Fifty Years of Voting

I cast my first vote in 1964, shortly after turning 21, the legal voting age in those days. I voted for Barry Goldwater who, although he described himself as a conservative, didn’t fit that category by today’s standards. He was for free markets but he was not particularly religious and he held a laissez-faire attitude toward alternate lifestyles. He was, unfortunately, a war hawk, so he wouldn’t fit very well into today’s libertarian category, either.

Four years later I voted for Richard Nixon, sad to say. I somehow thought he was for free markets, being a Republican. I was cured of that delusion by a wakeup call at 8:15 AM on Monday, August 16, 1971. That was the moment I saw the headline in the L.A. Times announcing Nixon’s dastardly Sunday evening perfidy: price controls, closing the gold window, and an import tariff surcharge. All of these statist actions very quickly played out disastrously. Their personal import was to cure me of any notion that Republicans were necessarily friends of liberty. I became a libertarian that Monday morning and never looked back.

Of course that decision meant never again voting for a winner.  I voted for John Hospers in 1972, and he actually got one electoral vote from a renegade Republican elector, Roger MacBride, who was the LP candidate in 1976. Ed Clark’s 1980 campaign on the Libertarian ticket, generously funded by the Koch brothers, gave me brief hope for the new party, which we all know has come to naught. I’ve “wasted” my vote on Libertarian candidates ever since. Thanks to Proposition 14 in California, I can only vote for Libertarians in the primary elections; minor parties are shut out of the general election. In many races the general election is a contest between two Democrats. I resist any urge to vote for the lesser evil of the two so now I just leave most of my ballot blank and vote against all tax measures.

If we must have voting, I offer a couple of common-sense reforms:

  • Raise the voting age to 30. People under that age are clueless.
  • Require voters to pass a stiff qualification exam, something far more rigorous than the simple literacy tests of yore.
  • Institute a stiff poll tax, at least enough to cover election costs. Why force non-voters to pay?

I’m tempted to throw in land ownership as another criterion, but the foregoing should suffice. Of course this reform would leave many people feeling disenfranchised, but so what? Most people are far too ignorant to judge issues and candidates rationally and should be kept away from voting booths at all costs. Anyway, the system would leave a path open for people to earn enfranchisement by working hard to satisfy the above criteria.

Would I apply for enfranchisement under my proposed system?  No way; I have better things to do.  Will I vote this year?  I suppose so. I have no idea what will be on the ballot, but there will doubtless be some lame-brain propositions to vote against.

9 thoughts on “Fifty Years of Voting

  1. I think all elections should be WRITE IN, if not then it should also be illegal to have the party listed next to the name. If you don’t know exactly who the hell you are voting for and why, then you have no business being in the booth.

    I am NOT saying that voting is not a right for anyone. And I don’t want anyone who wants to vote to not be given that option. But, we need to stop making it so easy for the non-information voter to cast their uninformed votes.

    The biggest crime against democracy is putting the big D and R boxes at the top of the ballots so zero information, clueless, idiots can vote.

  2. Let’s do away with the one person one vote rule while we’re at it. One’s vote should be proportional to their net tax contribution. It is absurd that net tax recipients get a vote at all.

    Alternatively voting should require one to take a periodic test on civics and basic economics.

    Unfortunately I think any attempt to place restrictions on voting would be opposed.

  3. We fought a Revolution shouting all the while “No taxation without representation!”.

    Today, our problem is exactly the opposite: we have representation without taxation. People who pay not one damn red cent toward the upkeep of the polity still get to vote, so I hereby make a Modest Proposal:

    Only net tax payers ought to be permitted to vote. If your non-tax-originated revenue is larger than the actual tax you paid, you can stay home on election day. That means your Congressman couldn’t vote, nor could the Mayor or the City Council. Soldiers, policemen, and firemen wouldn’t vote, unless those firemen were volunteers. Public school teachers wouldn’t vote, but private school teachers could. Welfare recipients — no vote.

    You wouldn’t have to own property, but you would have to be one of those who pays the government’s bills. If you have no skin in the game, why should you have any say?

  4. Wow. These are all great ideas for reform. One thing that I haven’t seen addressed yet is the issue of war. The standard libertarian position on this is a tautology: if libertarians were in charge of governance, there would be no wars or, at least, fewer wars.

    Yet what happens when tax payers or old people (age 30 and above) get into a war? Are voters going to be the ones who fight the wars, too? The standard reply here is that if a more-libertarian polity did end up in a war it could simply pay people to fight. It’s a great rebuttal. I am almost convinced of it. The thing, though, that keeps from wholeheartedly embracing it is another question: If the voters of a more-libertarian polity can pay locals to fight their wars, what’s to stop them from paying others to fight adventurous wars, such as in Cuba, or Ukraine? Libertarians don’t have a monopoly on wealth and intelligence. Neoconservatives and multilateralists (Clinton Democrats) will be voting as well. How can international law (“contracts between polities”) be guaranteed to be respected, and how can the civil liberty of the non-voter be guaranteed in the event of a war?

    There is also the issue of trade. Anybody can ape an economics quiz for a political reward (“being a voter”), but just because they understand the Law of Comparative Advantage doesn’t mean they’ll vote to uphold it, especially if they’ve got skin in the game of an industry that seeks protection. Think about Jonathan Gruber.

    Should we really be thinking of ways to exclude millions of people from voting? Wouldn’t it be better to seek ways that limit what people (including representatives) can vote on?

  5. I want to push back on the point about owning land. Requiring land ownership to vote, given the existing preferences of a large number of Americans, would be a form of subsidy for property ownership and would contribute to existing distortions in real estate markets.

    I am also convinced that high levels of home ownership (as opposed to renting) results in relatively stagnant local economies. Take Long Island (please!): casual empiricism tells me that a lot of voters here own their home, and a lot of people have a hard time finding cheap housing. There are very few apartment buildings or densely populated areas. I infer that zoning policy is set to prevent pecuniary externalities from harming entrenched homeowners who are more concerned with the value of their house than the value of their land.

Please keep it civil

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