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The margins of society refer to those who live outside accepted social norms, such as the impoverished, homeless, mentally ill, and certain racial groups. Democracy tends to work best for those who function well in society, leaving those on the fringes with little influence. Homeless and illiterate individuals may struggle to participate in democracy, while white supremacist militias choose to live on the fringes. Wealthy eccentrics may reject society, while the mentally ill without wealth are seen as outcasts.

The margins of society refer to a philosophical place rather than a physical one. Essentially those who are considered to be on the fringes of society are those people who live outside the accepted social norms. These could include the impoverished, people in the penal system, the homeless, the incurably mentally ill, or certain racial groups. The latter may not occur regularly in the United States, but in other countries some groups may be considered outside or on the fringes of society.

In the United States, those who participate in and benefit from democracy usually fall “inside” the margins, not outside. While it would be ideal if democracy served all people, it tends to best serve people who function well in society, can abide by its rules, work and pay taxes, and have a stable home. It doesn’t tend to work as well for those on the fringes of society, the outer fringe, because these people may have little influence in the democratic system, whether through poverty, discrimination, education, or complacency.

For example, if we state that the homeless are on the margins, we are essentially stating that they are outside our society. It’s a mostly true statement. In addition, homelessness often makes it more difficult to vote as it is not always possible to provide a postal address to register.

This can create a problem from a democratic point of view, because a homeless person may not even register to vote and lose the vote on key issues that may concern them. If a bill affecting homelessness goes to a public vote and the homeless do not choose to vote or cannot register to vote, they remain outside of society and do not participate in it. Because they belong to the margins of society, it cannot be said that they really have a say in how they are governed or how they are helped.

Another example might apply to someone who is illiterate. An illiterate person lives on the margins of society because basic things like voting can be difficult or seem impossible. The illiterate person may also find it difficult to fill out tax forms, fill out job applications and thus without help may become outcasts. While there are many programs and provisions in the law to assist the illiterate with regards to voting or paying taxes, taking advantage of them can be embarrassing.

While some people fall on the fringes of society through choice, uncontrollable circumstances, or disabilities, some groups in the United States, such as white supremacist militias, live on the fringes of society by choice. They do not accept social norms accepted by the mainstream public and may view other racial groups as controlling political power in the US government, or they may espouse conspiracy theories that would make life in the mainstream quite difficult. Many are preparing for a violent conflict with the government and see the government and most of its people as enemies.

Some people can refuse the company, in any country. Also, some people have relative freedom to reject society. A wealthy and mentally unstable person is often left to run their own course as long as they don’t break the laws. These people are called eccentrics. On the other hand, the mentally ill without wealth have little choice and are generally seen as outcasts, problems or misfits. These people have an even more marginal status than rich eccentrics because there is no way to fit such people into the definition of, say, a US company.

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