Friday, February 9, 2007

Suffer the Intellectual Children

A recent exchange at Vox's dealt with suffrage, and what limitations or lack thereof should be put upon it. I posed a simple question there, and now here:

If someone knows little or nothing about civics, economics, how the political process should work, our Founders' intentions for this country, American history, or the Constitution, how is allowing such an individual voting "rights" beneficial to him, or the populace?

Some might argue about the legitimacy of voting, period. Let's save that discussion for another time. Assume that voting isn't simply a scam for keeping the peasants diverted from what goes on behind the magic curtain, for our present purposes.

I've never seen a satisfactory answer to the above question. I contend that it's not only of no benefit, but is a detriment to our nation. If you have no idea what an amendment is, you should stay as far away from the voting precincts as possible. The same is true if you draw a blank on naming the first five presidents, think the Declaration of Independence is a feminist manifesto, believe socialism is having lots of friends, and capitalism is utilizing upper-case letters in a sentence.

I suspect our criteria for voting should entail more than having reached one's eighteenth birthday with a detectable pulse. I propose something old and new. Bring back the institution of landowners-only voting. And not just any landowners, but those who earned their acreage by the sweat of their labors. In addition, let's have a universal test in voter qualification: a demonstration that one has a fundamental understanding of the aforementioned items. The growing problem of illiteracy won't pose a concern--not with oral examinations.

One might demur with: "Sure, but voting results affect everyone, not just those who meet the qualifications for voting."

But this already is the case; felons and children can't vote. Furthermore, if voting is so important that literally everyone over a certain age should have the power to indulge in it, then isn't becoming a well-informed voter equally important? If not, why not?

I think Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments on The Tonight Show serve a useful purpose in highlighting the rampancy of gross cluelessness. I remember seeing an instance in which he randomly selected people passing on a street-corner, and showed them a framed photograph of Algore. This was while Gore was the sitting vice president. The question was "Who is this man?" People guessed he was a relative of Jay's, or a movie star, or a low-ranking politician. Nobody knew who he was. Some might consider this a blessing, given "Gaia" Gore's penchant for lunacy, I realize. However, this point does not detract from the reality that these folks were uninformed adults and voters. This is one of numerous examples available from such segments. Massive obliviousness isn't just a real phenomenon, but a common one.

Taking for granted that voting is worthwhile, then the importance of knowing heads from tails cannot be overstated. We require driver's licenses for tooling around town in a car. We require medical certificates for nurses and doctors. We insist upon licensing construction contractors. You cannot carry a concealed weapon without a little slip of paper that shows you've attended a course and ponied up an exhorbitant fee. Yet many have no problem with millions of people pushing that button or pulling that lever or punching that chad, who cannot discern the difference between competition and collectivism.

In North Korea, ignorance is understandable, given that the entire country is a peninsular prison; but in the United States, ignorance is a choice. A consequence of this choice should necessitate a loss in voting "rights."

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