Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove, The Other McCain, Whores and Ale and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links! Now then: Should we be pushing to have more people voting, or fewer? For some time now I’ve been arguing the latter. Excerpt:
One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing . . . if you haven’t met the average American voter.
Voters — individually and in majorities — are as apt to be wrong about things as right about them, often vote from low motives such as bigotry and spite, and very often are contentedly ignorant. That is one of the reasons why the original constitutional architecture of this country gave voters a narrowly limited say in most things and took some things — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. — off the voters’ table entirely. It is easy to think of critical moments in American history when giving the majority its way would have produced horrifying results. If we’d had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide. If we held a plebiscite on abolishing the death penalty today, the death penalty would be sustained.
If the question is the quality of policy outcomes, then both major camps have reasons to dread genuine majority rule. Conservatives ought to at the very least be mindful of the fact that if policy truly represented the preferences of the average American, then we would have fewer economic liberties and diminished Second Amendment rights; progressives should consider that if policy actually represented the preferences of the average American, then abortion rights would be limited and tax hikes would not fly, while we’d be spending more money on the Border Patrol and less on welfare as work requirements reduced the rolls. Popular opinion does not break down along neat ideological lines.
The real case — generally unstated — for encouraging more people to vote is a metaphysical one: that wider turnout in elections makes the government somehow more legitimate in a vague moral sense. But legitimacy is not popularity and popularity is not consent. The entire notion of representative government assumes that the actual business of governing requires fewer decision-makers rather than more.
Frankly requiring voter ID is a good starting point. If a particular individual can’t be arsed to get some form of government ID – without which, incidentally, it’s scarcely possible to survive in our modern society – then I don’t want them voting. Although I suspect, although I don’t know, that the numbers of people “disenfranchised” because they can’t obtain some form of ID is so low as to be insignificant; the main argument for requiring an ID to vote is to help ensure election integrity, not as a screen on voters, although it may be a good one.
I’ve got a better idea, though: If you have no skin in the game, you don’t vote. If your most recent tax return shows your are a net recipient of money from the government at a given level, you don’t get a vote at that level. (This could only apply at Imperial and State levels, but what the hell.) If you paid taxes, you get a vote.
That, in and of itself, would have a huge impact. Pols would now have a much harder time buying off the voting public, and the siren song of Free Shit would be considerably reduced.