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August 24, 2010

More Random Thoughts

After last week's random-but-completely-understandable rant (and the subsequent "tribute" to women's suffrage) the weekend found the Blog Princess firmly resolved never to bring the subject up again. Unfortunately, my fellow bloggers rudely insist on penning interesting responses:

...this is an opportune moment to address Elise's argument that men who joke about depriving women of the vote are necessarily unprincipled. (Cassandra also took umbrage at the post at National Review.)

I once wrote a piece on a similar topic. It happens to touch on the very point that they raise, which is that "women" couldn't be replaced by "Jews" or "African Americans." That was the argument raised then, too, except that time it was men who were the butt of the joke:

Lucas says that you couldn't replace "men" in the insults with any other group of people without raising an uproar. That's not quite true, though: there is one other group that could fit in the space, which is women. I can't count the number of bumperstickers I've seen for sale that said something to the effect of: "I miss my ex-wife; but my aim is getting better," or "My wife said to give up fishing or she'd leave; I sure will miss her." (There was a successful country music song about the last one.)

Could you raise a joke about the importance to the country of disenfranchising men without raising an uproar? I think so; in fact, jokes about the relative stupidity of men are so common in sitcoms, etc., that the only bar against anyone making such a joke is that it is probably too obvious to be funny.

The earlier movements accomplished this: they moved the culture from a place where the idea of "women's suffrage" was a joke, to a place where the idea of "ending women's suffrage" is the joke. That is a remarkable thing; and if it takes the telling of the joke to make that clear, so be it!

It's hard to argue that being able to joke around isn't a good thing but unlike Grim, neither Elise nor I saw the post as a joke. Nevertheless, an interesting conversation about context ensued. Elise (who I'm delighted to see is blogging again) and I were pretty much on the same page with regard to the Williamson post - we both thought it was odd to juxtapose a common prank (getting ignorant people to sign petitions against self interest) with the anniversary of women's suffrage unless the writer meant to connect the two in the reader's mind. Over at her place Elise made a few good points:

The argument that women shouldn’t have the vote is literally un-principled. The only justification for it is that if women couldn’t vote then conservatives would always win elections. That’s not a principle; that’s a corruption.

It's always a bit of a gamble for a female conservative to question anything that smacks - no matter how faintly - of sexism. The standard rejoinders are entirely predictable: generally some variation of "YOU HATE MEN!!!" or "YOU'RE A FEMINIST!" (neither of which constitutes any kind of refutation on the merits). I found Elise's observation interesting in light of a fact I've only seen discussed once or twice: for the first 60 or so years after we got the vote, the majority of women voted for conservatives. This point was made somewhat ironically by John Derbyshire while discussing what he calls The Case Against Women's suffrage.

The case, according to Derbyshire, is exactly what Elise critiqued in her post: that female suffrage is bad for conservatism because women can't be relied upon to vote for conservatives. Of course, implicit in his case is the tacit admission that for the first 60 or years, female suffrage was good for conservatism. He also stipulates that he isn't advocating the end of women's voting rights. Equity, he says, trumps pragmatism.

I can't argue with anything Derbyshire has to say in the linked video, but it does make me wonder why a party that advocates both freedom of expression and unfettered markets hasn't bothered to ask itself how it came to lose womens' votes? It has become axiomatic on the right to blame feminism for everything from the heartbreak of psoriasis to the bedbug infestation in NY city, but if conservatism isn't selling well in the marketplace of ideas then perhaps conservatives need to take a long, hard look in the mirror rather than blaming the customer for not buying their product.

It's easy (though more than a bit reminiscent of lefty condescension) to opine loftily that women who vote progressive are voting against self interest. Such tactics relieve the arguer of the tiresome necessity of convincing women why this might be so, the self evidently self evident truth of the conservative Weltanschauung being downright impossible to refudiate.

On the other hand, making clear, principled, cohesive arguments that convince women that conservatism better represents their interests (not to mention those of society at large) sounds suspiciously like hard work. If feminism is such intellectual weak tea, one can't help wondering why we're having so much trouble demonstrating its flaws? Which brings me to Elise's second point:

The fact that some on the Right can entertain the notion of depriving women of the vote - even as a provocation, even only half-seriously - tells me that they don’t understand democracy any better than those on the Left. It’s also a small part of the reason why a Republican sweep in November won’t really mean much. Americans don’t hate the Left and love the Right any more than they hated the Right and loved the Left when they elected Barack Obama. We hate whichever side is in power, not because we’re all anarchists - or even Libertarians - but because it’s the side in power whose lack of principle is most obvious. Those out of power can proclaim their principles and promise to act on them; those in power can be clearly seen to act on no principles at all.

... Neither party - neither side, Right or Left - is particularly interested in addressing what the voters want addressed and that becomes painfully obvious with regard to a party in power. Thus we are probably looking at a series of elections in which the only consistent result is to vote out whoever is in. This will go on until either power is so evenly split that government is deadlocked or a third party arises that is truly interested in addressing the problems the voters want addressed.

Since anyone who agrees with what I already think is obviously brilliant, allow me to say that I think this is one of the smartest statements I've read in a long time. Shortly after the last presidential election, I tried to make a related point:

Prior to 1950, extended one-party rule was more the norm than the exception.

Since 1950, extended one-party rule has been the exception rather than the norm. In fact, it has happened only once.

The notion that we lost in November of 2008 because we didn't fight dirty enough is perverse at best. History offers precious little support for the shimmering vision of uninterrupted, one party dominance in Washington. And it's worth asking: is this something the Founders would have approved of, even if it were possible? What happens when the out of power party has no serious expectation of being in power (even for one term)?

One of the most vital safeguards in our system of checks and balances is the fact that the people can and do "vote the bastards out" with reassuring regularity. The suggestion that conservatives can or should try to circumvent this process by adopting "the ends justify the means" as our organizing principle strikes me as one of the most profoundly anti-conservative notions I've ever heard.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the corrupting power of confirmation bias lately and I'm reminded of another brilliant post I read last week:

Different societies are arranged in different ways. In a tribal society, there is very low trust between members of competing tribes. Such societies tend to be dominated by the Honor-Shame ethic where members are protected from the consequences of their transgressions as long as they do not bring shame upon the community. Exceptions occur but in general there is no expectation that members of a competing tribe will behave honorably with each other.

In America, we tend to have a Guilt based culture, a gift bequeathed to us from our Judeo-Christian ancestors. We assume a higher level of honesty and trust, until proven otherwise. We believe in an admittedly idealized fantasy of equal treatment under the law, even as we recognize that there exist significant disparities. In America, even the lowliest person has the right to legal representation and a trial under the rubric of blind justice. The erosion of the ideal of impartial justice is a serious threat to social comity.

Don Quixote, guest blogging for Bookworm, is concerned about how much stress our system can take when the common assumption of trust erodes:

Truth in the courtroom and elsewhere

I cannot count for you the number of clients and other witnesses I’ve had ask me “What should I say?” Not as in “What should I say to present my true story in the best light possible?” but as in “What should I say, true or not, that increases the likelihood that I (or the person I’m testifying for) will win at trial?” It is distressing to see the disappointment on their faces when I suggest that they might consider telling the truth.

So I suppose I’m asking just how important the Bookwormroom readers think the truth is these days. Does anyone tell the truth any more? Does it even matter, if everyone assumes everyone else is lying anyway? How can our society, much less our courtrooms, function if people will say anything to get what they want?

The thing is, I'm not sure public trust can long survive in a sprawling, multicultural environment where we're constantly being told there are no differences (or no differences that ought to concern us) between cultures or interest groups? Some studies suggest that increasing diversity erodes civic trust:

... the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation's social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam's research predicts.

Can trust and civic engagement survive the migration from small, fairly homogeneous groups of citizens-first with similar interests and backgrounds to a diverse, highly mobile set of individuals-first (none of whom has ever met a principle or authority figure or rule they're willing to submit to)? There's a reason tribalism leads to moral relativism and situational ethics: morality is the first casualty of any struggle for survival.

The rest is just post hoc justification:

"We have to do this to win."
"They did it first."
"When the stakes are this high, we can't afford the luxury of principles."

But the normal ebb and flow of power in politics is not a lifeboat situation where morals can be safely jettisoned (so much easier to reclaim them after we've eaten our fellow passengers!). A lifetime of reading history has convinced me that standing athwart history and yelling "stop" is something of a fool's errand. We can try to persuade others, but in the end nothing speaks with quite so much persuasive authority as a set of burned fingers or the solid whack of a 2 x 4 upside the head.

Times change, circumstances change, but human nature is an enduring - and reassuring - constant. Sadly, most of us learn best by experience. Viewed in that light, is it not possible that the Obama administration is the best thing to happen to conservatism in the last century: an object lesson that illustrates, far better than the most persuasive argument, the flaws of progressive dogma?

A final thought from the last linked post:

Cheating has always gone on yet it seems that there has been a concerted effort in the last several years to mainstream cheating of all sorts. Those of us who play by the rules are increasingly made to feel like chumps. This is not a healthy development for our society's future.

I'm often struck by the degree to which living in an information age makes us vulnerable to tunnel vision. Despite the tendency to equate more with better information, being surrounded by so much input can feel a lot like drowning - we expend so much energy just trying to stay afloat that we lose sight of the larger picture. Like most of you, I'm horrified and dismayed by the inexorable creep of government expansion. It's always a bit of the shock to read about other times in our history when it must have seemed that the country was in the grip of forces beyond comprehension or control.

But if history has one lesson for us it's that most problems are self-correcting and that somehow, we always manage to survive the process. Have faith, and hold fast to your principles.

Posted by Cassandra at August 24, 2010 09:17 AM

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Comments

...but it does make me wonder why a party that advocates both freedom of expression and unfettered markets hasn't bothered to ask itself how it came to lose womens' votes?

The Repubs sell the steak, the Dems sell the sizzle. I can't count the number of times a woman told me she voted for Bill Clinton -- twice -- because he reminded her of JFK.

*tucking the trivet out of reach under the sofa*

Posted by: BillT at August 24, 2010 04:19 PM

So we... lost the womens' vote because...

[wait for it]

...we stopped selling the sizzle?

...because human (or female) nature changed after 1980?

I get the Clinton thing and I agree with you. But that's hardly a progressive thing. You can't tell me that if Sarah Palin looked like Helen Thomas, we'd still be talking about her :p

Sex sells, whether you're male or female. I think it's not that simple.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 04:34 PM

I'd not say the Republicans have suffered for not selling a sexy candidate (as much as I liked the man, no one could really accuse 1980 Ronald Reagan of being "sexy") so much as they have for not bringing a charismatic ticket leader to the forefront. Let's examine the Republican nominees since Reagan, shall we?

George Bush senior. An able and canny policy wonk. But he only got his first term on credit from his predecessor. Not charismatic.

Bob Dole. The man's a hero. An honest to life hero. But charismatic (on the campaign trail) he was not.

GW Bush. Closest we've had to a charismatic nominee, but while I think he scored for the complete honesty bit (needed after Clinton), the real reason he won two elections was that while he was a bit of a cold fish, he was neither a block of wood (Gore) nor a haughty poodle (Kerry).

McCain. While he had some charisma before he started trying to please everyone on the national scene, let's face it... he got crowds about as excited as his demographic are stereotyped as being.

I hate to say it, but the American people don't seem to want the most qualified, but instead want the most charismatic one.

Posted by: MikeD at August 24, 2010 04:59 PM

And yet in the last half century we've had more Rethug than Dem presidents!

I've puzzled over how we decide who to vote for and in the end I think it comes down to a combination of trust and charisma. I think people look to a leader to inspire them and select on a fairly broad range of qualities so long as they result in that combination of trust/inspiration.

What that says about Obama's victory I'm afraid to ask myself :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 05:06 PM

You know what really annoys me? My post generated that interesting discussion in the comments, but not one single good joke! I mean, Bill hangs around there too...

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 06:40 PM

Why women quit voting for convservatives? That's pretty easy actually.

The motivation behind women's vote, more than men, is for security. Candidates who offer security sell to the modern woman. Probably always have. Men as a group are more likely to vote for "freedom" - meaning typically the opposite of security.

When women were given the vote, women found security in family. Most suffragists were Christian women (and most would not support the Holy Grail of women's issues today - the A word). "Family values" was and always has been a conservative issue.

Over time, thanks to the Great Depression and the Great Society, the ability to rely upon family for security has lessened. Divorce rates are high. Women fearing being on their own and single women especially want bigger government and more safety nets and free abortions. This is their "security." They vote for liberal polcies. Consistent with this thesis, even today women who consider themselves in stable marriages are much more likely to vote for conversvatives by huge numbers compared to single women.

Do conservatives need to stop women from voting or better brand their product? No. They only need to require women to be married (with no divorce action pending) when they vote. Then they can rely upon the women's vote once again.

*driving away quickly with a full tank of gas*

Posted by: Hummer at August 24, 2010 07:07 PM

I've never been married, and I vote conservative. I'll take my freedom over the Nanny State, thankyouverymuch....

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 24, 2010 09:28 PM

You know what I think? This is all beating around the bush. We're all avoiding the real issue. Why? Because it's so politically incorrect that no one wants to touch it.

What could be more politically incorrect than debating whether or not women should have the vote? It's this: The social welfare state has developed client classes. These client classes have one and only one political interest -- voting themselves money from the treasury. That is the only issue that really matters to them, and they will vote near-unanimously for whichever candidate they think will best carry this interest forward.

So who are these client classes? Women are standing as a proxy for them, which is unfair. I think I know why it happened, though. Consider who some of these groups are:

* Inner-city black welfare recipients
* Rural Southern white welfare recipients
* Academics
* Th governing class -- overpaid civil servants, and lawyers and businesspeople that milk the treasury via political connections
* "Farmers" who farm mainly to receive subsidies
* Divorced-by-choice single parents, the bulk of whom are women

Blacks aren't the proxy because there is a strong social taboo against that. White Southerners aren't the proxy because that card really doesn't play well outside of the bicoastal-elite areas. Academics aren't the proxy because most Americans still have a positive image of higher education in general. And most Americans have a lot of gratitude towards, and sympathy for, farmers -- even fake ones. The governing class has mostly flown under the radar until pretty recently, due in part to the public image of the suffering civil servant, and in part because of those elites' ability to control the media message. That leaves the women.

So that's how that happened. But, as I said, it's a distraction. Ignore whatever proxy is put in front of you, and concentrate on the real client classes. They, I claim, should not be permitted to vote. But I don't know how to stop it.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at August 24, 2010 09:39 PM

Do conservatives need to stop women from voting or better brand their product? No. They only need to require women to be married (with no divorce action pending) when they vote. Then they can rely upon the women's vote once again.

I would never vote for any party that considers my right to have a voice in my own government to be a derivative one.

Never.

Not only would I not vote for such a party - I would make a concerted effort to persuade everyone I know not to vote for them.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 10:57 PM

That's too bad, because it may really be a good idea.

Not for women, though: in general.

We were just talking in the other post about how a lot of these "rights" we enjoy were traditionally rights earned through feudal service -- that is, by service involved in upholding the civilization. The modern reading of that is usually "Starship Troopers," but it is a very old idea.

The Founders didn't believe that everyone had, or ought to have, a right to vote. They felt that the right to vote was something that belonged to those who had a certain stake in the civilization, as expressed through property ownership (and therefore susceptibility to taxation), militia service, etc.

Sex was a traditional marker that they inherited, but perhaps a dispensable one. Service, though, was something we got rid of too quickly. It may very well be wise to reconsider the idea that the right to vote is derived from some service, rather than basic. Cousin Dave is right about the reason why: otherwise, the government develops a 'client base' among those who benefit from government monies.

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 11:14 PM

That's too bad, because it may really be a good idea. Not for women, though: in general.

Different idea.

The interesting thing, though, is that today income is taxed and nearly all of us have income. The problem with using income as a proxy for property is that it doesn't really equate to having a stake in society but also that it doesn't seem like a good idea to punish parents who stay home to raise their children by depriving them of the vote.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 11:24 PM

Is it different? The idea is that the "right" to vote is not a right, but is (as you said) derivative. It is derived from some sort of service.

You're right that income isn't a good proxy. It's bad in a lot of ways: the senior citizen who has no income to speak of (but who has capital gains on his savings, and a pension earned over decades, and property owned free-and-clear in fee simple, and...) certainly has a stake. I wouldn't suggest that income was at all useful here.

The idea that all people have an inalienable right to vote, however, is at variance with the original formulation. All people have an inalienable right to free speech, the free exercise of religion, to petition their government for change and redress of grievances (what you're calling 'a voice in government' includes this), etc.

Voting, though, is not obviously an unearned right bestowed by the Creator in exchange for nothing. It looks like a right earned through performance of some portion of the social contract. If you're not defending the civilization in some way -- let alone actively tearing at its foundations -- you're not the kind of person we'd like to have consulted about issues of leadership, budgeting, etc.

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 11:34 PM

It looks like a right earned through performance of some portion of the social contract. If you're not defending the civilization in some way -- let alone actively tearing at its foundations -- you're not the kind of person we'd like to have consulted about issues of leadership, budgeting, etc.

That's the problem, Grim. Once you confiscate my income to pay for government programs, you can't very well argue that I haven't "contributed" to the social compact.

I have.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 11:40 PM

"No Taxation Without Representation." Sure.

The government now taxes sales on a stick of candy, though, so we're now asserting that it's improper to avoid giving the vote to minors. After all, they buy candy.

So do felons. Also beer, which is heavily taxed.

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 11:42 PM

I am, of course, aware of the precise reasons for denying the vote to felons and minors. The one has disqualified himself, and the other is not yet qualified.

There are other ways to disqualify oneself, though: for example, never taking the steps necessary to qualify. Never choosing to serve. Someone came and took your money, well, they take mine too. Maybe we should get together and hang them from an oak tree; but the mere fact of being robbed isn't a service. If we actually get together and hang them, that might really be a service to civilization. (And that is what the Founders did, so to speak.)

Posted by: Grim at August 24, 2010 11:51 PM

The idea of limiting the franchise to a subset of the population is attractive (in the case of Starship Troopers-like service requirements) but I'm not sure I'd want to live in a country like that. I am also not sure it eliminates Dave's problem of creating a client class whose interests differ from those of the rest of the population.

As imperfect as it may be, I think it makes more sense to grant universal suffrage to adult citizens in good standing. Any society will have competing interests and I can't think of any way to limit the franchise that solves that problem (and some may well make it worse). Case in point: as we both know there are many absolute dirtbags who are also veterans.

So clearly mere military service guarantees neither wisdom nor virtue. It's hard to think of any quality that does.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 24, 2010 11:58 PM

Well, I'm in the initial stages of rethinking this issue, after years of being essentially a democrat (small d). More and more, I think we'd be better off with a restricted franchise; the question is how and where to restrict it.

I've also begun to view the idea of 'equal protection under the law' as basically in conflict with traditional liberty. It used to seem like we were dealing with a situation in which equality of opportunity was good, but equality of result was the problem; but lately, as you yourself have demonstrated, equality of result is being taken to prove an inequality of opportunity. And, too, we're finding new claims for 'equality of opportunity' that actually redefine the opportunity entirely -- gay marriage, for example, means redefining the idea of marriage so that 'equal opportunity' is offered to those who want to do something that was never part of the institution to begin with.

Initially, I think that "a guarantee" of virtue is not necessary, but that we ought to look for some marker of service. As long as the service is both arduous and voluntary (so that the opportunity is denied to none), those who lack virtue will tend to avoid the arduous nature of the service. That should move the percentages in the right direction, without being a purely ends-based maneuver of the type that bothers Elise. (I.e., it isn't 'that you vote X' that qualifies you; it is service that qualifies you, and then you may vote as you please and think best.)

So: the 14th Amendment needs to go, tout court. I stress that this is an early position, a matter I am only beginning to explore; but I think we are in a place where very serious changes are necessary if the traditional liberties -- which are the thing about this system of government most worth preserving -- are to be preserved. Merely letting people vote on things is of no use if they are bribed into voting away their birthright; those who would sell their birthright for a mess of pottage must not be placed in a position to do so, however many votes they win.

Posted by: Grim at August 25, 2010 12:25 AM

but I'm not sure I'd want to live in a country like that.

I wouldn't mind.

There are whole classes of people in certain socio-economic bubbles that shouldn't be voting. conflict of interests

More and more, I think we'd be better off with a restricted franchise

Andrew Jackson expanded the franchise, I think, partially because power was, perhaps, accumulating too much in one place.

Now it is turned on its head, where voting by the lower class, is used by the upper class to lock in a tyrannical setup.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 25, 2010 12:35 AM

My post generated that interesting discussion in the comments, but not one single good joke! I mean, Bill hangs around there too...

I can duck thrown trivets, Grim.

You do like I do -- close fast for the stab.

Posted by: BillT at August 25, 2010 08:36 AM

I blame Humorless Females.

We women can be such a buzz kill sometimes.

Posted by: My Name is Mud at August 25, 2010 08:38 AM

It's better to make amends than to apologize. There's still time for some good jokes, such as this one from Isaac Asimov's treasury.

"Mr. Johnson had weighed himself on one of those old-fashioned machines that gave you a card with a fortune printed on it.

"The formidable Mrs. Johnson plucked it from her husband's fingers and said, 'Let me see that! Ah, it says: 'You are firm and resolute, have a decisive personality, are a leader of men, and attractive to women.''

"Then she flipped the card over, studied it a moment, and said, 'And they've got the weight wrong as well.'"

Posted by: Grim at August 25, 2010 09:33 AM

"We women can be such a buzz kill sometimes.

Conphuze Us say when you paint with a muddy brush, we all get a litle dirty.
Not that that's a bad thing....

Posted by: Conphuze Us at August 25, 2010 09:39 AM

Not a whole lot of time to hit everything (or even the most important things) but these kind of stuck out for me.

Elise (who I'm delighted to see is blogging again) and I were pretty much on the same page with regard to the Williamson post - we both thought it was odd to juxtapose a common prank (getting ignorant people to sign petitions against self interest) with the anniversary of women's suffrage unless the writer meant to connect the two in the reader's mind.

Why odd?

Leno has his standard "Man on the street" bit and I'm pretty sure that come every 4th of July he goes out and puts together a montage of people who don't know who George Washington is. I doubt he is making a disparaging comment on patriotism or our founding. It's just a timely bit of humor. I didn't read anything more into this prank than that. (I leave aside the question of successfulness of execution, only that the construct doesn't seem odd.)

Second, on the question of the effects of women's suffrage, there's a confounding variable. The parties have shifted quite a lot over the past 60 years. Let's face it, if John F. (Ask not what your country can do for you) Kennedy were running for POTUS today, he'd have to do it on a Republican ticket. He wouldn't even come close to getting the nomination in the Democratic Party of Barack (The purpose of the country is to do for you) Obama. So I'm not convinced that looking at party voting splits over time is an apples-to-apples comparison.

I haven't had time to think through to see how that changes any arguments, but I don't think that phenomenon can be safely ignored.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 10:23 AM

I guess I'd have to ask you whether you'd view Leno's prank any differently if his video lampooned the ignorance of only men? Or only blacks? Or only Hispanics, as opposed to all Americans?

Do you seriously maintain that a prank that singles out an easily identifiable group of people (and excludes everyone else even though - as I showed with the other videos I posted - ignorance is hardly an exclusively female trait) wasn't intended to link "women" with "ignorance/stupidity" and "voting" in the reader's mind? Obviously the video, though it featured only females and appeared as a "tribute" to women's suffrage was in no way a comment on the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote or on the fitness of women to vote (the "some things don't improve with age" crack notwithstanding)? It was just a joke about how people (who just happened to all be women) sure are dumb.

July 4th is a holiday, not an exercise of civic duty that determines who will run government. If people celebrate July 4th without understanding what they're celebrating, is anyone harmed?

If people vote without understanding what they're doing, is anyone harmed?

I totally get that you (and Grim) think it was just a wild coincidence that this guy wrote a post entitled "Some things (women having the right to vote) don't improve with time", then linked to a "video tribute" (to women's suffrage) in which high school girls signed a petition to deprive themselves of the right to vote.

There was absolutely no message there. Of course we all agree that the funny commercials we see on TV portraying men as bumbling, pussy whipped morons are conveying the message that men are bumbling, pussy whipped morons (as opposed to women, who are smart and ought to be running the world).

The odd thing is, I've agreed that that sort of message, though frequently funny, is also objectionable because it denigrates men unfairly.


Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 10:53 AM

I doubt he is making a disparaging comment on patriotism or our founding. It's just a timely bit of humor.

What I read into Leno's prank is that Americans who don't even know who George Washington is don't understand what Independence Day is all about, which makes their "celebration" of July 4th utterly pointless.


Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 11:16 AM

I have to agree with Cass. We didn't see stupid high school guys signing the petition to revoke women's right to vote. That post was making a statement about women, not Americans in general. I cannot respect that position: it is wrong on many levels.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 25, 2010 11:46 AM

Well, strictly speaking the Leno thing would be "all Americans" but it does single out the identifyable group "Americans" as opposed to say Canadians or Europeans and lampoons only that group and not "all people".

What I read into Leno's prank is that Americans who don't even know who George Washington is don't understand what Independence Day is all about, which makes their "celebration" of July 4th utterly pointless.

And substituting "Americans" with "Women" and "Independance Day" with "Suffrage Day" makes the former OK but the latter bad form?

It looks like the exact same joke to me: People in Group A, to whom Event A is massively important, don't understand Event A even at a time when Event A is remembered.

I totally get that you (and Grim) think it was just a wild coincidence...

Oh, it wasn't a coincidence at all. But then again, I don't think Leno would run this type of prank on just any random date either.

We didn't see stupid high school guys signing the petition to revoke women's right to vote.

Miss Ladybug, I don't see how that would make things better. It's one thing to show people willing to harm themselves because of their own stupidity, it's another thing when it's harming other people because of said stupidity.

Again, I'm not talking execution here. By all indications the execution was piss poor. I'm not arguing that point at all.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 01:05 PM

Cass, if you could identify a group statistically certain to vote for politicians committed to policies that would enslave Blacks, stone gays, exile Jews, drown kittens and murder your children, would you consider restricting their right to vote? Or is allowing your enemies' vote more important than preserving your life?

Are you hesitant because it's a matter of principle, or a matter of proof?

.

Posted by: joe doakes at August 25, 2010 02:02 PM

strictly speaking the Leno thing would be "all Americans" but it does single out the identifyable group "Americans" as opposed to say Canadians or Europeans and lampoons only that group and not "all people".

I give up. They're not the same but you are determined to ignore the differences.

Leno did not lead off by saying:

"Some Things Do Not Get Better With Time". If I am not mistaken, today marks the anniversary of American Independence from Great Britain. A video tribute. (Seque to video of an easily identifiable SUBSET of Americans displaying their abysmal ignorance of what Independence day is all about by signing a petition requesting that we revert to being a British Colony).

If he had, I would thought he was implying that THAT UNIQUELY IDENTIFIABLE SUBSET OF AMERICANS (*not* "all Americans" or "everyone") were too stupid/ignorant to deserve the rights and freedoms conferred upon them when we declared our independence.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 02:44 PM

Mostly because it's a matter of proof. But also it's a matter of principle.

Government in this country is supposed to derive authority from the consent of the governed. Certain basic rights are not subject to popular vote (the ones in the Constitution). Were a group of politicians to make a federal law that conflicted with the constitution (as your examples all do) that law would be invalid.

That is WHY we have a Constitution.

Women are "statistically likely" to vote for Democrats but last time I checked, that is not equivalent to passing unconstitutional laws that deprive other Americans of their fundamental rights.

What is the magic percentage of "votes I don't agree with" that makes it OK to disenfranchise everyone in that group, regardless of how they vote individually (and regardless of your proven ability to predict how they will vote)?

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 02:49 PM

Even better examples:

"Some Things Do Not Get Better With Time".

If I am not mistaken, today marks the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. A video tribute. (Seque to video of black high school students signing a petition to bring back slavery).

Funny, no?

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 03:02 PM

I don't know how Cass would answer that question, but as for me.

1) I know of no known group that are statistically certain to do that so it's a moot point

2) Stipulating that there is such a group, that's what the 2A is for: Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner, Liberty is a well armed sheep contesting the vote.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 03:06 PM

I think the same joke could be used on people of different races (15th Amendment) or people aged 18-21 (whatever amendment that was). Actually, the Consitution does not give any group the right to vote in any election. It only identifies certain categories that may not be used to exclude the right to vote. Thus, the Federal government in a federal election and state govts subject to their own constitutions can exclude anyone from voting, US consitutionally speaking, except on the basis of race, age if at least 18, and sex, and any reason that might come under the 14th Amendment.

Dealing with the client class debate above: I have heard the idea of a talk show host that goes like this: if you want to live on the govt dole (welfare, food stamps, medical care, etc), the govt should have designated areas for said folks. There they can have the necessary food, shelter and health care. BUT, during the time that they reside there and for some time upon leaving (to avoid a constant "in and out" situation just prior to elections), they lose the right to vote in any elections. This prevents anyone who is taking living off the productive members of society from getting to vote as a member of the client class. There are obviously details that could be worked out here (I don't think the concentration camp approach the talk show host describes is politically useful), but the concept overcomes some objections - no classes, sexes or races are specified. It addresses as directly as possible the "client class."

I don't think it is fair to include govt employees in this system. That is its own problem perhaps, but not the same at all as receiving money for nothing and your health care for free.

Posted by: Hummer at August 25, 2010 03:16 PM

Funny has to do with execution, and I've already stipulated that the execution was piss poor.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 03:30 PM

If you look at my race example, I don't think a reasonable and disinterested person would believe the author didn't intend "Some things don't get better with time" as a comment on either blacks or the Emancipation Proclamation.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 03:34 PM

I didn't bother to watch the execution - I can see Cass's point on that. Had it been done to blacks by someone that wasn't black, it would be a controversy. Thank goodness women are above that. :P

I have seen this skit done multiple times by multiple comedy types. It has always been done the same way. The reason this skit is done is because the movement at the time was called the Women's Suffrage movement, and no one today realizes that Suffrage is voting and not suffering. Had there been a "Black Suffrage" movement, I think the skit would have been done on the Chris Rock Show.

Posted by: Hummer at August 25, 2010 03:42 PM

I don't think a reasonable and disinterested person

So is it that you think I'm unreasonable or that I have an interest in demeaning women?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 03:49 PM

I'm interested in Hummer's idea of somehow limiting the franchise to people not on the public dole. I've seen this discussed before, but it always arouses strong disapproval. It does seem like a dangerous scheme, especially if the ruling class can impoverish a targeted segment of the population by screwing with their industry, or the economy in general.

The question, I guess, is whether it's more dangerous than continuing to allow a bare majority to vote to require a bare minority to support them.

Also, the larger the public sector is, the harder it is to define being on the government dole. Accepting a tax credit? Using more than your "fair share" of public benefits and infrastructure? Living on a federal paycheck? Social Security? Medicare? Should someone be able to vote if he pays more than x% of his income in taxes, or more than x dollars in taxes?

Posted by: Texan99 at August 25, 2010 04:10 PM

It isn't that difficult. Social Security and medicare (cade?) is, in theory only but in theory, payment on money invested over a lifetime of working. Taxes and income aren't relevant to the example.

Welfare, food stamps, free health care (other than old person health care), etc, are govt dole.

In this way, I suppose, the camp idea has a benefit. You can live in the non-voting safety net camps or you can live in the real world. There is no welfare or food stamps or free health care in the real world. There are these things in the designated camps. So it isn't hard to figure out where you stand - you are in the saftey net programs or you are not.

Posted by: Hummer at August 25, 2010 04:17 PM

I should clarify. I don't think you are claiming that I am arguing in bad faith.

Only that the positions that I am arguing in good faith and that reasonable and disinterested people would agree with your perspective that the author is clearly making disparaging comments about women or women voting are mutually exclusive. You can't believe both at the same time.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 04:42 PM

I should not have said that.

I have pointed out all sorts of differences between the two scenarios, most of which you have not responded to.

You characterized BOTH scenarios as "People in Group A, to whom Event A is massively important, don't understand Event A even at a time when Event A is remembered."

Only Leno's joke was filmed "at a time when Event A is remembered." (and when the people being filmed were, in fact, supposed to be remembering it). The video Williamson linked to was not filmed on a day when women or anyone else was supposed to be remembering women's suffrage, yet it was introduced as "a video tribute" to the anniversary of women's suffrage.

But that's not a difference and of course he couldn't have meant anything by it.

And Williamson titled his post, "Some things (referring to the subject of the post - granting women the vote) do not get better with time.

But we'll ignore that difference too.

It was just a general joke not aimed at women in particular (a video that only mocks women notwithstanding) and not implying any comment on the wisdom of allowing women to vote (the title "Some things don't get better with time" notwithstanding).

I'm not going to discuss this any more.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 04:43 PM

The universal franchise has an appeal. Not because it leads to the most competent voter pool, because it clearly does not, but because it avoids dividing society into a portion that has a say and a portion that has none. Even today, we have groups without a say, but they're quite limited: minors, felons, non-citizens (yeah, I know), and the self-selecting citizens who can't be bothered to vote. I worry about the shapes of societies where the no-says are a bigger fraction, not because I'm afraid I'll miss their contribution of wisdom but because a free society suffers from the weight of an underclass that knows it's shut out. There always seems to be a cycle of apathy and violence, apathy and violence.

The schemes of tying the franchise to either non-dole status or some kind of military status at least have the advantage of making it possible for anyone who is determined to vote to be able to do so. I suppose you could have said that about tying the vote to real estate ownership, too, but it definitely was not the case for the bygone prohibitions against voting by blacks and women.

Posted by: Texan99 at August 25, 2010 05:02 PM

I typed that up before I saw your prior comment. If I sounded testy, I'm sorry.

I'm pretty frustrated but not mad.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 05:02 PM

The schemes of tying the franchise to either non-dole status or some kind of military status at least have the advantage of making it possible for anyone who is determined to vote to be able to do so. I suppose you could have said that about tying the vote to real estate ownership, too, but it definitely was not the case for the bygone prohibitions against voting by blacks and women.

I have a problem with that, though.

I would never go on welfare if I only had myself to worry about but I can imagine lots of scenarios where a parent of either sex might temporarily be unable to support their children or keep a roof over their heads.

Unlike some, I've never minded contributing to a temporary safety net. It's when unemployment is extended for years at a time or when generation after generation of a family is on the dole that I object.

Military service is problematic because not everyone meets the physical standards (people with asthma, for instance, or many handicapped people).

I've also seen what a mess it can be when single parents deploy and for that reason don't think military service is a good candidate for excluding voters from the rolls.

Owning real estate: again, RE is heritable and not everyone can afford it.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 05:11 PM

The video Williamson linked to was not filmed on a day when women or anyone else was supposed to be remembering women's suffrage

Well, unless people understand it one day and then forget and then understand it a year later and then forget again the actually filming date doesn't seem as important as the broadcast date, so to speak. So no, I don't think the filming date is that meaningful. The broadcast date is much more so.

And Williamson titled his post, "Some things (referring to the subject of the post - granting women the vote) do not get better with time.

Is it not a true statement that it is unfortunate that such a momentous occasion is now met with apathy and ignorance?

It was just a general joke not aimed at women in particular...

It was a joke aimed at women in the same way as the Leno scenario is a joke aimed at Americans and Jeff Foxworthy's jokes are aimed at Rednecks.

...and not implying any comment on the wisdom of allowing women to vote (the title "Some things don't get better with time" notwithstanding).

Oh, I think there's an implication, I just think it's *also* reasonable to see the implication as one of a lamentation that something that is valuable has been lost.

Did Williamson mean it in a disparaging way? Possibly. I know nothing about the man, and so I think that interpretation is certainly a reasonable one. I just don't think it's the *only* reasonable one.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 05:52 PM

I can imagine a lot of scenarios where people would need federal assistance, too, but the question is whether it's a good idea for them to stop voting for a while until they stop having to take it. The more temporary it is, the less time they'd be excluded from voting. I think the problem of permanently disabled people probably bothers me more than families who are in a rough patch.

The classic Heinlein formulation for tying the franchise to military service was broader than combat. Any handicap would be accommodated with some kind of support job.

A system whose primary goal is to avoid disenfranchising anyone serves a laudable goal of inclusiveness. Any scheme for qualifying voters is arguably going to exclude some citizens for unfair reasons or for characteristics beyond their control. The question, I guess, is whether the society is most worried about whether that's fair to every single voter, or instead about making the pool of voters more ideal in general. I'm suspicious of utopian schemes to improve the body of voters, especially if the criteria are prone to create a permanently privileged class like hereditary landowners who can raise barriers to entry. I just think the various proposed schemes are interesting to speculate about. In some cases, their undoubted drawbacks might be outweighed by their benefits.

Posted by: Texan99 at August 25, 2010 06:26 PM

The problem with it is you get people who go off of welfare right before the election, vote, and then jump right back on it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 06:38 PM

I just don't think it's the *only* reasonable one.

I should mention that this is because the one place where I've seen the claim that Women's Suffrage has led to an increase in the Nanny State was Kim du Toit's place years ago. But he also said that he thinks granting/protecting Women's right to vote was the right thing to do and it should have been done a heck of lot sooner.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 25, 2010 06:49 PM

I think it was RAH who proposed that women, solely, be given the right to vote for the next two centuries, as men had done so poorly with it during their two centuries.

Posted by: htom at August 25, 2010 06:54 PM

I started to write a comment on this and ended up with a post (called "Once more, with feeing") in which I make 3 points:

1) The video advocates repealing women's suffrage. Just watch to the end.

2) Derbyshire is a jerk and - worse in my book - incapable of consistent logic.

3) I'm not humorless.

I think people look to a leader to inspire them and select on a fairly broad range of qualities so long as they result in that combination of trust/inspiration.

What that says about Obama's victory I'm afraid to ask myself

I think it says that voting for someone requires that multiplying x amount of trust by y amount of inspiration hit some threshold. If there's enough trust, inspiration can be low although not negative. If there's enough inspiration, trust can be low although not negative. In 2008, Obama had enough inspiration to make up for what he lacked in trust and his trust level was not negative.

Now, oddly enough, Obama seems to have low inspiration and his trust level may well be negative. Which seems to prove neither inspiration nor trust is totally disconnected from reality.

Posted by: Elise at August 25, 2010 07:44 PM

And here's a joke for Grim:

Same Old Same Old

An Irishman, an Italian and a blonde guy were doing construction work on scaffolding on the 20th floor of a building.

They were eating lunch and the Irishman said, "Corned beef and cabbage. If I get corned beef and cabbage one more time for lunch I'm going to jump off this building."

The Italian opened his lunch box and exclaimed, "Spaghetti again! If I get spaghetti one more time I'm going to jump off, too."

The blond opened his lunch and said, "Bologna again. If I get a bologna sandwich one more time, I'm jumping too."

The next day the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw corned beef and cabbage and jumped to his death.

The Italian opened his lunch, saw spaghetti and jumped, too.

The blonde guy opened his lunch, saw the bologna and jumped to his death as well.

At the funeral the Irishman's wife was weeping. She said, "If I'd known how really tired he was of corned beef and cabbage, I never would have given it to him again!"

The Italian's wife also wept and said,"I could have given him lasagna or ravioli! I didn't realize he hated spaghetti so much."

Everyone turned and stared at the blonde's wife.

"Hey, don't look at me," she said. "He makes his own lunch."

Posted by: Elise at August 25, 2010 07:47 PM

Now you're talking, Elise.


Four Catholic men and a Catholic woman were having coffee when one of the Catholic men tells his friends, "My son is a priest, when he walks into a room, everyone calls him 'Father'."

The second Catholic man chirps, "My son is a Bishop. When he walks into a room people call him 'Your Grace'."

The third Catholic gent says, "My son is a Cardinal. When he enters a room everyone says 'Your Eminence'."

The fourth Catholic man then says, "My son is the Pope. When he walks into a room people call him 'Your Holiness'."

Since the lone Catholic woman was sipping her coffee in silence, the four men give her a subtle, "Well....?"

She proudly replies, "I have a daughter, slim, tall, with a classic 36/24/36 figure. When she walks into a room, people say, "Oh - My - God."

Posted by: Grim at August 25, 2010 08:19 PM

Honestly, I don't even know what to say about this anymore, Elise.

I have enjoyed your posts and I thank you for writing them.

I'm just so angry and disappointed right now that I can't find the right words. Maybe there aren't any.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 08:32 PM

It may be that there aren't. I mean, sometimes we don't communicate quite right. For example:

I totally get that you (and Grim) think it was just a wild coincidence...

That's not at all what I said. I said that it was a joke, at the expense of women; but that one could make exactly the same joke at the expense of men. And I compared it to an earlier joke I'd written about that was at the expense of men, which some were calling "hate speech," where I'd noted that one could make the same joke about women. Turnabout is fair play.

Now, both in the earlier case ('hate speech' v. men) and the current case (which you seem to view as a sort-of hate speech v. women, although you have said you don't want to ascribe motivation), I think we have to reject the comparison to jokes about Jews, blacks, etc., for just the reason explained in my post. There's a symmetry between men and women that there isn't with ethnic groups; and there's a reality to sex differences that "racial" differences do not have.

However, I added in an update, I also do recognize a standard that you can rightfully take offense at a joke that is made out of genuine hate; and that a joke made by someone who loves what he is joking about is of a different kind than a joke made by someone who hates what he is joking about, and wants to use the joke to hurt. We discussed whether or not this was a case of the one type or the other, and (I think) agreed that we couldn't be sure.

So, ultimately, I think it was a joke. Perhaps it was a bad joke. The answer to that, it seems to me, is a better joke.

Posted by: Grim at August 25, 2010 08:49 PM

Grim, I think you are blind to some of what I see every day. Maybe it's because you can't get inside the mind of people who are irrational and so prefer to think the best of them.

I think we have to reject the comparison to jokes about Jews, blacks, etc., for just the reason explained in my post. There's a symmetry between men and women that there isn't with ethnic groups; and there's a reality to sex differences that "racial" differences do not have.

There is a common theme to wholesale disenfranchisement of entire classes of people. And you, as a man, have never had the experience of seeing men as a class of people treated the way women have been treated. Blacks have. Jews have. Men have not.

Where, in all the world, is the society that considers men to be less than human? I can think of many societies that consider women less than human, and many that deny the most basic human rights to women solely because they are women.

Your experience of the world is that no society has officially decided that men don't merit equality under the law. Blacks understand this because they can look around and see that blacks have been denied equality under the law both in history and in the modern age.

Jews understand this because not too long ago a
European nation tried to wipe them from the face of the earth. Iran would still like to do so, and there are plenty of morons in the US who don't think Israel has the right to defend herself.

Men (as a class of people) have never experienced this. I've made a lot of allowances over the years.

I have never once called for women to be given special privileges. I have many times lambasted women who sought to be given special privileges. All I've ever asked is to be allowed a way to fight for what I think matters.

And I've never flinched at the price.

With all due respect, I'm sure it does seem to you that this is no big deal, and I can easily see why you might think so. You don't have to be vigilant to threats to your voice in society because no one has threatened to take that away simply because you are a man.

There is no society on the face of this planet that doesn't allow men to vote simply because they are men.

I can't say that. Reality - both past and present - necessarily colors any threat assessment I might form. I don't ask that you agree with me. I just ask that you not tell me I should treat that reality as a joke.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 25, 2010 09:10 PM

There are, however, societies that don't allow men to vote; or that don't allow men to vote on the strength of being this-or-that kind of man. If I don't have the experience of being black or female, I do have the experience of being Southern, and therefore part of the culture that was in fact denied the right to vote; and, looking back in history, of seeing Scottish subjected by the English; the English arising from a subjugation of Anglo-Saxons by Normans; the Anglo-Saxons having had to fight the Danes; and the British suppressed by the Anglo-Saxons. All this is part of my heritage.

Everyone is always in danger. What matters is the friendships we make to defend each other, what we think of as True and Beautiful, and to hold back the world. This is frith -- an old concept I have written about from time to time -- and the word is related to both "Friend" and "Free." Friends have frith, and our frith is what allows us the common strength to win and defend freedom, liberty, and our traditional rights.

So if I say that this is merely a joke, I mean that in two senses. First, I mean it in the practical sense: it was a joke. But second, I mean it in the veridical sense: it is a joke. It can be nothing else. Your rights are in no danger, because you have many friends who will defend them should anyone seriously attempt to take them away. You are safe, as safe as anything in this world is safe, because you have friends, and frith, and therefore, freedom.

So you can laugh at danger. It is strength that lets us do so. We are friends, you and I. And as long as I live, you will never stand alone in defending your rights when they are under threat.

So laugh, with me. The good parts of friendship don't stop at freedom, and what safety there is to be had in the world. We get to enjoy it for its own sake, too.

Posted by: Grim at August 25, 2010 09:31 PM

And by the way -- note that this is a two-way bond. I expect you to defend me, too. I may need the help. Mostly, of course, I think the main danger to me is me, but you can help me with that too!

Seriously, though, this is what I mean by 'defenders of the civilization' and 'service.' What it comes down to is the question of defending the space in which these traditional liberties flourish. And that means we need defenders -- those who serve.

Just what are we defending? Each other; our liberties; our traditions; and the future of our families, the maintenance of strength to hold back the chaos of the world. This is not a gift. I expect you to fight with me, and maybe for me, depending on what comes down the line.

That's how you earn the franchise. I see no reason women should not be able to do it as well as men.

Posted by: Grim at August 25, 2010 09:56 PM

Brava, Cassandra.

Posted by: Elise at August 25, 2010 10:33 PM

Bravos to both Grim and Cassandra. And thank yous to Elise for a wonderful joke, to Grim for introducing me to some new words, and to Cassandra for reminding me that discrimination hurts.

I can't say that I've ever really been discriminated against because I'm a man (those exceptional instances are mostly fueled by angry feminists "feeling their power", more than discrimination, I felt.) I have been discriminated against, though, even though I am a man; being a man means that you're discriminated against for other things, that you may or may not have anything to do with. Vietnam Vet (not one, but in the military then, and the discriminators rarely look at such details), epileptic (did you know that the primary cause of epilepsy in Vietnam era vets is their abuse of heroin and marijuana while in Vietnam?), and doubtless other groups that people know or imagine that I'm in.

Some of it is petty or stupid or now funny and some of it is serious to the point that it's probably good that dueling is outlawed and I don't do unannounced attacks from concealment as a private practice.

Posted by: htom at August 25, 2010 11:15 PM

I don't see any connection between Leno or William or any other folks involved in this video production, to the organizations set out on disenfranchising women.

Where is the conspiracy, if it exists?

So long as it is individuals running around like chickens with their heads cut off, they are a joke. When they gain the resources and power to be a recognizable threat, then they should be treated seriously.

The Left is more powerful than people are willingly to accept precisely because they believe it is about lone individuals or extremists pulling the strings, easily dealt with. They do not accept that the organization of tens of millions of people has become the foundation of power inimical to the United States. Yet there is plenty of evidence to see concerning the presence and influence of such organizations and their memberships.

Where is the evidence for organizations, and not simply individual opinion making, on the matter of ending women's suffrage?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 26, 2010 01:40 PM

"I would never vote for any party that considers my right to have a voice in my own government to be a derivative one."

This is a toughie.

I know that I have been seeing what I consider the negative changes in the political landscape over the years, and I have in my mind tied it to the time when women got the vote.

Part of it was brought up earlier with the women interested in "security" and the men interested in "liberty". It's kind of a simplistic way of putting it, but if you put a continuum of liberty on the one side and security on the other, the vast majority of women would be past the midpoint toward the security side, and most men would be on the other side and differering points, but the same general position.

This attitude is exemplified by Grandma Pelosi who wants to be fair to all the grandchildren, and keep them all from hurting themselves and each other. She appears to have their best interest in mind, but this leads to an all-powerful, statist government that ultimately causes problems for all the citizenry.

I'm more into another idea. If you don't pay federal income tax, you can't vote for federal candidates. If you'd like to, you can pay a modest poll tax.

Why should zero liability voters vote in candidates that will steal what I earn and give it to the zero liability voters?

Posted by: Tony at August 26, 2010 02:04 PM

If you don't pay federal income tax, you can't vote for federal candidates.

So stay at home spouses are just SOL, then?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 26, 2010 07:23 PM

Married-filing-jointly spouses both get to vote?

Posted by: Texan99 at August 26, 2010 08:11 PM

Motherhood is service, as soldiering is service. We'd need to find a way to ensure that mothers who were actively raising and trying to do right by their children were able to vote. Taxation isn't the best model: service is the best model.

Posted by: Grim at August 26, 2010 09:35 PM

The reason for that is that taxation is a proxy for what we're after; service is actually what we're after. We're looking for a way of capturing those who are building and maintaining the frith-bonds, those bonds of friendship and mutual defense that allow us to hold back the chaos of the world, and within which we can be free.

Soldiers do that, if they do their duty. Mothers do, if they do theirs. Fathers do, if they do theirs. Peace officers do -- law enforcement officers do not, precisely because they mistake their duty. Those government officials who keep their oath of office -- to support and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic -- do so; those who work against the constitution do not.

This is the real thing we're after. Proxies like "I pay for it" aren't good enough; lots of non-citizens pay taxes, and lots more "pay for it" in the sense that China is paying for America's debt.

Posted by: Grim at August 26, 2010 09:42 PM

If what people do for their own families -- regardless of whether they or even their households are net taxpayers -- is a service for the purpose of tying the vote to service, we're just back to the idea of universal suffrage. It's always the safest position, in a way, but the original idea was to limit the suffrage so as to prevent tax-eaters from voting to place further burdens on taxpayers, a dangerous feedback loop in a democracy.

It's harder that it seems at first blush to come to a consensus about who's contributing versus who's burdening society. Single mothers on the dole, for instance, are a traditional target of ire, but also the source of a lot of heated debate over whether the ire is fair, depending on how you feel about how they got to be single mothers in the first place, and how inclined you are to give a pass to the absent dads.

I've been thinking about schemes to limit the franchise for a long time, and I never like any of them very much once I've chewed them over long enough. I keep thinking one will occur to me that really works, though, because the unlimited franchise is no great shakes, either. The worst system, as they say, except for all the others.

Posted by: Texan99 at August 27, 2010 12:34 AM

Ymar:

I don't think I've even hinted that there was any kind of conspiracy to disenfranchise women. I can't imagine where you would get the idea that that's what I was getting at.

The only reason I even posted the Williamson thing was because you remarked (and I believe Yu-Ain later said something similar) that you had never seen anyone suggesting that women shouldn't be allowed to vote, or that the country would be a better place if women didn't vote, or that women were to blame for democrats getting elected.

I see those suggestions all the time.

I don't know how to explain that, except that I think a lot of people pay attention selectively. If a thing doesn't really interest/concern them, they don't notice it.

I posted the Williamson thing as a response to your statement that you never see that sort of thing, not to suggest there was some sort of galactic conspiracy at work.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 27, 2010 01:47 AM

If what people do for their own families -- regardless of whether they or even their households are net taxpayers -- is a service for the purpose of tying the vote to service, we're just back to the idea of universal suffrage.

Not quite. Deadbeat dads, for example, could be disqualified (which would have a very positive effect, I think); we might also expand the class of crimes that can cause you to lose the franchise to include some misdemeanors associated with failure to do your duty (e.g., leaving the scene of an accident; failure to render aid and assistance; perjury, whether or not of the felonious sort; bad check writing; etc).

However, mothers and fathers who do in fact do their duty aren't just doing something "for their own families." They also are contributing mightily to the society of both today and the future.

Also, no one has a greater stake in the country's future than good parents who care for their children. For example, all this spending that's going on right now? It has to be paid for either by current or future taxes. If we talk about who will vote based on tax-paying, then we end up with another dangerous feedback loop (as you put it), whereby people who want services but not taxes vote for the taxes to come in the future (i.e., on the minor children who can't vote by virtue of their minority). Parents are the main people who have a reason to vote to restrain that trend.

Posted by: Grim at August 27, 2010 06:58 AM

I'm thinking here of a franchise that can be both earned and lost, so it would look something like this:

1) Four people turn 18. All are now eligible to vote if they earn the franchise through service.

2) Person A enters the military at 18, and can vote at once. Person B, C, and D do not, and can't.

3) At 20, person B marries and has children. He or she can now vote, provided they don't do something showing they have obviated their duties.

4) Between 18 and 25, person C has several children out of wedlock, abandoning the children to others (e.g., by being a deadbeat dad). Person C is now disqualified from voting.

5) Person D never does anything to qualify himself, and nothing to disqualify himself, and thus never earns the franchise. There are always means open to him to serve, but he simply chooses to pursue his own interests or pleasures instead. This is not punished; but he is also not someone who has demonstrated the frith with the rest of us that would justify consulting him on questions of leadership.

You can imagine Person D at 55 suddenly deciding that he has an interest in his nephew's welfare, and finding a way to demonstrate service adequate to win the franchise -- perhaps some volunteer program. Or, perhaps it never matters to him enough to sacrifice time and effort for the franchise, so he never obtains it. This is no punishment; it's his choice.

So, not universal suffrage -- but there are always roads open to everyone, provided they don't do something to disqualify themselves.

Posted by: Grim at August 27, 2010 09:12 AM

The only reason I even posted the Williamson thing was because you remarked (and I believe Yu-Ain later said something similar) that you had never seen anyone suggesting that women shouldn't be allowed to vote, or that the country would be a better place if women didn't vote, or that women were to blame for democrats getting elected.

Oh, I've seen suggestions that the country would be a better place if women didn't vote, but, then again, I can't tell you how many "...and these people vote" lamentations I've seen.

I just usually see them from people who also happen to be serious about protecting people's rights, especially of those they disagree with (after all, if only the people who agree with you have rights, rights have no meaning).

So you are correct. I usually put things like this on the unserious/humor side of the scale than the serious/threat one.

In the same vein, many people reading this thread may consider our discussion of restricting the franchise to just the "contributors" to society as a "threat to their voice in society". And while I find it entertaining to examine the methods and benefits of doing so, I would also strongly oppose any serious proposal to actually enact it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 27, 2010 10:17 AM

I can't imagine where you would get the idea that that's what I was getting at.

it's the difference between viewing these as isolated cases or viewing them as organized attempts or trends.

If you saw them as isolated cases, and was only presenting them to prove against the negative, you wouldn't be worried about the details so much.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 27, 2010 12:03 PM

I posted the Williamson thing as a response to your statement that you never see that sort of thing, not to suggest there was some sort of galactic conspiracy at work.

Which comment are you referring to for the first part of that, exactly?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 27, 2010 12:08 PM

My argument has little or nothing to do with the specific value of extending the franchise to women or declining to do so. (I have not much thought about that question.) I am still less concerned about proposals that would result in the election of more Republicans to public office (because I am not sure that would produce the results that I desire).

My argument is that voting is in general a crude way to address complex problems and that we grossly overestimate the value of voting. Treacly tributes to the 19th Amendment require an antidote, and I offered one.

Given a choice, I would undo the extension of the franchise to people under 21 (in fact, I'd raise the voting age to 25) and rescind direct election of senators. I do not have any strong feelings about women's voting per se.

Best,
Kevin Williamson

Posted by: Kevin D. Williamson at August 27, 2010 02:48 PM

I like both of your proposals, Kevin. I thought that 25 would be a good age when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and I've often called for the repeal of the 17th, but the states could then choose to use popular election, defeating the purpose of the repeal. Better to just allow the states to choose how senators are selected, and forbid the use of popular elections.

Posted by: htom at August 27, 2010 03:11 PM

The age old problem of democracy is that people eventually get too stupid to vote in their best interests.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 27, 2010 03:57 PM

pLease excuse the brevity of this comment. Am in Seattle typing this on my phone. Thanks for the clarification. I can honestly say that's an interpretation that would never have occurred to me!
I'll post a clarification when I I get back :)

Posted by: Cass at August 28, 2010 10:29 AM

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