Rights are one of my favorite conversations. But let’s try something different today – rather than start at the end (minority discrimination, etc.) let’s start at the beginning.
All Americans have the Right to bear arms. That’s the same “R” word as we are discussing in regards to voting, correct? Are all Americans given a gun at the age of 18? Can you go to the store and anonymously buy a gun and then store it in your home without big brother knowing about it? The answers to both of the questions are a clear no, but why? All Americans have the RIGHT to bear arms, I thought? It seems to me that those in poverty have an unfair disadvantage, they cannot afford a gun and therefore cannot exercise that right. How can we, as honest and empathetic Americans, sit here and say we have the right to bear arms when we don’t facilitate the purchase of guns for ALL Americans?
Thick enough sarcasm?
If a burglar points a gun at you, he can steal your wallet (though he will likely go to jail eventually). An ignorant citizen can point his right to vote at you and steal hundreds of thousands of dollars (with no fear of jail..in fact.. he even gets a sticker for doing it). Guns don’t scare me, stupid voters do.
On to the discussion.
Voting is the only legal action (that I’m currently aware of) where one citizen can force another to do something against their will. Let’s do a quick check to make sure my memory is correct: Slavery? Abolished. Yep, voting is the only one left. Why all the jest, why the large build up? Because in this entire conversation, no one ever discusses the grave implications of the vote. Voting is a tremendous power, more powerful than any gun on earth.
Back to above, what do we require of citizens who want to exercise their RIGHT to bear arms? They must prove that they will exercise those rights in a constitutionally appropriate way, they must register themselves with the government to insure they are held accountable for any abuses, and they are kept on a short leash (most states have various gun bans). Why do we go to such extreme lengths? Because guns can be used to harm other citizens.
Let’s talk voting rights. When voting rights are discussed, most people on both sides of the aisle will say that every single person in the country needs to be able to vote. It doesn’t matter if they can’t read the ballot. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know a single name of a single candidate. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know how to tie their shoes. They have the right to vote, damn it, they need a ballot and they need it now.
Someone doesn’t want to spend 20 dollars to get an identification so that they can vote? We need to make it cheaper! (what was that joke earlier about buying every American a gun?)
I don’t think that voting should be limited to certain groups (whites, males) or achievements (land ownership) like it once was. But I do think we need to be taking the conversation in the other direction. We should not be trying to make the process so easy that brain dead idiots can throw a vote towards the guy that wants to ban gay marriage (even though neither the voter nor the candidate is gay).
So what does Utopia look like? I’m not sure but here are some ideas:
-A gun permit typically requires training, where the candidate has to demonstrate a basic knowledge of gun safety. Requiring citizens to pass a ‘voting safety’ test would be a similar hurdle to exercise a ‘right’ of a similar power. After all, if a citizen does not understand the constitution, should they really be voting for the candidate that can best uphold it?
-Voting meets standardized testing: Currently if you want to vote D or R, you simply need to make an ‘X’, fill in an arrow, or punch a hole. While that last one might be difficult for some certain demographics in a certain south state, for the most part we aren’t talking rocket science. Let’s turn the ballot into a test. Underneath John McCain (to use my previous example of a bloated, waste of space politician) instead of a box, you will have 3 choices: offer amnesty to all illegal immigrants, allow open campaign financing without any restriction, restrict marriage to between just one man and one woman. John McCain only stands for one of these, pick it correctly and your vote counts. Pick incorrectly and you exercised your right to fill out a piece of paper. Of course you’d want to have a standard set of topics that all candidates pulled from, and all candidates on the ballot would have to approve of the choice of answers to avoid any skewing through leading answers.
Will either of these ever happen? No. But it’d be nice to start hearing people discuss the grave implications of voting and how it affects ME rather than wasting so much air on the poor people who aren’t able to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from me.
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Again, I find myself surprised to hear a libertarian professing these sentiments. What you are proposing is the re-introduction of literacy and constitution tests. These give the state the right to regulate which citizens can regulate it and were historically used to exclude a specific race from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Yet you arrive at this conclusion out of concern over the power of the state!
You close by expressing your concern over how the voting of others will impact you, specifically their ability to tax you for programs you personally reject. But what about them? What about the citizen who may in fact “want to spend 20 dollars to get an identification so that they can vote” but literally cannot afford to do so. Should they therefore be at the mercy of the wealthier majority, without even the basic shield of being able to participate in the democratic system.
It begins to occur to me that you really meant something you implied in your post last week when you said, “However, there are some instinctive flaws in the way people work, and these are unfortunately magnified in democracy.” It seems to me that your problem with democracy is not the imperfect system of representation but the concept of democracy itself. If people get to vote, they might just do so (and repeatedly have done so) in ways that you find overly onerous. And so, you would prefer that they lose their right to shape the government as they see fit. In short, you are anti-democratic. Is that a fair understanding of your position? If so, it seems as though the proposed changes you suggest for ‘utopia’ wouldn’t go far enough. Perhaps in a future post you can lay out more of what you believe an ideal libertarian government would look like?
I think there are a few levels of definition that need to be instituted before you suggest my beliefs aren’t democratic – as I believe that democracy is the ONLY legitimate governing authority that has ever existed in human civilization.
We are speaking on different levels.
There are two questions:
1) Who should have a say in the government.
2) How much power should those people have in every citizen’s life.
My primary concerns are always with question 2, whereas I think you are much more concerned with question 1 – without any concern for how that affects question 2. I understand the original question was about voting rights, however, the issue needs to be viewed through a wider lens – this is not a simplistic issue.
You are accurate that literacy and other tests have, in the past, been used by people in a ‘shady’ way.
However, I’d say it’s unfair to exclude any idea that, in the past, was used for nefarious purposes. If that is your litmus test for acceptable political philosophy I think you will find that pretty much every idea, principle, and belief has been bastardized and turned on its head at some point in human history. (Are there not examples of the dead voting in certain places? – this would mean that an open poll fails your test as well)
Does raising the bar to vote exclude people? It could. But the people it excludes are self selecting. I’m not advocating a specific means for accomplishing the idea – so it’s tough to argue that its discriminatory. It could be a test administered at the polls. It could be a verbal test to allow for illiteracy. It could be a lot of things.
It solely discriminates against people who do not care enough about government to give themselves a very basic education on the matter. And to be honest, those people do not deserve to vote.
If you are ignorant on government then when you vote you are not choosing your representation..you are just making a mark on a piece of paper (not a constitutionally protected right, as far as I’m aware).
The real concern we should all be worried about is question 2. I don’t care what people believe as long as they don’t force me to believe it (this is the true libertarian philosophy you are searching for.)
I’m not advocating a government run by the elite – forcing its will on the poor. I’m saying government shouldn’t be forcing its will on anyone. Removing ignorant voters is an important step in that direction.
I’ll reply at length in my post this week. Here I just want to clarify that I mean no insult by suggesting you harbor some anti-democratic thought. There’s a long history of that in the U.S., in our Constitution, and in modern conservative politics. As I plan to explain in my own post, there’s a good reason for that.