Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Frustrated With Democracy - Part I

Josh - The Lazy Logician presents an interesting reaction to democracy, appropriately timed for an important presidential election cycle.

Unfortunately, this topic is so deep, I will probably have to address particulars one at a time.

I admit it. I'm frustrated with democracy. My frustration stems from those who pay no attention to the issues in elections, but rather they vote for their party or whomever some authority figure tells them to vote for....

Do I mean to suggest that certain people shouldn't be allowed to vote? YES. I think that anyone who wants to vote should be forced to take a test on the issues. If they cannot support their beliefs with reasonable premises they fail.


In an attempt to avoid writing a dissertation on a subject that I have only mild competence of, I am going to make a broad assumption - there is anarchy / chaos (no rule) and there is government (including highly organized and formalized systems down to tribal or communal rule). For purposes of this discussion, that seems to be a reasonable point to concede (and if not, I'm confident someone will rip me a new one). I further assume that government is preferred over anarchy.

Governmental rule is always frustrating, regardless of form or philosophy, formality or informality. In a monarchy or oligarchy, the people are frustrated by the subjugation of personal autonomy to the crown or the ruling class, and self-determination is largely absent. Historically, in a democracy, the people directly control many aspects of the government, but invite majority rule to hamstring the minority sentiment. In a representative democracy or republic, the people elect representatives to control much of the government, reducing (but not eliminating) the hamstringing of minority sentiment. These are but a few simplifications that superficially describes obvious problems of the forms noted.

The U.S. is technically a "constitutional representative republic", although "democracy" has lost its original definition and now creeps into the conversation when folks describe the U.S. governmental system. Under the U.S. system, a person has the right to vote provided: (a) the person reaches 18 years of age; (b) the person is not a convicted felon and (c) the person is still alive (Chicago, Eastern KY and WV excluded). OK - I'm only half-joking about (c). There is no longer a "test" at the booth that might exclude those lacking in education.

But, should there be a test?

I'm intentionally ignoring the Constitutional Law questions for now. As a person who borders on the edge of "professional student", I'm inclined to say "yes, there should be a test." B/c of my own personal inquisitiveness, I'm fairly well read and well informed. As such, I feel competent in discussing most of the issues and examining the platforms of the candidates (esp. the presidential candidates).

But what about other folks that (a) are not that interested in all the issues or (b) don't have the time or means to educate themselves to a level that I or others might be more comfortable with?

So, although the initial question may be whether to institute a voting test, IMO, the real question becomes (a) form and (b) the desire to create another layer of beauracracy in governement.

However, I choose to address the "real questions" in reverse order, the reasons which will become apparent.

By instituting a voting test, in this highly politicized culture, by default we will be left with at least the state government (if not the federal government) forming bi-partisan committees for: drafting the test, for examining the drafts that result, for determining testing sites /dates, for hiring administrators to proctor the tests, for determining the grading system, for determining who and how many graders, an appeals process for those that fail and wish to challenge the test on its face or as graded, developing a certification system for identifying voters that have and have not passed the test, and for structuring budgets and requesting appropriations, among other considerations.

Furthermore, such a test would invite the Constitutional scrutiny that I alluded to above, further clogging the courts with cases that will have to be expedited so as not to render the claimant's case moot.

In view of these considerations, the economic factors of building another beauracratic beast and the practicalities of such a system seem to weigh in favor of a "no" answer. Especially if you are a "small government" conservative.

As to form of such a test - how many and what types of questions, and what grading key?

For instance, one question could be about abortion. But, is it posed as "do you support the right to have an abortion? if so, why so? if not, why not?" Would an acceptable articulated position be "No. Abortion is murder, and murder is wrong."? From one perspective, that is a perfectly acceptable (arguably accurate) statement. Is that equal to an answer that elaborates the nuances of Roe v. Wade and its progeny?

Or, does the test avoid these types of issues in lieu of economic policy questions?

The form of the test may be as problematic as actually developing the governmental apparatus to implement the test.

To be cont'd....


2 Comments:

Blogger Joshua_Duncan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Joshua_Duncan said...

The give and take continues here: http://joshuaduncan.blogspot.com/2004/09/warlord-weighs-in.html

The Lazy Logician

10:13 AM  

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