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Do we really need universal suffrage?

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Is it really that noble of an idea to ensure that EVERYONE has the right to vote? If the objective purpose of government is to protect individual rights, and we have a Constitution that reflects that premise, why can't we restrict voting rights to people who demonstrate at least a glimmer of intellect and don't have at least a short-term interest in legally plundering the property of others? Were the Founders actually on to something when they stipulated that only property-owning white males would have the right to vote, and would there be any value in revisiting certain aspects of that policy?

Edited by Asker of Questions

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... property-owning white males ...

If you went around to the richest people in the country, you would find them in sympathy with a government that redistributes wealth. It is not just Warren Buffett, Bloomberg and so on; this is a common view. Indeed, if you ask some more anarchist libertarians they'll say that the millionaires are most to blame for our problems: the Goldman Sachs and the like! They will say that the rich are responsible for creating things like the Fed (Jekyll Island, etc.) Lots of support for restrictive environmental laws comes from very rich people.

 

In the abstract, one might say: only those who want to uphold the constitution should vote. First problem is: how does convert this to objective rules? The second problem is: if a large enough majority are disenfranchised, are they going to sit around and let the system last? A better way is to need a super-majority to amend the constitution, the way it is in the U.S., but not so super a majority that it invites rebellion. 

 

The U.S. constitution -- for all its good -- is flawed. It really does not lay down individual rights as its fundamental principle. If Madison could look into the future and see what happened, he would probably have wanted to incorporate the Declaration of Independence into the Constitution, and firm up the foundation for individual rights. [but, then, to some extent the constitution was an agreement between states, with much left to those states... so, that's another major flaw.] A Madison with prophetic vision might well have added another 90 rights into the Bill of Rights! 

 

A constitution is not just a document for judges to use. It serves just as important a role as a semi-sacred civic document to the population. People learn about something like the right to free speech from an early age, and most hold on to it and own it. A good constitution would go a long way in curtailing the infringement of rights. 

 

I think it's a good idea to make the right to vote dependent on a certain bare bones knowledge -- not agreement -- of what the constitution says; but, here too, I would not trust anyone's judgement. Rather, the constitution should have a set of (say) 10 key questions, each with (say) two or three possible answers, and the constitution should say which is the right answer. Anyone who wishes to vote should be given the questions and should get all 10 questions right. Then they're good for life. otherwise, they can try again next month (say).

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I think voting should be conditional on the willingness to contribute to the government financially, by paying a voluntary fee that is a set percentage of your income. And even among contributors, not everyone should hold the same amount of sway. I would even be willing to go as far as to suggest that maybe a government that's run more like a corporation than like a democracy would work quite nicely (I'm thinking of how Hong Kong is run).

 

That last part is debatable, of course. But I have never been presented with a logical argument as to why people who don't contribute to the government's budget should have a say in who runs it. Where that idea came from is beyond me.

 

Sure, we all have the right to a representative government: but we have to pay for it. Government doesn't grow on trees, it costs money. We don't have the right to a FREE OF CHARGE representative government. I'm not saying we have the obligation to pay for government (I don't support forced taxation), but if we choose not to pay, then there's no justification for still wanting to have a say in how it's run.

Edited by Nicky

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Perhaps one should define what is meant by "voting" and in what context.

 

Certainly in a purely Objectivist society/politics, government's ONLY role would be to protect individual rights and voting, whatever its purpose, would not be capable of changing the role of government nor its limited powers.

 

If the poster is curious about a "mixed" politics, where government violates some of the rights of some of the people in certain ways at certain times because some majority of people voted for it to do so... then you have a non-Objectivist system ... and quite frankly an entirely different kind of question.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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property ownership should definitely be a qualification for voting. and that pretty much takes care of other concerns, such as women voting (women vote more liberal than men do). in a system where the property is what votes, a family is usually going to have one vote. and single women who do actually own property are at least more likely to vote rationally.

 

i don't see any problem with having literacy tests, but that would be less necessary too, since the original reasoning for those was to prevent "immigrants (including legal ones and newly naturalized citizens)" from voting, and they would naturally be less likely to own property as well. (but really citizenship itself should require agreement with the philosophy of government of the country, so that demographic should not be a particular concern).

 

and even though there are plenty of liberal rich, tying voting to property ownership would definitely make an impact. cities are the most blue areas (even most of california and new york are red), and the majority of the voting population there are renters.

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property ownership should definitely be a qualification for voting. and that pretty much takes care of other concerns, such as women voting (women vote more liberal than men do). in a system where the property is what votes, a family is usually going to have one vote. and single women who do actually own property are at least more likely to vote rationally.

 

i don't see any problem with having literacy tests, but that would be less necessary too, since the original reasoning for those was to prevent "immigrants (including legal ones and newly naturalized citizens)" from voting, and they would naturally be less likely to own property as well. (but really citizenship itself should require agreement with the philosophy of government of the country, so that demographic should not be a particular concern).

 

and even though there are plenty of liberal rich, tying voting to property ownership would definitely make an impact. cities are the most blue areas (even most of california and new york are red), and the majority of the voting population there are renters.

I don't own my apartment, I rent. But I earn more money than my next door neighbor, and I pay more taxes on it.

 

By what logic did you decide that he should be allowed to vote and I shouldn't?

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I've been active in general philosophy forums for a year or two.  I'm new to this forum and I find something completely different.  Even when I disagree with the conclusions of the poster here, I most often am interested in their argument.

 

The argument over universal suffrage in this thread assumes the legitimacy of taxation in some form.  Some posters go on then, to limit suffrage to those who contribute financially.  They accept the flaw of force/fraud being valid if accepted by a majority as an imprimatur for political participation.  Hey, it makes sense on the surface, but it is wrong in Objectivism.

 

If I expect the local or national government to provide me with protection, I should expect to pay for it.  But the nature of that payment should not affect my representational rights.  The real question is how can a legitimate government raise funds for legitimate reasons without becoming the source of force/fraud that they were instituted to prevent.  This is not a question of ethics, it is a purely political issue of process method. 

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There likely would be a separation of power between government "as such" and organizations which raise money (government being voluntarily funded) for it.

 

"Representation" may not be what the results of any vote is.... what is there to "represent"?  Perhaps only that particular persons in the Police, Military, or Judiciary would likely need to be chosen (in rotation, in geographies etc.) and from among qualified candidates who pass an objective test, perhaps a vote could choose one to hold each important position...

 

Other than that ... no one would be "represented" in order to change government's sole role of protecting individual rights.

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Other than that ... no one would be "represented" in order to change government's sole role of protecting individual rights.

Ditto.

If we know in abstract terms what "rights" are and how to respect or violate them then the rest is simply a matter of applying it to concretes. Every bit of that -from waging wars to judging court cases to integrating new technologies into the existing legal framework- in principle, can be done (justly and rightfully) by any competent individual. If so then a single individual -in principle- could properly "represent" every citizen. Voting, itself, is ultimately superfluous.

Now, since the complexity of that job -and what would qualify as "competent"- would directly correspond to the size and complexity of the society being governed, it's unlikely that America could be run that way (in the very least not within my lifetime or yours); you'd have to figure out some formal division of labor with a formalized error-handling mechanism; you'd need a much messier system that would probably involve voting.

But the degree to which any civilian has to interfere with the inner workings of the government will always correspond inversely to that government's ability to do its job.

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"Is it really that noble of an idea to ensure that EVERYONE has the right to vote?" ~ OP
 
No, in fact it works against capitalism in a global context where the quality of government can only be improved by competition with a diversity of governments competing for loyalty from a global pool of potential citizens.  The only necessary right, which is the ultimate expression of casting a vote, is the right to immigrate*.  Therefore no government should be allowed to deny access** to, or impede departure*** from their territory.  This right presumes the individual is moving under their own power.
--
* immigration being directly related to a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness/property
** access to governance implying being held accountable to the law of that land
***departure legitimately denied in cases of criminality

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Sorry we lost some posts from this thread where SplitPrimary said that voting could be for Objectivists only if the country was founded for and by Objectivists (I'm paraphrasing, of course).

I had started a reply, but I only have partial quotes... FWIW.

the question then is what is the best requirement. it could definitely be argued that broader is better because people are valuable and you want as many as possible, so let any capitalist in. there would be benefits to restricting it to people who would fully endorse at least the central principles of Objectivism though. for instance, the irrationality of religious people often does influence their political decisions for the worse. people claiming to be pro-liberty and endorsing individualism at the political level, but who hold collectivist and altruistic principles when it comes to ethics... in a way that's how the current mixed economy came about.

Personally, I don't think I'd immigrate to a new country (Luna? Mars?) that required one to be an Objectivist or which saw itself as exclusive to Objectivists. 

 

being "grandfathered in" to a social agreement that carries obligations with it is bizarre. allegiance to a country should be explicitly chosen, likely at the age of legal adulthood. it is not a matter of "asking them to leave", it would be a matter of asking them to join. and there's no "leaving" if they do not, they would just not be protected by that entity. people own property and governments are formed by them, not the other way around.

A social agreement has never existed in any country, since all citizens have never really entered into such an agreement.  

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OK, let's try this again...

splitprimary said: "Allegiance to a country should be explicitly chosen, likely at the age of legal adulthood. it is not a matter of 'asking them to leave', it would be a matter of asking them to join. and there's no 'leaving' if they do not, they would just not be protected by that entity. People own property and governments are formed by them, not the other way around."

I'm trying to imagine how this would work in a mixed population of citizens and unaffiliated.  Emergency responders would have to provide service like AAA, wouldn't they?  Prior to receiving assistance, a person at a crime scene, fire of natural disaster would need to provide proof of coverage. I'm imagining a disaster where first responders are working the scene by checking wallets of the injured for ID and leaving the "unsecured" wounded and dying to fend for themselves.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
cleanup/spelling

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i had e-mail notifications turned on for this thread. here's what i have been able to reconstruct of the record from that. a little unsure about order (sN/Eioul feel free to edit if you know where it's off, or if anyone has additions):

dream_weaver:
"And for governments which are not amiable to such agreements, DA, what would determine how they get to draw from this 'global pool'?"

Devil's Advocate:
"What generally happens to businesses with dissatisfied customers?
 
Governments with restrictive emigration wouldn't draw much from the global population.  We didn't see, for example, counter waves of migrants climbing over the Berlin Wall into East Germany.  Restrictive migration policies work to the disadvantage of any nation imposing them, essentially marking them as places to be avoided."

softwareNerd:
"I don't understand how voting rights are related to immigration rights.

The assumption of the question is that a country has a government (i.e. not competing governments within a country). Within that context, voting is one way in which the government makes decisions: people vote in referendums or they vote for representatives and then those people make decisions, or those representatives make laws , ... and so on.

Granted that people should be free to immigrate in or out of a country, but that does not answer the question about voting rights."

happiness:
"If Objectivists founded a country, would it be moral to restrict voting rights to Objectivists?"

splitprimary:
"it would be moral to restrict citizenship to Objectivists and to restrict voting to citizens"

Devil's Advocate:
"splitprimary said 'it would be moral to restrict citizenship to Objectivists..'

How so?"

dream_weaver:
"I'm trying to picture this. "Raise your right hand, place your left hand on this copy of Atlas Shrugged  Do you solemnly swear . . ." "

Devil's Advocate:
"dream_weaver said 'I'm trying to picture this. "Raise your right hand, place your left hand on this copy of Atlas Shrugged  Do you solemnly swear . . ."'

Wrong oath ;o)"

dream_weaver:
"Devil's advocate said 'Wrong oath ;o)'

Or the wrong ellipsis.
B)"

Devil's Advocate:
"I'm attempting to respond to the OP more broadly in the context of establishing a relationship between civil voting and a fundamental right to life.  Not being able to vote doesn't threaten ones life per se, however not being able to remove oneself from a hostile environment does.  So immigration as a right is more directly related to the right to life than voting in my mind, and fundamentally represents a kind of vote, i.e. whether to remain (and participate) or flee (and seek better governance).

On a side not, I'm finding it difficult to gain access to this forum and getting errors while trying to log in, which accounts for sometimes not being able to respond sooner"

softwareNerd:
"splitprimary said 'you should at least have to agree to the philosophy of government of the state you're joining. and politics of course is a higher branch, that really rests on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.'

This is a much narrower requirement than having to be an Objectivist. For example, someone might be religious, but might be fine saying that the state should be Capitalist.

The current U.S. oath is applied to immigrant. The majority of citizens are born into they country and one cannot reasonably ask them to leave if they have different ideas about the nature of government.

I do think that certain basic knowledge about the fundamentals of government (knowledge, not agreement) should be a requirement to vote. However, even here there are a lot of caveats to this... or such a system could be corrupted to disenfranchise people."

splitprimary:
"Devil's Advocate said 'How so?'

if you were in a state of nature and you wanted to only pool together for defense with other individuals who claim to be atheistic, or to create a contract where everyone agrees about how disputes will be settled between members of the group, but also include a rule that everyone must wear red hats on tuesdays, you are free to do so. the same would go for forming a society exclusively with people who agreed to a specific philosophy.

the question then is what is the best requirement. it could definitely be argued that broader is better because people are valuable and you want as many as possible, so let any capitalist in. there would be benefits to restricting it to people who would fully endorse at least the core principles of Objectivism though. for instance, the irrationality of religious people often does influence their political decisions for the worse. people claiming to be pro-liberty and endorsing individualism at the political level, but who hold collectivist and altruistic principles when it comes to ethics... in a way that's how the current mixed economy came about."

splitprimary:
"softwareNerd said 'The current U.S. oath is applied to immigrant. The majority of citizens are born into they country and one cannot reasonably ask them to leave if they have different ideas about the nature of government.'

being "grandfathered in" to a social agreement that carries obligations with it is bizarre. allegiance to a country should be explicitly chosen, likely at the age of legal adulthood. it is not a matter of "asking them to leave", it would be a matter of asking them to join. and there's no "leaving" if they do not, they would just not be protected by that entity. people own property and governments are formed by them, not the other way around."

Eioul:
"splitprimary said 'the question then is what is the best requirement. it could definitely be argued that broader is better because people are valuable and you want as many as possible, so let any capitalist in. there would be benefits to restricting it to people who would fully endorse at least the central principles of Objectivism though. for instance, the irrationality of religious people often does influence their political decisions for the worse. people claiming to be pro-liberty and endorsing individualism at the political level, but who hold collectivist and altruistic principles when it comes to ethics... in a way that's how the current mixed economy came about.'

Well, this is why we talk about rights, since it quite literally doesn't matter what a person thinks, as long as they at least agree on rights protection as the government's function. I see no reason to test someone for being an Objectivist if all you want to do is decide on citizenship or voting rules. If your aim is rights protection, then I see no reason to throw non-political qualifications for citizenship. A government's rules are what prevent internal decay. If people ruin it from the outside, then the rules are poorly written or too easily altered.

Personally, I would not use belief standards, I'd use standards of action. This works far better than gauging who qualifies as "really" believing in certain principles. To accomplish that, you could say citizenship requires military service, just as an example."

Devil's Advocate:
[missing]

2046:
"Everyone has the right to vote. Let's say Sam, Tom and Joe go out for a movie. They can decide to vote on the movie if they want. They can disagree on the chosen movie and any one can go their separate way. Anyone can vote for anything, a leader for themselves, to pool their resources together, to form a corporate entity, etc., and anyone else can vote against it and decide to take their ball and exit. 

Now if you talk about excluding people, anyone forming any group can exclude anyone the group doesn't like. This is basically a private club. Excluding people you don't like they way they think sounds more like a private club than a government based on supposed rational principles. 

If you're trying to argue something like, well if we don't exclude certain undesirables, then that's a bad structure for maintaining the continued existence of the system, because people are going to vote against the rights of others. Well yeah. But that's an argument against democracy and in favor of the right of secession, not necessarily against universal suffrage. 

Objectivists have to decide whether they want to embrace democracy, including the right to vote itself out of existence, or more uncomfortable positions like radical secessionism, decentralization, polycentric legal institutions, or else the fantasy of a "objectivist" oligarchy where an elite group of enlightened individuals ensure the maintenance of liberty while excluding everyone else from the decision making process."

Eioul:
"2046 said 'Now if you talk about excluding people, anyone forming any group can exclude anyone the group doesn't like.'

I think this is a loaded statement. A group "could' exclude those it "doesn't like", but that's only if it's rules are badly formed. Rather, a group should exclude people acting against its function. So it makes sense to exclude people. Basically, I don't follow how voting ought to be universal. Couching excluded people as "undesirables" is closer to an appeal to emotion, since we're trying to ask what in fact should qualify a person to vote. We're asking what rational rules are to voting exactly so that rights are protected.

I accept radical secessionism generally, yet I don't really embrace democracy a lot per se."

splitprimary:
"Eioul said 'A government's rules are what prevent internal decay. If people ruin it from the outside, then the rules are poorly written or too easily altered.'

agree completely.

Eioul said 'it quite literally doesn't matter what a person thinks, as long as they at least agree on rights protection as the government's function. I see no reason to test someone for being an Objectivist if all you want to do is decide on citizenship or voting rules.'

[missing]"

__ __ __

i don't have my other responses saved but i know i said something to Eioul along the lines of: atheism isn't a core principle of Objectivism anyway so that would be extraneous, but there is a whole philosophical underpinning to political philosophy that those positions depend on, so even if you were only looking for agreement about right's protection there is a lot to that goes into that that comes from lower-level branches. the US documents basically mention natural rights and man as and end in himself already. that's the sort of thing i'm talking about that would be reasonable to include explicitly. +probably individualism, reliance on reason as opposed to force..

also had something in response to the Devil's Advocate post i can't find, about how having requirements for citizenship doesn't = "denying" people outside of that particular country the right to "life, liberty, and property".

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DA: withdrawing from one government doesn't necessarily mean staying "unaffiliated" with any, although it could. maybe i'm missing something, because we seem to me to be in agreement. the secession/migration issue is the important point:

"The only necessary right, which is the ultimate expression of casting a vote, is the right to immigrate."

"No government should be allowed to... impede departure"

"fundamentally represents a kind of vote, i.e. whether to remain (and participate) or flee (and seek better governance)", "remove oneself from a hostile environment"

having a standard procedure for that would do a lot more good than prohibiting certain people within a system from voting.

i'm not quite following the switch to concerns about emergency response. ?

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I think we are in agreement on voting not being as essential to securing a Right to Life as immigration is.  I also agree with you that governments are man made and not vice versa.  Presuming you also agree that the Right to Life is naturally derived, there remains some argument as to whether non-citizens of an Objectivist Government would be as secure as their neighbors, regardless of their voting status or financial participation in a capitalist society.  Would non-citizens be considered "free riders" for example?

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DA: withdrawing from one government doesn't necessarily mean staying "unaffiliated" with any, although it could. maybe i'm missing something,

It sounds like you're talking about the idea that is sometimes called "competing governments"? i.e. where multiple governments can have jurisdiction in an area and people can even switch from one to another without moving... the way they can change streaming services.

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