The will of the people

Will of the people

Intro: my former professor and friend Albert Weale wrote a succinct and insightful book on this topic: the will of the people, a modern myth


People care about an ever-expanding list of political issues (fiscal, monetary, migration, identity, etc). As a result, political parties mushroom to capture the ever-growing combination of political convictions. The will of the people, understood as what the majority wants, can be logically set as a majority in many configurations. As a result, on first principles, one majority == one will of the people does not exist.

So, the will of the people is a myth on first principles. It also ontologically impossible: what questions we ask from the people, affect what people vote on, and hence what the wants made explicit.

Also, As anyone who has ever undergone a remodel at home knows, what people say they want cannot possibly represent the full complexity of what it takes to get it done. So, knowing what people want to the level of specificity required for implementing such want, is something impossible to fully know upfront.

Finally, even if there was an intelligible will of the people, it could be mistaken. Yes, majorities can be in the wrong. So, if you disagree with a decision, it’s your moral obligation to dissent. The notion that dissent is anti-democratic because the will of the people is sacred assumes people, under no circumstance, should change their minds, which is crazy.

· people