Friday, June 24, 2011

Voting on Intelligence

OK,  I will admit it up front, I didn't win.  But there is no bitterness involved and I am thinking that it is best I didn't win because it would have involved more work by yours truly.

So anyway, the story is this, The VAspa has a competition where anyone can put up their ideas on an internet site and anybody and everyone votes on which ideas should be considered for funding. 

What this seems to degenerate into is a high school popularity contest (or perhaps, a national election here in the good old USA), with people out there e-mail spamming everyone they can think of to go in and vote for their idea.  The relative merits of ideas are not discussed, with over 4500 ideas proposed, the chances that votes are actually used wisely, by reading and weighing all ideas and prioritising costs and needs are nearly non-existent.  The chance that a federal employee would be allowed to read and sort through 4500 ideas in near random order to vote intelligently is laughable.

But the process got me thinking about democracy in a more fundamental manner.  Think about the shrub and the lazy-O who have been our elected leaders for the past eleven years, hell, for that matter throw in Billy the zipper and the gipper and you will get nearly 30 years of marginally interrupted buffoonery (as you can figure out, In my mind the jury is still out on Bush I, he may well go down as not too bad).

Nope, I am starting to seriously question the idea of universal sufferage.  I just don't think that a society has the dignitas to manage to make the difficult and disciplined choice to pause before reaching out to grasp what one thinks one wishes. 

I am becoming more and more in favor of implementing some kind of poll tax.  It would have to be a percentage of wealth.  Lets say for example 7% (thank you Sherlock).  It may well separate the wheat from the chaff.


Gather ye marbles said...

"I am becoming more and more in favor of implementing some kind of poll tax. It would have to be a percentage of wealth. Lets say for example 7% (thank you Sherlock)." This is a good idea, because it would ensure that the only people who voted would be: (a) flat broke/bankrupt/in debt; or (b) insane; or (c) some combination of (a) and (b). Personally, I would not vote under your proposed system, but I would consider running for high office.

russell1200 said...

A pole tax is often just meant as a flat tax on everybody. The early colonial administrators, who were complete crooks, liked them a lot. They were at least partial causes of the revolts that occurred prior to the revolutionary war (Bacon's rebellion, The Regulation of Almanac County).

The problem with the idea is that it gets away from one of the strengths of the Democratic process: which is the implied op-in of the entire populace.

The various limited democracy governments in the U.S. and G.B. do not have a great track record. Governance tended to become the wealthy enslaving (often literally) the lower classes, and is likely one of the reasons that the class distinctions, that Marx based his theory on, existed.

Degringolade said...

I think that the biggest issue is that sort of the intellectual space between to two comments thus far. 1.) The idea that the current system provides opt-in by the entire population, and 2.) the idea that no one would actually "buy into" the decision making process.

I see both of these ideas as somewhat less than an accurate representation of reality.

The opt-in of the populace in the high-school popularity contests that pass themselves off as national elections actually do very little to encourage buy-in. The Obama "Hope" movement did not so much reflect goals that would be executed as a well researched electoral strategy. Buy-in was minimal at 56%. of registered voters voting.

The other side is that you get to play for free. Birthright is a slippery subject. I can't say that it has really been working that well in this large of a society.

No, folks get offended pretty easy when you question "democracy", but it is looking more as though what we have isn't, and that we used the democratic process itself to give it away.

Being a romantic, I loved reading of the 300, right now, it is the 400 that is looming its head due to the trivialisation of the democratic process

russell1200 said...

Well, we were talking about a poll tax, so I was just giving the U.S. history on it. If something did not (in a very large way) work in the past, then you at least need to find some radically different conditions to work from to make it work.

Your idea is very much the commonly held idea of democracy at the time of our countries founding. The justification was (in effect) that each household got one vote. Enough people did not like it that it was changed pretty quickly.

You are looking at it from who contributes (some people) versus a who is effected (everyone) point of view.

It is very similar to the 18 year old voting age. There were not a ton of 18 year olds wanting to vote, and few of them had much money so they were not an economic force, but people thought it was unfair that they could be drafted and fight for their country, but were not allowed to vote.

Personally I think it is an odder policy that they are competant to shoot at people, but not competant to drink alcohol, but that is just me.

Finally, ignoring the poll tax issue, having a system were 300 million people participate with a genuine op-in enthusiasm strikes me as pretty unrealistic. Ideally we could go back to a more local structure, but the fight against Jim Crow destroyed that option.