Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why Not Abolish the Universal Franchise?

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money. 

Attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville

I have previously said in this space that there are no political solutions to the problems with this country, only spiritual ones.  But when we start to rebuild after the turmoils and upheavals and perhaps civil war that surely lie ahead, we can't go back to doing business the way we have up to now.  Some political reforms will be in order.  One ought to be to get rid of the income tax, which for too long has served not only as a means of soaking productive citizens but also of tinkering with the social order.  Another one, perhaps, ought to be to abolish the universal franchise.

We all know there was a time in this country when voting was restricted based on race, sex, class, religion, literacy, the ability to pay a poll tax and all sorts of other criteria (many of which boiled down to racial restrictions).  I see no justification for restrictions based on arbitrary factors like race.  But since even now the universal franchise is not absolute, it must be conceded that there is an actual, legitimate point to some voter qualifications.  Convicted felons are disqualified from voting.  Age is a no-brainer.  Citizenship seems no longer to be a no-brainer with some people, but it should be.  I propose adding to that list the requirement that a person own land or other taxable wealth in order to be eligible to vote.  

Why limit the franchise to the propertied classes?  Simple.  Because when the government undertakes a project, they are the ones who have to pay for it.  Why should they not be compensated by possessing the franchise exclusively?  And would this not redound to the common good?  Take control of the purse strings away from those who do not pay for government, and a vast shrinkage would occur.  If you want to see the federal government, for example, restricted to its legitimate functions as enumerated in the Constitution, and functioning frugally into the bargain, a big step in the right direction would be to take away the ability of redistributionist politicians to pander to voters that don't pay taxes.  Why should people who want to benefit from the abuse of the state's coercive police powers by having wealth taken away from its legitimate owners and given to them have any political clout?  To take it away from them would draw a lot of the sting out of the entitlement mentality.  Even if half of Americans want free crap at the expense of others -- as it appears from this month's elections that they do -- at least they would be powerless to attain it.

Isn't the idea of limiting the franchise un-American?  No.  It should be remembered that this country has never been a pure democracy, and in fact the Founding Fathers feared democracy, which they equated with mob rule.  That is the reason for the much-maligned Electoral College and our representative form of government.  Wouldn't it be unfair to certain groups to limit the franchise?  It need not be.  The shrinkage of government bloat that would result from restoring government to its proper limited functions would immediately free up vast amounts of wealth for use in creating even more wealth.  In a country free of stupid government regulations and confiscatory taxation, economic prosperity would abound, and more people would be able to own property.  Of course, one more key element needs to be added to the mix, and that is the rediscovery of our moral compass, without which there can be neither the peace nor the justice that necessarily underlie a successful free market economy.  A moral compass would also impel us to care privately for those who are truly unable to fend for themselves -- and less wealth going down the money pit of big government translates to more for charity.

America must repent and convert, and I'm afraid she has a severe chastisement to endure before she even sees the need to do this.  But once we come out the other side of these trials, we will need to take steps to safeguard ourselves against future backsliding. Abolishing the universal franchise in favor of property owners could be one of these steps.

P.S. In case you're thinking I'm proposing this in the hope of gaining some unfair advantage for myself, be advised that I do not personally own property, so that I am effectively advocating my own disenfranchisement.

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