LETTER: US system protects, not favours minorities
Senate ensures temporary majority in Congress does not ride roughshod over smaller states
In the column, “US system rigged in favour of the minority” (November 14), Steven Friedman likens the US political system to that of apartheid SA because it apparently favours minority rule. His contribution is rife with misunderstandings of a political dispensation far superior and mature to that of SA.
Friedman criticises the constitution of the US Senate because it gives more populous states the same representation as less populous states. In so doing, he ignores the fact that in SA the Northern Cape (with a population of just more than 1-million) has the exact same representation — 10 seats — in the National Council of Provinces as does Gauteng (with a population of over 12-million). This was enshrined in the constitution to ensure that larger provinces aren’t empowered to ride roughshod over smaller provinces in matters of policy — the exact role of the US Senate.
Upper houses of governments serve a different purpose from that of lower houses. They act as a check and a balance, to ensure that transient majorities of lower houses do not completely dominate the wishes of substantial minorities. In the US this is particularly important, since the Democrats and the Republicans are more or less evenly matched in terms of popular support.
That South Africans should be “offering to help Americans achieve the democracy we enjoy” is a ridiculous notion — the democracy we enjoy has wrought oppression at worst and nervous uncertainty at best. We have a lot to learn about limited government from the US.
Martin van Staden