Mission Statement

Mission Statement: This blog is dedicated to both political philosophy and application to current issues based on the ideas of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty. Additionally, this blog strives to create an atmosphere where intelligent discussions based on the principles of logic, no matter the viewpoints expressed in their conclusions, are not only welcome, but also thrive.

To learn more, feel free to read the introduction and subsequent posts which explain the aforementioned philosophy and purpose of this blog in more detail.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Issues 12: The Problem with Voters

     The third leg of this government tripod is the people themselves—the electorate that, through democratic process, is ultimately responsible for the actions of the elected official. The worst part about a democracy is that when the government is of the people and by the people, and it turns south, the people have no one to blame but themselves. For America, there are a number of factors that people must look at when trying to figure out where we went wrong.

     The most important attribute of fault in people is the lack of self-sacrifice. The Constitution gives no place where the Federal government may step in and give aid to the people. While charity is encouraged, America’s most respected politicians have long argued that it is outside the scope of Federal involvement. This issue is one of those that prompted the Founding Fathers to have a government decided by an Electoral College and not direct democracy. Federalist No. 10, which deals with how to prevent a group of people with an interest outside the bounds of the Constitution from pushing that interest through the government anyway, showcases how the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to prevent the sort of Constitution-ignoring, special-interest-pandering government that we have today.
     The beginning of the end of this came during the Great Depression. Americans were understandably distraught about the economic situation, and rather than let it right itself, they relied on the American government to come to their aid. This was later reinforced during the “War on Poverty” by LBJ. Over time, numerous government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and subsidies began a culture of giving Americans money that the Constitution grants the government no power to give. To stop these programs, many Americans would have to be willing to sacrifice the personal gain they are receiving for both the greater good of the nation and subservience once again to the Constitution. This has not happened, although polls suggest the crisis may be coming to enough of a culminating point that people are becoming willing to sacrifice again (this poll from the AES shows on page 8 that 49% of people would be willing to cut programs that help them in order bring our budget back under control).
     There are other factors beyond lack of self-sacrifice that hurt the American citizen. Part of it is just ignorance. The political landscape, not to mention complex economics, international relations, health, and domestic political science are all issues toward which collegiate-level education dedicates entire courses of study, and a voter is supposed to be able to decide who has better policy on all of these issues together. It is not feasible to be done well, which prompts a person to choose a couple of “key issues,” usually something that affects them.
     While the issue of self-sacrifice is the most important to turning the country around, the ignorance issue perhaps hurts most. As a citizen who wields electoral power, and hence decisive power, over elected offices of government, it is a responsibility to have a working knowledge of the Constitution, American history, and government to include structure, function, and current events. Americans must take it upon themselves to be educated.
     To solve these problems I propose that all American citizens must also qualify to vote or hold public office, rather than be born into it. Those born in the US would still be considered citizens, protected by the Constitution, but would not hold the power to vote or run for public office until they qualified. This would help to prevent the ignorant, selfish politics that dominate today’s landscape.
     To qualify as a voting-citizen, a person must do two things. The first would be to pass an American History and Government class, or something similar. This would be standardized across the country and could be modeled on the classes and exams that naturalized citizens have to take, but add more elements of logic, political philosophy, American political evolution focusing on the Founding Fathers, and other subjects that may be deemed necessary to running the nation.
     The second requirement for a person to qualify as a voting-citizen would be to successfully complete two (the number can vary, but any less would be useless) years of government service. This service could be military in nature, or be connected to fire, police, ambulance, or other protective services. There may be many others that could qualify, but a distinguishing characteristic must be that the position requires you to potentially sacrifice for your fellow man. The sacrifice need not be your life, but perhaps your sleep when you are called to an accident scene at 2 a.m.
     These two requirements for full voting and political-office-holding citizenship, while still allowing the current definition of citizen to apply in all other cases, create many benefits for American society. It ensures that anyone wanting to make a decision concerning the American future, concerning how to spend their fellow tax-payers’ money, or concerning where to send Soldiers to die has first confirmed that they are willing to sacrifice for the good of others and the country. It also removes any excuse for ignorance.
     This idea is not drastic, discriminatory, or radical. It is not drastic because it does not force anyone to do anything, it merely sets conditions as a prerequisite for voting and public office. If voter turnout tells us anything, anywhere from a third to half of the population would not even be affected. It is not discriminatory because it will apply equally to all Americans, no matter your individual characteristics. In fringe circumstances of a person being incapable of meeting the letter of the requirement but still wanting to earn voting rights, a judge would set an equal condition for the person to meet. Lastly, it is not radical because it does not violate the letter or the spirit of the Constitution. The Constitution has long sought to keep political decisions made by educated people of service to their nation through the Electoral College, an institution that has ceased to perform its intended purpose, leading to consequences the Founding Fathers rightly feared. This proposal remains true to Constitutional principles while ensuring that America’s future is born most heavily on the shoulders of those willing to support it.


Live Free said...

Perhaps a more amenable and even better situation would be to redefine the electoral college to include those citizens who qualify in the above manner. I would also have the Senate once again be chosen by the electoral college. In this way, all people could vote for representatives to the House, but the electoral college, made up of all qualified citizens rather than a select few, would vote for the Senate and President.
I would also go so far as to say that the voting for representatives in the House should be changed from the current plurality system to one more like a parliamentary system (though not exactly the same). Perhaps a state would present a list of candidates to its voters, and they may each vote for one. In the end, if the state has 10 Representatives, the 10 with the most votes are chosen to represent. This is just an idea, the purpose of which is to see more political parties able to participate in the national scene. Hopefully in this way the House is no longer a tug-of-war between Republicans and Democrats, but an organization of consensus also with Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Greens, and more.

Anonymous said...

The only problem with voter tests is who writes those tests? Will it be written by progressives? Will they be like those crazy psychological tests for job seekers? I've taken my share of those and have gotten rejected.

I do agree with bringing back the old system of electing senators through the electoral college. And most importantly, TERM LIMITS!


gtg723y said...

How very Starship Troopers of you. Civics should be taughtbin high school, that is to include but not be limited to The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation (and why they failed), and The Federalist Papers. It should also be reinforced that after the articles failed we debated the Constitution for six years. We had a very powerful very hostile nation looking to conquer us and no government, that feels crisis.

Walter Williams, economics professor at Virginia, feels that only tax payers should be aloud to vote as allowing those who do not pay taxes to vote is the equivalent of purchasing a vote. He also goes further to say that those that pay taxes but receive support from the government in any form, including a student loan, should also be excluded from voting as that is also purchasing a vote. He then further explained that State and local municipalities may set up their own voting rules, however, if you receive aid from the state you may not participate in federalnelections as many states verbals from the federal government.

Live Free said...

gtg723y - that is spot-on where I started thinking of the idea. It would obviously need tweaked to fit our particular political situation.

I will have to think about that taxpayer point. It sounds very interesting from the start, but I would have to give it more thought before I could be on board. For instance, I most like the part about receiving support from the government. Would this extend to those working for the government, i.e. military? Might not be a bad idea while you are actually working (or it might, still not sure), but what about after you retire? What about those who are not taxed electing to pay voluntary taxes so they can vote? What is the threshhold? One cent in taxes = vote? Like any of my philosophies on here it has a lot of applications to work through, but it is an idea that warrants further investigation, especially since I could argue a large part of the problem is how the votes are "purchased."