Unanimous direct democracy

I was recently introduced to a few positive arguments for this in R. P. Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism. Lacking the book to cite, he was absorbed with the problems of democracy, namely, the triumphant majoritarian democracy, in the manner that the minority suffers exclusion from representative processes and alienation in their laws. Philosophically he thinks contemporary liberalism leads to an illegitimate government, and anarchism is the only legitimate form of governance.

He proposed a possible method in which unanimity might be lost (as is the case in any large enough governed society), but directness and egalitarianism sustained and an authentic “rule by the people” enacted: socially-funded television sets, installed at large community centers or subsidized for private homes, with featured debates at every election season. Specialists, e.g., in fields like economics, American history and foreign policy, could feature, from various recesses of the political spectrum, to explain the more complicated issues in a collaborative, unpedantic effort. Middle Eastern history, for example, could be briefly clarified before candidates discuss their stances. (Of course, biases would find an entry point through specialists. Further discussion is necessary for this.) At the end of the week of debates, once issues are clarified and nominees understood, the remote control could be used to cast a vote for each member of the household according to the census. This system would greatly increase voter participation, and make domestic politics worthwhile for the average citizen, returning policy-making to everyone affected.

This is an idea of working within the current society on a system for better voter say: it should be judged on these merits as such.

Is it feasible? Is it at all admirable? Discuss.

Voter Participation: Something Has to Be Done

In California, 70% of eligible voters are registered, and 47% of those turned out in a recent election. Thus about a third of those who could vote do so. These are dismaying numbers.

Dismaying because they are too high.

Why? First, some more dismaying numbers:

When Newsweek recently [2011] asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

Too many ignorant fools are casting votes. People who believe that minimum wage laws create wealth, free trade destroys wealth, or clergymen should be forced to marry gay couples, to pick just a few examples. We need to bar these ignoramuses from the voting booth.

How? For starters, ditch the 26th amendment to the Constitution and the raise the voting age to at least 30. Get the 20-somethings out of the way; too many still believe in free lunches.

Second, change the 24th amendment to require poll taxes rather than forbid them. There is no justice in forcing non-voters to pay election costs.

Third, institute stiff qualification exams. Voters need know the vice president’s name, understand the Cold War, identify July 4 as Independence Day, and a whole lot more. Informed voters would be mostly immune from pandering demagoguery.

Disenfranchisement will lead to alienation and rebellion, some will say. Perhaps, and this could be alleviated by a phase-in of the changes. But then voting will become a privilege that young people can aspire to, as they might aspire to a corporate management position.

Another objection: my proposal is elitist. Of course it is! If there’s one thing we desperately need in this country, it’s a reversal of the egalitarian sentiments that have poisoned so much public discourse. We need to encourage and acknowledge the best and the brightest. Ignorant fools should not be allowed to operate dangerous machinery or pull levers in voting booths.