The tyranny of the supermajority - how majority rule protects minorities

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40 Citations (Scopus)


This article demonstrates that majority rule offers more-protection to the worst-off minority than any other system in that it maximizes the ability to overturn an unfavorable outcome. It is known (May, 1952; Dahl, 1956) that majority rule is the only decision rule that completely respects political equality. However, it is frequently argued that other decision rules (such as a system of checks and balances, which are implicitly supermajoritarian) better serve the goals of protecting minorities' rights and preserving stability. This article argues that this trade-off is illusory and that majority rule actually provides most protection to minorities. Furthermore, it does so precisely because of the instability inherent in majority rule, which overcomes the problem of majority tyranny.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-77
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


  • limits
  • social choice
  • spatial voting games
  • majority
  • minority protection
  • decision-rules
  • democratic theory
  • alternatives
  • core


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