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Dissing the franchise

In his latest Substack post Glenn suggests something I’ve been in favor of myself for years now.

Vivek Ramaswamy Channels Robert Heinlein, and Me
Raising the voting age, and demanding a commitment

So Vivek Ramaswamy is channeling a weird mix of me and Robert Heinlein with his new voting age proposal. (Hey, he could do worse).

The proposal is that the voting age should be raised to 25 by constitutional amendment (necessary to overcome the 26th Amendment, passed in 1971, which set the voting age at 18). Younger people could vote, but only if they had served in the military or as first responders, or if they could pass the same test given to foreigners applying for U.S. citizenship.

The first part of the proposal echoes a column I wrote some years ago about raising the voting age. After some unfortunate events at Yale and the University of Missouri, I wrote:

To be a voter, one must be able to participate in adult political discussions. It’s necessary to be able to listen to opposing arguments and even — as I’m doing right here in this column — to change your mind in response to new evidence.

This evidence suggests that, whatever one might say about the 18-year-olds of 1971, the 18-year-olds of today aren’t up to that task. And even the 21-year-olds aren’t looking so good.

We tend to treat voting as an act of self-expression, but it is also, in a sense, an act of violence. It is both a sort of proxy for violence, measuring the size of the forces on either side of an issue, and it leads, eventually, to real violence, since voting establishes the mechanism for passing and instituting laws that will eventually be enforced with violence. (As my old law professor Stephen Carter says, when you want a law passed, you say that you’d be willing to kill the people who don’t obey your wishes. That it’s at second hand, through the institution of government, doesn’t make it less violent, just less obvious.)

So we want voters to be reasonably informed, and capable of mature judgment. (At present it looks as if a college education may often actually make them less capable of mature judgment).

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, in his famous novel Starship Troopers, envisioned a society where voters, too, had to demonstrate their patriotism before being allowed to vote. In his fictional society, the right to vote came only after some kind of dangerous public service — in the military, as a volunteer in dangerous medical experiments, or in other ways that demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice personally for the common good. The thought was that such voters would be more careful, and less selfish, in their voting.

That seems to be at the core of Ramaswamy’s proposal for letting people with military or first responder service vote sooner. Military service is a sort of “expensive signaling” of one’s willingness to serve the nation even at high personal cost. Such people are, on average, likely to be more public spirited.

The part of Ramaswamy’s proposal that I’m least enthusiastic about is the citizenship test. America had those sorts of tests before, and in the abstract they sound fine, even laudable. But historically they were applied/graded very unfairly, so as to disadvantage marginalized groups (chiefly, but by no means exclusively, blacks) and keep them from voting. I have no faith in the institutions that would apply and grade such tests today.

In the days following our Founding the franchise was limited to landowners, based on the idea that, pace Heinlein, they’d earned the right to vote via having what one might call skin in the game. After reading Starship Troopers about, oh, a dozen times, the relentless drumbeat advocating endless expansion of the franchise started to clang quite discordantly in my ear. The problem we have, it seemed to me, isn’t that not enough Americans vote, but that way too many of them do.

And most of them do so ignorantly, almost blindly, without even the most cursory of nods towards researching the candidates, the relevant issues, and the positions on said issues espoused by a given candidate. They pull the lever for the name that’s most familiar to them—or the incumbent, depending on the particular voter’s level of awareness—and go home congratulating themselves on having done their civic duty so nobly, so selflessly. Then, they forget the whole ordeal until another four years have flown by.

Well, bollocks to all that rot. With millions upon millions of complete stupes voting not their convictions or the issues they care most about, but based entirely on who they’ve seen on TeeWee the most during the month or so they’ve actually been paying any attention to politics whatsoever, is it any wonder the Republic is in the dire shape it now is?

Bottom line: Limbaugh used to rail about “Low Information Voters,” but it’s my carefully-considered opinion that no healthy polity ought to allow those Low-Infornation types to vote in the first place. If it does, it won’t BE healthy for very long. Most of these LIVs couldn’t tell you who James Madison or John Jay was, much less what the guy running for their State House or Senate thinks about anything.

But hey, he’s the one with the nice hair and smile, right?


Pshaw. I know, I know, just another of the myriad things that ain’t ever gonna happen, not a snowball’s chance of it. But still—I’m right just the same, and you damned well know I am too.


15 thoughts on “Dissing the franchise

  1. As for the military service part, I’d limit that to those who served in an active combat role, i.e. under enemy fire. No REMFs need apply under this category. That would disqualify people like Milley, by the way. Otherwise, I’d extend the right to vote to any American above the age of 13 who could demonstrate the requisite knowledge of the intent of the founders, both Federalists, like John Jay and Alexander Hamilton (both of them Wall Street types, btw), and Anti-Federalists, like Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason, who were responsible for the Bill of Rights. At 14 I could have easily passed such a test.

  2. Age is a problem (that whole “the long-term consequences section of humans not growing in until you’re 25 thing”), but not really the problem.

    Neither is skin in the game via public/military service.

    It’s IQ.

    Some people are smart at 18; others are stupid at every age.
    And heaven knows how many village idiots serve in the dotMil, up to the highest ranks. So that’s not a good weed-out.

    National IQ tests in high school. Machine-scored, double-blind.
    Either score a 90 or better, or like Mongo, you’re “just a pawn in game of life.”

    Imagine the joy of seeing Fetterman, Emperor Poopypants, Gabbin’ Nuisance, Pelosi, Lurch, most of Congress, the entire lamestream media, etc., and a cast of millions of Marx’s “lumpenproletariat”, removed forever from the voting rolls with the stroke of a pen.

    (A distant second-place idea would be to hang a Rubik’s Cube or some logic problem outside the polling places. Gotta vote in person, and if you can’t solve it, you don’t make it past the bouncers.)

    It’s not young people who got us here.
    It’s stupid people.
    You can’t fix stupid. (At least, not without using a big enough hammer.)
    But you don’t have to let it vote.

    And while I’m up, I’d like world peace, the winning lottery ticket, and a pony.

    1. And while I’m up…

      I agree teh stupid is the biggest problem, but I disagree you can measure that with an “IQ” test that is flawed and because there are lots of people with “IQ” above the threshold* that consistently vote retarded.

      *see the apart about “flawed”

      1. My goal isn’t perfection, which is a fool’s crackpipe dream.
        I’d settle for merely for a thousandfold improvement over what is now, and stretches backwards for a century or more.

        A standard IQ test as a weed-out more than meets that criteria.

        1. Well, maybe. But with a cutoff of 90 I don’t think you accomplish much. That eliminates 25% or so of the population, not all of which are stupid leftists.

          1. By definition, all leftists are stupid.

            I’m flexible though.
            If someone would rather just slide all the dumbasses into woodchippers, I’m okay with that.

  3. Age should not be the determining factor.
    25 years ago I would have said that having volunteered for a 5 year period in the U.S. Armed Services would havve to be a major determining factor, but with a a number now volunteering just to get their free sex change operation(s), i’m not quite so sure.
    I also get the feeling that hhluce feels that physicians, nurses, dentists, and chaplins are REMFs – if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to have a few words with the aforementioned person in private.
    The only gauge, per Vivek Ramaswamy’s thesis should be life-experience and how this has affected you ability to see the world as it exists or, if you will, 20/20 vision/understanding.
    I’m 82: my sister-in-law is just three months younger, our weltanschauungen is like day and night; she, having been married and raised three kids, is still at the mental/emotional level of 15 living at home under her mother’s thumb. Do you, in all honesty, (remember she’s 82 and mentally competent) want her voting?
    I can keep going with many such stories – to no purpose. You’d like to think that age correlates with experience and the ability to see through charlatans like our current pResident, but that’s just not true.

    1. “I also get the feeling that hhluce feels that physicians, nurses, dentists, and chaplains are REMFs” Wrong. And that’s just trolling, and you know it. You know perfectly well what I’m talking about.

  4. Just an opinion, but there are no limits that produce any certainty of the outcome that we seek.

    Age, service, “IQ”, gender, they all fail and that is obvious.

    If there is a solution then I believe it is in requiring youth to receive as part of their education the basic facts of freedom and liberty, and how it is/has been gained and lost.

  5. “The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

    • while commonly attributed to Churchill, there’s no direct attribution. Still, pretty spot on in the Idiocracy.
    1. I might just rephrase that, with all due respect to Churchill who I admire greatly (his American half anyway 🙂 ) –

      “The best argument against elite governance is a five-minute conversation with the “elitist” .

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