After reading a story in the NYT, Jim’s wife Heidi came up with a method to fight back against the obnoxious cell phone users that we all have to deal with in stores, restaurants, trains and pretty much everywhere else. Can design ride to the rescue? Jim and the incomparable Aaron Draplin think it can. So, as a public service, we introduce the reasonably polite SHHH, the Society for HandHeld Hushing.
Ontem o NY Times publicou Democracy in America, Then and Now, a Struggle Against Majority Tyranny, por Adam Cohen. O autor defende que American Vertigo (o livro de Bernard-Henri Lévy relatando sua viagem pelos EUA, refazendo os passos de Alexis de Tocqueville) é leitura interessante mas que deixa a desejar na questão com a qual Tocqueville mais se preocupava — a "tirania da maioria", um produto da democracia e maior ameaça contra a sua continuidade.
A "tirania da maioria" se refere à homogeneidade da opinião pública. Tocqueville dizia haver pouca tolerância à diferenças de opinião em sociedades democráticas, e que tais sociedades destruiam o pensamento independente. Do livro Democracy in America, Volume I, Chapter XV:
I know of no country in which, speaking generally, there is less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America […] As long as the majority is still undecided, discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent, and the friends as well as the opponents of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety.
Tocqueville concluiu que a censura contra dissidentes era maior em sociedades democráticas. Nas aristocracias européias contras as quais Tocqueville comparava a sociedade americana, um dissidente podia ser torturado e punido, mas sua alma escapava, e encontrava apoio com o populacho. Em sociedades democráticas, "the body is left free and the sould enslaved": a opinião da maioria ostraciza os dissidentes e garante conformidade.
Outro paradoxo interessante identificado por Tocqueville é a centralização do governo causada exatamente pelo desejo de limitar a força deste. Do Volume IV, Chapter III:
Democratic ages are times of experiment, innovation, and adventure. There are always a lot of men engaged in some difficult or new undertaking which they pursue apart, unencumbered by assistants. Such men will freely admit the general principle that the power of the state should not interfere in private affairs, but as an exception, each one of them wants the state to help in the special matter with which he is preoccupied, and he wants to lead the government on to take action in his domain, though he would like to restrict it in every other direction.
As a multitude of people, all at the same moment, take this particular view about a great variety of different purposes, the sphere of the central government insensibly spreads in every direction, although every individual wants to restrict it. In this way the simple fact of its continuing existence increases the attributes of power of a democratic government. Time works on its side, and every accident is to its profit; the passions of individuals, in spite of themselves, promote it; and one can say that the older a democratic society, the more centralised will its government be.