Our coffee agent asked us this morning who we’d vote for if we could vote in Australia.
“But then you’d have to pay the fine.”
“That’s okay. Better to pay the fine and have a clean conscience than to vote and be an accessory to the coming fiscal crime.”
“The way voting works today is a fraud. It’s just people voting themselves money.”
“But isn’t voting one of the responsibilities you have for living in a free society?”
“What good is a free society if you’re not even free to not vote without being fined?”
“Look,” we wound up, “Mandating that everyone vote just means all the morons show up at the polls with no idea of who or what they’re voting for. You don’t get a better result. You get a worse result.”
“Besides,” we added, “what good is the exercise of power if no one is required to demonstrate they can exercise power responsibly, with the best interests of their neighbours and fellow citizens at heart? If everyone votes in order to get himself the most government handouts, you get a farce, not a mandate.”
“What do you mean? And hurry up. I’m going to have other customers.”
“If you drive, you’re required to have a license which shows you know the laws of the road and won’t endanger other drivers. Yet we encourage anyone to show up at the voting booth without any proof they know what they’re doing. We give them the power to elect people who will have control over every aspect of our free lives. How much sense does that make?
“You should only get to vote if you’ve earned the right to do it. And you earn the right to do it by demonstrating your commitment to your civil society through some form of sacrifice and service.”
The idea wasn’t ours, of course. It was Robert Heinlein’s in Starship Troopers. If you serve your society, you get to vote. You’re not required to serve. But if you don’t, you don’t vote. Heinlein figured that those who choose to defend the political society they come from – a free one – have a pretty good understanding of the value of freedom, having defended it against real enemies.
Plus, Heinlein figured there were certain virtues you’d learn in military service that might make you a better voter. You’d learn that the welfare of your unit (or the polity) means not always gratifying your own desires and instincts. It’s an interesting idea, that voting requires some virtue.
But no one would take that idea seriously today. It would be called discriminatory. And besides, it’s a lot easier to just vote in whomever promises to deliver you the most lucre.
Maybe Heinlein is wrong. Maybe he’s right. But we’re pretty sure universal suffrage is no guarantee of more freedom or better government.
In any event, it looks like the keys to the car will be turned over to Labor tomorrow. Let’s hope they don’t drive the economy into a ditch.
Markets and Money