Thursday, July 07, 2011

One Entity, One Vote?

This past Sunday the local paper printed a feature that asked a wide selection of people what they liked about America and what they would change. One member of the County Council proposed that only successful business persons should be allowed to run for office at any level, on the grounds that only someone who understands business can govern effectively. The mind boggles. How do we define "successful," to start with? And are people who've succeeded in other fields, such as education or the arts, incapable of leadership?

Reminds me of various proposals for earning the franchise, such as Mark Twain's "Curious Republic of Gondour," in which citizens have to earn the right to vote by education or wealth, and a single individual can exercise multiple votes. Robert Heinlein wrote an article on the subject of voting rights and suggested several alternative systems, such as perhaps we should return to the old custom whereby a voter had to own property or at least have a certain minimum level of annual income; those standards, according to Heinlein, demonstrate that a person has a stake in the community. Or maybe—I kind of like this one—since men had the exclusive right to vote and hold office in this country for over a century and can be argued to have made a mess of it, the franchise should be restricted to women for an equivalent span of time, to find out whether we'd do a better job.

The proposal that votes should be sold outright, legally, because a citizen would demonstrate by buying a greater number of votes that he or she has a serious interest in public issues, has a certain twisted surface logic. In practice, though, buying lots of votes would probably just prove the buyer has lots of money and a self-centered agenda he wants to push.

And, going back to our County Councilman's suggestion for office-holding, would we really want our city, state, or country run entirely by business types? One thinks of a familiar saying about hammers and nails. (If all you have is a hammer....)

An alien civilization might find all our methods of governing ourselves bizarre. Suppose we met intelligent beings with the biology and culture of ants or bees, genetically programmed to act completely in the interests of the hive. Our concept of individual rights would simply bewilder them.

"Vote early, vote often."

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. Ridiculous. Imagine where the country would end up if only rich people could afford to run for president and Wall Street became the country's main governing body. Oh, wait...