Election Reform: a Modest Proposal

Texas and other states have passed laws requiring voters to present valid ID at their polling place.  How could this be controversial?  These days we have to present ID to get on Amtrak, pick up mail at the post office, transact with a bank teller, etc., etc.  Is proper ID any less important for voting?  But a court recently struck down the Texas law saying it impacts minorities disproportionately.  Hummph.  If laws against aggravated assault affect minorities disproportionately should those be overturned also?

But why bother about this issue?  There surely is some voter fraud happening, but how much does it matter?  The real problem with democracy is simply the results.  The worst get on top, as Hayek put it, Exhibit A being, of course, the Sewer Rat in the White House.  As the electorate has broadened, starting with white male landowners at the Founding all the way down to today’s situation where anyone with a pulse who is at least 18 and claims to be a citizen can vote, and with direct election of senators in between, the quality of elected officials has gone steadily downhill.  Barack Obama!  Harry Reid!  Mike Huckabee!  Nancy Pelosi!  Compare this crew with George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson.  Are you sick at your stomach yet?

Herewith a modest reform proposal:

  1. Raise the voting age to 30
  2. Disqualify all government employees and all recipients of any government entitlement: social security, medicare, etc.
  3. Adopt a stiff qualification exam, to be re-taken every five years
  4. Mandate a poll tax sufficient to cover election expenses

Let’s now consider objections one by one:

Objection: people would feel disenfranchised. People who lost their vote would be bummed, no doubt, but they would still have the prospect of earning a vote to aspire to.  Voting would be seen as a privilege to be earned, and the quality of votes cast would skyrocket as would the quality of campaign rhetoric.

So as not to cause too much upset, the voting age could be raised gradually and the poll tax raised in steps.

Objection: corruption. It might be worthwhile for special interests to track down individual voters and offer them bribes or intimidation.  But if the voter roles were shrunk by a factor of a thousand, for the sake of argument, that would still leave a hundred thousand or so voters nationwide.  That leaves quite a bit of effort for lobbyists and other crooks to track them all down.

Besides, corruption is proportional to the amount of power that resides with government.  Regulation of lobbyists, campaign reform and all that will never mean anything as long as so much money and power are at the disposal of politicians.  My voter reform proposal will lead to a drastic shrinkage of government and thus drastically reduced rent-seeking opportunities and incentives.

Furthermore, as things stand with campaign promises.  How much worse would outright cash bribes be?

Objection: bias. Outcomes would be skewed toward the viewpoints of the eligible voters, which would not be representative of the general population.  Exactly!  The whole point is to restrict voting to an elite who can think and act rationally and not be swayed by the sort of demagogic appeals we hear from the aforementioned politicians and their ilk.

Is this idea likely to gain traction?  Not any time soon, but it’s fun to speculate.  An interesting alternative is Fred Foldvary’s “cellular democracy.”  Perhaps he’ll be moved to post that idea here.

7 thoughts on “Election Reform: a Modest Proposal

  1. Good to see the qualifications for electors being considered beyond their mere existence. :] Thanks.

    On point 1, we might want to lower the age to 25, to remain consistent with the qualifications of the Representatives they are to empower (art.I,§2,c.2).

    Further, points 1 & 2 would disenfranchise the military, negating their sacrifice. Don’t know how you square that…

    Point 3: I’m ALL IN.

    • I don’t mind disenfranchising the military. In country after country we see the military taking over civilian governments. While that’s unlikely here, there is a conflict of interest: their loyalty to the Chief disinclines them to support opposition candidates.

    • Not necessarily. The beauty of private voting is that they can vote for anyone. They are forbidden from publicly announcing opposition to the Chief..

  2. Voting is not a right. Voting is more akin to taking away the rights of others. The 51-percent-has-it principle, no matter how many layers of republicanism it is filtered through, is still morally wrong. But so long as we have the system, we should try to improve it and entertain ideas to do so.

  3. Interesting ideas. I really like the point that if people want politicians to stop using these platitudes and false promises, we do need to make sure we have voters that aren’t swayed by them.

    I can’t quite buy into #2, just because how do you decide who is getting a “benefit” from the government? Technically, we all receive some “benefits”, even if they’re not entitlements. And even if some of us are not on Medicare, SS, etc. we will be in some time.

    I do like #3 though.

Please keep it civil

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