John Sides has a short but interesting post on 538 today looking at surprisingly strong public support for technocratic limitations on pure democracy. A few months ago I floated the idea of multiple voting as a way of overcoming, partially, the baleful effects of voter irrationality. Technocratic management would be another way to do it. These sorts of proposals seem to be unexpectedly popular. Voters generally don’t think highly of other voters’ intelligence.
9 thoughts on “Voter Support for Limiting Voting’s Reach”
If leaving the management of the country’s affairs to unelected, and thus untouchable, technocrats and bureaucrats is popular among the voting public, then it is clearly sensible and wise to question the intelligence of these voters. Then again, these are the same folks that voted Obama to the office of President, right?
Call me old fashioned. If I were making the rules, I would limit the voting franchise to those who:
1. own real property
2. are net taxpayors
3. serve in the militia
4. serve or at least report to a jury pool at least once every two years.
That’s a tall order. But those who fill it would be dedicated to the republic and rule of law.
How about any combination of 1,2, or 3. When jury members are compensated for their often wasted days to the same hourly wage as a trial lawyer, and when jury nullification becomes popular again (which means truly educated juries, made up of 1, 2, or 3,) then I’ll agree to No. 4.
Voting as a right is vastly overrated. It is the least consequential of your rights. If you vote, your vote doesn’t matter and if you don’t vote, your non-vote doesn’t matter. It’s not even a right constructed under the constitution. That’s why I don’t have a problem with abridging voting rights in the manner I described.
The whole point of the requirements is to winnow down the pool of voters to only the most interested active stakeholders. Such a small pool of voters would make political campaigns smart, short and cheap. Legislators elected by such a tiny pool would be vastly more careful about the pernicious and unintended effects of any legislation which they may craft.
My personal opinion is that jury duty is the most sacred obligation of any citizen. If I had to rank the requirements from most important to least important, then that would be 4 and then 3 and then 2 and then 1.
What encompasses ‘ real’ property?
Typically, real estate or any rights accruing from it are real property. But I would include any combination of assets or personal property that, when utilized, generate an income stream. The tax assessors in most US counties will use the latter definition as well. In my own county, Harris County, Texas; my paltry collection of office equipment which is required to operate my insurance agency is counted as real property and subject to property tax, a whole $29.00 worth of property tax.
Yeah, it’s an interesting idea but I’m not convinced.
For one, wouldn’t it be an easy and natural tendency for the voters to consolidate their advantage through legislation? The class clashes of the 19th century weren’t pretty, and it’s hard to argue that Karl Marx was the sole instigator of all that (or much of anything till after he kicked the bucket).
Like you yourself said: Voting as a right is vastly overrated. Why not keep it that way? It’s another check-balance function; people tend to vote against rather than for candidates, parties and policies, and when they’re really threatened I believe that you do tend to see movement.
People with property are the prime decision makers in this country anyways, and the right to vote is just a way of ensuring that the those on the bottom don’t get totally locked out. It maintains the guise of ‘classless’ society, or at least the hope of one, and it keeps people calm. If some property holders feel that they don’t have a proportionate amount of political power then it’s probably because they don’t actually have enough wealth to be taken all that seriously. The fellas at the top don’t seem to have a problem with it — at the tip of a hat Buffet became the poster boy for Democrat tax policy! Lobbying groups representing property holders’ interests (and let’s face it: today’s real estate owners are likely not as important a class of property holders as company stockholders are) virtually handpick who sits where in DC. Basically all the plebs are doing is naming the puppet.
I don’t actually have much of a problem with this, except that we still teach people in schools, TV and movies that it’s the vote and their personality that matter in the real world, when really it’s your usefulness to everyone else in it, as determined by the market. There’s a major cultural problem happening that confuses market participants — instead of squabbling over who gets to vote people who want more political power should be busting their balls trying to matter. This is way power has always worked and will always work. Everything else is aesthetics.
I think owning property would be less of a deal killer for most people than militia and jury duty.
Let me restate that. Many people who have substantial assets, won’t be troubled with things like jury duty or militia duty, and will thus be disenfranchised from voting. Persons who have the time and willingness to perform those essential duties are more likely to be less wealthy and powerful. Take a look at your fellow jurors next time you are summoned. The same goes for the militia. People who are willing to serve in their state guard or national guard are pretty ordinary, but dedicated people. Real property is a pretty easy step, but it is one I would be willing to exclude if the other three were maintained.