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If plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, and meritocracy is rule by individual ability or achievement, then what's a word that means rule by the vocal minority? Extrovert-ocracy?

An example I'm thinking of is a lively city council or homeowners association meeting where leaders take action based on what they perceive to be the general consensus, when in reality the silent majority were just too afraid to speak up. Maybe a fitting word in this particular case would be (edit: not geritocracy) "gerontocracy" because the older population tends to be over-represented in these types of meetings, but I'm looking for a more general-case word.

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  • 3
    Seems a more appropriate question for English Language & Usage.
    – StephenG
    Nov 18 '20 at 12:24
  • 2
    Isn't all society ruled by a vocal minority?
    – RonJohn
    Nov 18 '20 at 22:02
  • I think what you describe is called a participatory democracy and is the way most associations are run: all adherents are allowed to take part in the decisions, but in practice only a few make their voices heard, because actually participating is extremely time-consuming.
    – Stef
    Nov 18 '20 at 23:57
  • How about a hysteriocracy? Nov 30 '20 at 13:40
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If you are interested in coining a neologism, then I suggest *rhothiocracy. From the Greek ῥόθιος (rhothios) meaning noisy, roaring and the usual -cracy suffix from κρατεῖν (kratein), meaning to rule. Hence a situation where power is held by those who are noisy and kick up a fuss (although they could be in a minority or in the majority).

EDIT: A classicist colleague of mine suggested that the Greeks would be more likely use a compound word, and we came up with *megalophonocracy, rule by the big-voiced. This has the advantage that someone who remembers a little Greek or knows some other Greek-derived English words would have a chance of interpreting it!

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    Megaphonocracy would resonate better with an English speaking audience. Nov 18 '20 at 5:51
  • 4
    @eyeballfrog My thought was that the existing word megaphone would get in the way, and suggest rule by those with megaphones (with connotations of leading a protest or crowd) which isn't what the OP wanted to describe.
    – dbmag9
    Nov 18 '20 at 8:17
  • @dbmag9 It sure seems to match that pattern to me. Nov 19 '20 at 3:57
16

Probably the best fit is 'demagogy'. Demagogues always claim to speak for the people as a whole — that's how the term was ostensibly used in ancient Greece — but in reality demagogues aim to inflame the passions of an intemperate minority and use them as a stepping stone for broad power.

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Not precisely on point, but the concept of a "heckler's veto" is the name of a voting system that allows one person's disagreement or complaint even in a large group to override decisions of the majority.

For example, when I was a freshman in college, in a co-ed dorm, each floor of the dorm had a vote on whether or not the bathrooms would be co-ed on that floor. The decision was not made by majority vote, but by consensus. Anyone living on the floor could employ a heckler's veto.

In the U.S. Senate, many actions are taken based upon "unanimous consent" to which any Senator may object and force the usual process that is slower and more cumbersome to be used instead.

Part of the difficulty with the original question is that the example given doesn't really match the question.

In the examples given, a decision is made by a majority vote of an HOA board or a city council, and the outcome is a function of a perception of what the public wants as well as the board or council member's own decisions. Responsiveness to vocal minorities is different from decision making by vocal minorities. And as such doesn't really fit with other "-cracy" terms which usual refer to who actually makes decisions, not to who lobbies and influences decisions. You could still say that it is de facto rule by a vocal minority, but that wouldn't be the conventional way to describe it.

Often politicians would accuse officials of "ignoring the silent majority" whom their opponents would claim to represent, or of being too solicitous of "special interests", or of being "too politically correct" (often abbreviated "too PC").

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  • 2
    Heckler's veto has a specific meaning in constitutional law and does not mean what you suggest here.
    – cde
    Nov 17 '20 at 5:55
  • 3
    @cde: You're talking from the US perspective (I assume), but the question isn't scoped to the US specifically. Whether a specific country's constitution or legal body has decided to tack another meaning onto the same phrase, does not change the general meaning of the phrase.
    – Flater
    Nov 17 '20 at 12:02
  • 1
    @flater the answer is also scoped from a us perspective and I can't find hecklers veto used as this answer describes online. Can you show where this is the general meaning and not the way its used in the US perspective?
    – cde
    Nov 17 '20 at 16:10
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    "Not precisely on point, but the concept of a "heckler's veto" is the name of a voting system that allows one person's disagreement or complaint even in a large group to override decisions of the majority." That's not a heckler's veto, that's just a plain veto. "a heckler's veto is the suppression of speech by the government, because of [the possibility of] a violent reaction by hecklers. It is the government that vetoes the speech, because of the reaction of the heckler." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler%27s_veto Nov 17 '20 at 19:42
  • I suggest liberum veto instead, which also conveniently comes with term for a council that deadlocks for reasons like that. A Polish parliament has no other idiomatic meaning.
    – timuzhti
    Nov 18 '20 at 1:32
6

I think this rule would be

A combination of Logocracy and some forms of Oligarchy

  • Logocracy is the rule of, or government by, words. A visiting foreigner once described the US as a logocracy, by which he means that via the tricky use of words, one can have power over others.

  • Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, education, corporate, religious, political, or military control. Such states are often controlled by families who pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition of oligarchy.

  • The exclusive consolidation of power by a dominant religious or ethnic minority has also been described as a form of oligarchy.

  • A dominant minority, also called elite dominance is a minority group that has overwhelming political, economic, or cultural dominance in a country, despite representing a small fraction of the overall population (a demographic minority).

Also see: Intellectual Oligarchy in the first reference.

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    In an oligarchy, those put in power by an oligarchy don't need to be vocal to be part of the ruling elite. The two can overlap, but the concept of oligarchy doesn't particularly imply vocality, so this answer doesn't quite match the question.
    – Flater
    Nov 17 '20 at 12:07
  • @Flater Thanks, I have tried to correct it. Nov 21 '20 at 8:18
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The concept you are outlining has been described in great detail by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book "Skin in the Game" (the whole chapter can be read freely here on his medium page), who just refers to it as "the minority rule".
At least to my knowledge there is yet no fancy sounding greek/latin name for it.

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    So a tyranny of the minority. Nov 17 '20 at 17:58
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A related concept is entryism. Radical socialist groups have been known to infiltrate moderate social democrat parties with a strategy roughly as follows:

  • The small group of radical socialists attend every single social democrat meeting.
  • At those meetings, all of them use their right to speak.
  • When they speak, they speak for a long time about stuff that most people find boring.
  • If they do this often enough, chances are less people end up going to those meetings.
  • When enough of the moderates are staying home, the radical socialists may be the majority of those present, such that they can effectively take over the shop.

Entryism has been proposed by Trotsky. In the 1980s, radical socialists took over the whole city council of Liverpool (England) using essentially this strategy. Ultimately they were were expelled from the Labour Party on a national level. I have personally witnessed Trotskyites in the Dutch Socialist Party in the 2000s, where they weren't numerous enough to get voting majorities, but they did push far above their weight in speaking time they used at party meetings, and actively tried to recruit attendees for their cause (it's the latter that was the formal reason the party used to ultimately expel them).

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  • That reminds me of the filibuster in the U.S. congress, sort of a war of attrition. Nov 17 '20 at 17:55
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Rule, or misrule by the vocal minority would be a vetocracy. The minority can overrule what the majority wants by veto, essentially leaving no single person or group in control. Essentially leaving it requiring unanimous consensus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vetocracy

What you describe is a combination of electocracy/democracy and voter apathy. Most HOA and actual government are not required to follow what anyone says and the sole ability to undo it is by voting.

Note that the US is ruled by the vocal minority. 29% chose the president for the other 71% (2016: Only 69% of the population are eligible to vote, only 59% of that votes, 46% of that won somehow, ergo 63,000,000 people controlled 330,000,000).

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    The Wikipedia article this answer links to seems to contradict the description of the answer of what a vetocracy is. Wikipedia says that a vetocracy is a government system which can not govern efficiently because too many different people with too many different interests have veto power. A government dominated by a small but vocal minority can still govern efficiently - it just does so in the interest of the minority instead of the interest of the majority. And that's not an unusual thing for government systems, neither in theory nor in practice.
    – Philipp
    Nov 17 '20 at 10:15
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At least in the vicinity of what you are looking for is a metaphorical use of hijack. An administrative body, an agenda, an event etc. can be "hijacked" by a minority in order to do their bidding instead of the original purpose:

One can hijack an entire political system: "Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System". The hijacking is clearly done by a minority. Whether you consider them vocal or not depends on whether you think that money can talk ;-).

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  • @pipe I don’t think that link supports your argument as you think it does. In fact much of it argues directly against it. What did the Kerner Commission find, for example.
    – jwpfox
    Nov 18 '20 at 22:57

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