Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Who Should Get the Right to Vote?
I - Background Philosophy
Everybody gets the vote? Are you serious?
Universal suffrage is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory but doesn’t work in practice.
Now you may say, “Caleb, there is a right to vote."
So? Assuming we have a thing called rights, who says everyone 18 and over should be endowed with this particular right?
We’re not all equal in IQ, skill sets, or general cognitive ability. There are some very stupid people out there who cannot grasp certain concepts in a real way and therefore should not get the vote. Ever. And before you accuse me of being elitist, think of the flat earthers.
For all my libertarian leanings, there remains a part of me that is truly statist. And that probably exists in everyone. Like a yin-yang, this state, and market. There's always this dichotomy in society. Free trade and peaceful interactions, on the one hand, violence and destruction on the other. And of course, these two principles cross-fade with each other all the time, right now and throughout history.
Your local butcher and their supply chain belong to one side of the spectrum. War and concentration camps on the other.
Economist and anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard didn’t like philosopher Robert Nozick for a reason. I suspect it’s because Nozick poked holes in Murray’s theory of anarchy. Namely, when a private governance agency is the market’s natural monopoly in one region, it becomes a state.
You may respond, “but muh contracts,” and I agree, a physical binding contract would be a nice choice given the unwritten “social contract” we have today. So it's an issue of consent. But there’s also the issue of constitutions and rights.
What makes a constitution binding for individuals across generations? The founders of America and Canada based their ideas on many sources, but John Locke is the elephant in the room.
John Locke emphasizes life, liberty, and private property rights. Property is the focal point of Locke’s civil government. He says that’s the primary reason for having a government at all. People join together and form a society because they have property to protect. Property isn’t just real estate, it’s the very stuff you own, the clothes on your back, the food in your fridge, the money in your bank account.
As far as I’m concerned private property is a sort of “extended phenotype” of our species. Resources are required for human survival let alone civilization. And how we possess and allocate said resources is a problem addressed by economics as a subset of praxeology. It is the hows of the human action, not the whys.
So who gets the vote? More importantly, does it matter? If the lobbyist game in Ottawa and Washington are strong enough, then does it matter whom we send up there from the traditional parties?
If a mass of people changed their mind to view property as worth dying for, Americans could just elect independents. Or better yet, split into a bunch of countries. At least two, preferably more. If America divided into two countries during the 19th century it could have been disastrous financially. In the early 21st, I think each new bloc of former US states will manage fine. So long as trade crosses borders and people are friendly with their neighbours.
War what is it good for, eh? For us Canadians, we’d almost need to send 169+ independents to the House of Commons. Then, when they’ve figured out 10 common themes to agree on, they'll select in-house a prime minister and form a cabinet. They will then ask the Speaker of the House to form the government. All based on 10 issues they were able to hammer out of the hundreds of thousands of requests they heard from voters while on the campaign trail. People looking for change or financial help.
As these 165+ independents deliberate their way to forming the government, the country runs without them. It happens. Belgium was without a government for 289 days or so. Canada was technically without government when Harper prorogued parliament back in ’08. As Mises says, “Cabinets may come and go, but the bureaus remain.”
Now, this thought experiment of electing independents assumes everyone gets to vote. First, we must strip people of this perceived “right.”
Now — this sounds a bit Orwellian. Definitely tyrannical, and what government body could we ever trust to get this done right? So allow this to be more of eh... stripping of one's preconceived notions. Planting a seed in someone’s head so that their 95% irrational brain can water it and grow it into a beautiful idea. Then when the 5% rational brain comes walking by and sees the idea blooming, he or she will think it was theirs all along! It’s the perfect plan.
Let’s figure this out. There are clearly people who should not get any sort of say in the electoral process. Government workers are the top priority. If income is derived from taxpayers, even as a contractual clause, you have no “right” to the vote. If you live off welfare or some kind of state-funded social assistance, no “right” to the vote for you. The reason, of course, has to do with private property. These people don’t own any in a meaningful sense. If all their “wealth” is derived from wealth-producing taxpayers, any "wealth" they spend in the economy is foreshadowed by this initial destruction through taxation. Markets may shift to accommodate a parasitic class, but no net wealth has been added to the economy. A tax-recipient is an economic parasite regardless of whatever value he or she may provide to a group of individuals. No matter what he or she may buy with their loot.
An economy run by bureaucrats didn’t work for the Chinese or Soviets, and a conglomeration of industries (education, health care, product safety and regulation) run by Western bureaucrats is just as ineffective.
And what if you work in the private sector, but you own no property, save for a few possessions, do you have the vote? Yes, but it means less than a wealthier landowning merchant.
Votes aren’t fixed but proportional to an individual’s standing in society as determined by his or her economic value. A single mother working in the private sector but receiving alimony would have lower voting power than the single father working in the private sector and paying that alimony. As well, if you’re currently active military, then you have no right to vote.
Now this issue of stripping the right of active military men and women but not retired ones, the vets, who either still live off taxpayers or have found private sector jobs, brings up another excellent viewpoint on who gets the vote. Ending universal suffrage is downright impossible in today’s “climate.” And with inept democratic governments (the very ones we’re looking to reform) doing the reforming, we run into a logistic problem. A solution is found in Hoppe’s What is to Be Done, for those more interested in the anarcho-capitalism tradition. But by borrowing a philosophical worldview from a science fiction author, I’ve solved our troubles with statism.
Robert Heinlein’s 1959 novel Starship Troopers takes place in a future where only one class is privileged with the vote. They are the veterans of the “Federal Service.”
But as a side note, I’d like to speak publicly on how it might be a good idea to start conscripting 16-year-olds for a couple years. Straighten them up and give them purpose. Violent, destructive purposes. Get it out of their system and alienate the ones with no taste for it. Only those that continue on to basic training get the vote. And only when they’re no longer in the service.
Now, sure, there are plenty of changes to the Canadian State I’d like to make before implementing this kind of suffrage. Namely, the only thing you need a state for are military purposes, like securing the border, and maintaining the rule of law. First, a little bit about the rule of law.
We have a series of inferior and superior courts, judges, lawyers, law societies — an entire judicature independent from the state. Yet, due to its legal nature, also intertwined with the state. There are major concessions the Western legal tradition have made to modern-day states. Enough to alarm Harold Berman in the opening introduction to Law and Revolution. Berman is dead now, but his books describe the history and importance of the customary and common law traditions of the West.
Common law is a case-by-case discovery of what’s fair and just. Rules that work are embraced and work long term. Rules that don’t lead to peaceful cooperation, rules that lead to violence and destruction are discarded. Uncertainty isn't good for anybody and that's what violence brings. Out of legal anarchy in post-Roman Empire Europe, new decentralized orders took shape and sharpened over the centuries. The Western nations, like the British Commonwealth countries and the United States of America, are descendants of this successful legal system.
The state acts as a last resort, an arbitrator of final decision making. It's interventions into the judicature are alarming enough to justify revolution (something John Locke believes we have a right to do). But for now, we'll focus on who gets the vote. So back to limiting the State apparatus.
National borders are a state’s reason for being. Even a 1% sales tax would likely be enough to maintain a decent military. Not to patrol the world as policemen or “peacekeepers” but to maintain the borders at home, namely, keeping that warming Arctic and its resources away from those Ruskies. (And for those who object about “abandoning” the world at large, may I suggest individual Canadians fund mercenary groups abroad to fight their war games? And surely, in a globalized world of trade, protecting cargo ships and consumer cruises would be the financial interest of everyone involved? No need for a single nation-state superpower capable and willing to elect sociopaths and morons.)
I’m sure the Canadian public would be willing to pay more than a 1% sales tax to the beloved military. Especially since this would be the only tax. We already pay well over that in each province, plus various income taxes and capital gains taxes and a host of others. Which gets us back to the issue at hand. Who should get the vote? Only retired military personnel of course!
Conscripts don’t count and active personnel are on the government’s payroll, so… At 18-years-old, if you decide to stay in the military and undergo basic training, then when retire from duty, you become a voting citizen of the Dominion of Canada. You can also run for Member of Parliament. And with a smaller number of voters and a lot less dependency on the state in general, there likely wouldn’t be a need for provincial legislatures. There would only be a federal election, reserved for retired military personnel. Why?
Because that first idea about proportional voting power for property-owning classes is unlikely. It is also meant as a path towards anarcho-capitalism.
What if we still want a state?
Nozick concludes that a constitutionally limited government would be best. I say, take that one step further. Canada’s constitutional democracy already follows classical liberal principles, so don’t tweak anything with it. (Except maybe dumping the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) Forget mixed-member representation. Forget abolishing the Senate (in fact, perhaps non-vets can be appointed to the Senate).
Join the revolution of the mind. Universal suffrage gives everyone an equal vote. But not everyone is equal. And equality isn’t always synonymous with justice. In fact, in most cases, the two couldn’t be more opposed to each other.
#SupportTheTroops — Only retired military personnel get the vote.
And this doesn’t mean just combat veterans. Just as in Starship Troopers, there are non-violent means to serve. But consider what a combat veteran understands about the vote. The veteran understands what it means for an individual to sacrifice everything, literally, risk their own lives, for the whole. What liberties does an individual need to give up for the collective good of the whole? With the military, it’s life, liberty, and property. It is to become a ward of the state.
... And they'll get their war games with the Ruskies. Gotta keep the arms manufacturing industry alive and give our young soldiers a taste of real combat, amirite?
Although, again, let me emphasize here that as per the book not all “Federal Service” volunteers are involved directly with combat operations. But, being involved with military personnel, when faced with the very real prospect of dying for one’s cause, when forced to work together as a team, and not for profit or “social good” but as a complex military unit representing the military might of Canada…. What more could you want?
The vet is an informed voter. He or she will make better choices than the undisciplined masses. Students of science and engineering can serve non-combat positions. Areas of the military that play to their skills. They retire from the service in four years, join the private sector, vote in elections. Even run for office.
Young men and women with no foreseeable skills, the ones cursed with poorer IQs — they serve combat. What else is there for them to do?
In a system of universal suffrage, these people represent the uninformed voter. So in a way, everyone still has the opportunity to vote, some just need to literally risk their lives for it.
And that’ll make them appreciate what one has to go through to get this “right.” If they want to influence the power of the throne, they must be willing to die for it. They have to be pissed when special interests, such as big business or unions, aim to influence or hijack the reins of power.
Coupled with the educated non-combat vet voter, Parliament becomes closed to outside forces. In matters of commerce, banking, and regulation, the free market handles it all. The judicature discovers the rules.
The state: a) defends national borders and provide defence. For logistic reasons, this means outright ownership of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian side of the Alaska Highway. We might still want the Post Office too but just for government business. Citizens can use the numerous private sector couriers.
b) Maintains the judicature by taking a hands-off approach. If English common law produces legal tyranny, future representatives of future voters can deal with the hypothetical in the legislature. The legislature exists as an ultimate arbitrator on issues the free society can't deal with.
One can foresee a Muslim or radical Christian cult undermining local and regional customary and common laws with culturally insufficient practices. Perhaps the military steps in? Or could a regional defensive agency conduct a market-friendly Waco siege on these religious extremists? Either way, the state is there in case everything goes wrong. In case the country falls to communists.
So why hold onto this idea of universal suffrage? Maybe you thought there was hope with the 165+ independents idea or maybe you think we can start a new party, join a small one, or influence an old one...
Politics is an internal affair. An esoteric activity. You don't get to determine the outcome of a basketball game if you don't know anything about the sport. I'm not recommending a caste system since the state deals with nothing but borders and defence. Non-voters are still free to buy and sell property, amass millions or lose everything. There is no capital gains tax, no income tax, no inheritance tax, no tax except whatever parliament levies for the security of the borders. I'm assuming a 1% federal sales tax. Anything more is institutionalized theft.
Some vets have PTSD or other mental illnesses. Should they be deciding on the future on the country versus a well-made middle-class family man who has all the entrepreneurial experience but has not served with the military? Isn’t that fundamentally anti-libertarian? (Hell, this whole scheme is unlibertarian. By taking away universal suffrage, my philosophy strips classical liberalism of one of its core values: the franchise. But by admitting equality and justice are at least incompatible some of the time, I ask when would this be so? Does the vote, the right to influence one’s state, justly belong to everybody because they are over 18 years old and a citizen of the country?)
States are dangerous fires to play with. Does allowing a combat vet with PTSD the vote while denying it to a wealthy private-sector entrepreneur seem just? Of course not. Hence, I recommend stripping that combat vet of his or her right before opening the franchise to those who haven’t gone through their basic training. However, there's nothing to stop this wealthy entrepreneur from being appointed to the Senate... unless we arbitrarily make that a rule too.
What's the problem? Any non-voting citizen, even at a late age, after his or her kids move out, can take a leave from work and join the service on non-combat duty. Four years later, they can vote. It's simple.
It ain’t a perfect system but if the people are using gold, silver or some other private monies, then no harm no foul. This federal government certainly won’t have a central bank and won’t issue currency backed by the goodwill of future taxpayers. Taxes are collected in gold and silver or by credible bank notes. The government does not borrow. The budget balances every quarter.
This system I’m describing is not a military dictatorship. The prime minister and his or her cabinet are in charge of the military. There’s still the House of Commons we know and love. I haven’t even abolished the Senate in this scenario.
Everything is the same the way it was on July 1st, 1867. Tried tested and true.
A beacon of classical liberal values.
It’s just the electoral functionality has diminished a bit. "Representation by population" isn't as cracked up as it sounds. And given our current excesses of democracy... That the Founders specifically warned us of this very thing... You'd think this would be more obvious.