works Progress Administration) worker who was sweeping the gutter outside a grocery store. He dropped his broom to help a small boy -- me -- who had dropped and broken a bottle of milk on the way out of the store (on Fairview Street in Yonkers, New York.). He sure wasn't thinking of himself when he got the very relieved boy a new bottle from the store owner -- no small thing in the waning days of the Great Depression.

Too many people these days would look the other way under the same circumstances.


Ex-Smokers Often Worst Offenders

There's a general tendency toward mean-spiritedness today as illustrated by the current outlook on smokers. It's only been in recent decades that so many have taken on a holier-than-thou attitude on the subject. Ex-smokers are sometimes the worst offenders. I took up smoking when I was 8 years old and enjoyed -- yes, enjoyed -- smoking for more than 40 years before quitting. Quitting, however, doesn't give one the right to criticize those who still smoke.

Majority Punishing the Minority

It's bad enough that nonsmokers take advantage of their numbers to punish the minority by inordinately raising smokers' taxes, but it's downright mean-spirited of them to seek exorbitant financial payoffs that unjustly hurt not just smokers but also manufacturers, farmers, stockholders and tobacco-dependent communities.

While cigarettes have been called "coffin nails" since the 1800's, they are legal.

So, fresh from their success against cigarette manufacturers, what does the majority do now for an encore? After all, they (including the White House) are already hounding gun manufacturers, blaming them for every killing involving a gun and looking for more big bucks.

The Shotgun Approach?

Will they now try to fill government coffers by going after banks (for usury), insurance companies (for overcharging and redlining), lawyers (for unnecessary litigation), farmers and chemical companies (for killing us with unhealthy substances), food companies (for feeding us sugar, fats and salts that lead to diabetes, heart disease, etc.), and doctors (for overcharging and unnecessary operations, as well as malpractice)?

By way of disclaimer, I unabashedly disclose that I have a financial interest in tobacco, as well as health, food, guns and innumerable other things.

Laissez-faire Policy

Extorting money from those we disagree with is not the answer. I say laissez-faire is the best policy; what goes around comes around; que sera sera. Lighten up folks!

Wouldn't it be better if we drop that "me first" attitude and replace it with "All for one, and one for all?"

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Dec. 12, 1999. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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President Roosevelt's WPA: A Kinder, Gentler Time in America

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Comments 40 comments

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

Sad but true!


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

we may swing back to a better attitude, one of helping of seeing more than our own needs..our own opinions...more than one way to a truth...I hope it will be so.("The Many Roads To Japan" attitude...)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for commenting, Ralph, and I share your hopes, marisuewrites.


Bob 7 years ago

Bill . Here's one we're on the same page with and I haven't smoked a cigarette in 53 years or a cigar in 20 years.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, Bob. I gave up the habit in 1982.


NYLady profile image

NYLady 7 years ago from White Plains, NY

I agree with you. We're in need of a kinder, gentler, more tolerant nation. Let's stop judging each other so much.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Isn't tyranny of majority just another name for democracy?


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

Hey, at least it is a tyranny of the majority. We have so much tyranny of the minority going on that it's nice to see the actual core elements of democracy are still doing something somewhere. Too bad it's mean-faced stuff and not useful, picking on smokers and all, but hey, "the many" need to be able to have some say in something over "the few" who get to tell us what we read, what we can or can't say, what our kids can wear to school, who gets tax breaks etc.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Our country would be far better off, NYLady, if we all were more tolerant of those who honestly disagree with us. We have more in common, I think, than appears on the surface.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for commenting, Misha. Majority rule doesn't necessarily have to be accompanied by tyranny. A spirit of good will and compromise can go a long way.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The majority was dealt the best cards, Shadesbreath, but in any organization, including government, power tends to flow to those who are most active and determined. Minority views can only survive while the majority sleeps. Americans have been sleeping alot lately. The wealthy in the United States get the tax breaks because the poor are not represented in the halls of government.


einron profile image

einron 7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

The majority is not always right, but on the other hand, the minority is not quite right also. It depends on how you see the situation, what your views are on a number of things, e.g. morality.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

That's true, einron. But that's why majority rule should be benevolent.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Disagree. The majority is almost always wrong, at least in my experience :)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

A majority may be right, Misha, or it may be wrong, but when the majority rules it doesn't need to be right. Ultimately, whether it's right or wrong depends on where you sit.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

Well it's damned uncomfortable to be being carried along by the momentum of a herd running towards the cliff.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

LOL William, the later I agree wholeheartedly :) As for the former - our current state of economics and foreign policy makes me questioning it. Unless you assume the goal of majority is suicide. ;)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I've felt that way for the last eight years, Shadesbreath, and unless the Cavalry shows up soon we're doomed!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

I bet a few of the last surviving herd of mastodons had this same conversation as some spear wielding cro-magnons chased the lot of them wastefully off a cliff.

"Well, Hairy, I can't break free here, too many running to the canyon. I'm stuck. This looks bad."

"Yeah Jumbo, these idiots are going to take us with them, aren't they?"

"Yep."

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The current state of our economics and foreign policy, Misha, is the direct result of those in power for the past eight years, but I never believed them to be the majority. Their goals are not my goals, nor, I think, are they the goals of the majority.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'm sure you're right, Shadesbreath, but when we go over the cliff somebody will write a hub about it.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

Yeah, the hub that says, "They were 15,000 lb mammoths, why didn't they all just stop and kick the crap out of the morons with the spears?"


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Aren't those in power supposed to be appointed by the majority? Aren't America proud to be a flagship of democracy?

I would guess those in power follow the will of the majority... Voting for them for the second term is kind of a confirmation of that for me... I could imagine the majority being mistaken, and realizing it was - and four years is more than enough to realize that - it should have voted for different leaders - if the leaders did not act to the majority will.

No, majority happily voted for them second time. Time to let go some illusions, isn't it? Either democracy is not that good, or America is not a flagship of democracy... Or may be even both...


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Maybe they weren't mammoths. Maybe they didn't stop because they were jackalopes.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

Misha, the arguments of Madison and Hamilton (and notable others too) pretty much covered all this stuff in the Federalist Papers. It's the exact trainwreck they both worried about. They were both right. Toss in Washington's fairwell address and we see why those guys were able to shape a country and why guys like Clinton and Bush can ruin one.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Many Americans do not believe the incumbent administration was ever a majority, but, rather, was appointed by the Supreme Court in 2000 and returned to power through voting machine legerdemain and voter caging. There was never a majority in favor of the pre-emptive war against Iraq. The Bush presidency was an outright power grab and does not represent the views of the majority of Americans.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

LOL Shade, while I have no idea who those guys are, I am sure I am not the first who came to such conclusions. What puzzles me is even the brightest people around here are in total denial and keep calling a police state run by oligarchs - the flagship of democracy...

William, I don't know in what part of the country you have been, but around here in DC the vast majority of Americans were pro-war. That I watched by my own eyes and heard by my own ears, and the people I was talking to about that were not just some rednecks, but mostly highly intelligent and educated people...

As for the voting - based on what you say looks like it is not democracy to blame for this, but its particular implementation in this particular country - means there is no ground to claim the flagship title...


Jerry G2 profile image

Jerry G2 7 years ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

Great hub. I enjoy the occasional cigar, and have never smoked cigs, but the constant restrictions of personal freedom is ridiculous. I think this is a symptom of a larger problem: nowadays more people care about "being right" than facts, truth, or anything else. That attitude is only going to be destructive, especially when the attitude of "I believe this is true, therefore it is and you're all stupid idiots if you disagree with me," is really prevelant regardless of political affiliation, education, etc, and it's really sad.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

There's no question, Misha, that many Americans believed the lies of the Bush Administration and really thought that the mighty U.S.A. was threatened by Iraq, despite the fact that inspectors could find no weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, many of us opposed the pre-emptive invasion. There certainly was no nationwide vote on the war, nor was there a declaration of war as required by the U.S. Constitution.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for your comment, Jerry G2. I, too, smoke cigars occasionally. I couldn't believe the open warfare it evoked from nonsmokers. I agree its indicative of a larger attitude problem.


ralwus 7 years ago

Well William, talk is now afoot about taxing doughnuts and such to fight against obesity in people. Fwas Gois[spelling?] was made illegal to serve in Chicago awhile back and cigarette taxes just keep going up. So what's next? Oh, and they want to take what, 500 billion dollars from an ailing Social Security for the Healthcare Bill and it is going to be bust in 2016? I really don't blame the majority, for I don't think the majority has ever really voted on these things, only the many politicians. It's really tyranny of Politics isn't it? And how the wind blows in their favor? Good job my man.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Doughnuts may or may not be unhealthy, ralwus, and foie gras may result from cruelty to animals but I'm not sure we need laws against every single thing we do. Taxing cigarettes may be sold as a way to force better health on people, but it results in unfairly punishing citizens financially. We need to overhaul our health care system, however, and taking funds from Social Security is not going to happen. We should have a single-payer system, not just a "public option" because the insurance companies have proved their inability to handle the job without leaving millions of people out in the cold and overcharging the rest.


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

You said it brother! Im so sick of all these dolly do gooders who secretly have their own vices, condemning people who smoke. I was in a restaurant once, when you could still smoke in a smoking section and standing behind me waiting to be seated were two women who just were beside themselves because i asked for the smoking section. They were making all kinds of rude statements about smoking, thinking I didnt hear them. I turned around and said, "When you pull up to this restaurant riding a bicycle instead of a fumy stinking car, Ill quit smoking".


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

One of my many pet peeves, Lisa, is the attitude of people who once smoked but gave them up, but now castigate others for smoking. Some nerve! I wouldn't be surprised if those two women you encountered were once smokers.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I agree but -cough, cough, I can't cough, cough ... great hub- cough


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, Micky Dee, for commenting through all that heavy smoke.


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 3 years ago

I agree that ex smokers so often castigate current smokers. I have been on electronic cigarettes for a year and some mean spitited people want these banned in public places even though they are pure vapour and harmless.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

As an ex-smoker, seanorjohn, I don't see how anyone could gain any satisfaction for those vapor "cigarettes," nor do I see how the tobacco companies will ever make them a profitable venture. Thanks for commenting.


The Enlightened 1 profile image

The Enlightened 1 20 months ago

I must say I'm only 36 yrs old and I have even seen a diffrence in how we love thy neighbor help a lady with her bags its a rare quality now and sadly enough with the rave over rap music witch is no more then a tool to keep ignorant kids ignorant while teaching them youre only cool if ur a drug dealer or sleep with multiple women or making it rain doller bills on strippers and so on the only message being given in entertainment these days self destruction I was once a fan of rap till I woke up and realized love feels a whole lot better then hate but what's worse is the ppl that run entertainment know exactly what they're doing and every generation has progressively gotten worse i have 3 kids 18 15 13 and I'm terrified for their future. I seen the change from when I was 15 till now and it's happening even faster now so I picture what things will be like when my youngest is my age and I can't even imagine we need more tolerance more understanding most of all just more humanity in general sorry I went off topic a bit this is what reading this made me think of well put


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 20 months ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I share your concern about the deterioration of our culture and the outlook for present and future generations, The Enlightened 1. Improvement in our social, economic and political discourse is sorely needed. In many of my hubs (frequently they are columns I wrote for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, CT) I have tried to point out the problems of poverty, homelessness and economic disparity. In several of my hubs I attempt to acquaint youngsters with the good old music of the early 20th Century (i.e., Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, Marlene Dietrich, Al Jolson, et al.) I appreciate your comment and agree with your sentiments.

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