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August 27, 2010

The Case Against Limiting the Franchise

Elise did a bit more research on that John Derbyshire video I linked the other day. In the interview preceding the NRO video, Derbyshire takes a very different tack with regard to female suffrage:

DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I’ll say this – if it were to be, I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep.

Elise comments:

The rest of it - that we’d probably be a better country if women didn’t vote because women “lean hard to the left” - can be explained away (not adequately to my mind but your mileage may vary) as Derbyshire merely pointing out - as he says in the NRO video - the “downside” to women voting. But the statement that he “wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep” if female suffrage were repealed is plainly and simply a statement that the “equity” he is careful to laud in that video is simply damage control. Or perhaps a statement that he is utterly unruffled by equity being thrown under the bus of pragmatism.

A later exchange is equally enlightening:

COLMES: What’s next? You want to bring back slavery?

DERBYSHIRE: No, no. I’m in favor of freedom personally.

COLMES: Okay, but women shouldn’t have the freedom to vote.

DERBYSHIRE: Well, they didn’t [for 130 years] and we got along ok.

I've seen the suggestion that certain demographics shouldn't be "allowed" to vote from both the left and the right. I have to say that the more I think about it, the more the suggestion appalls me. For two excellent discussions on this topic, see Elise's second post. She links to a writer I'd never had the pleasure of reading before. Both her posts and Elise's are must reads.

Over the past few days there has been quite a bit of discussion here about limiting the franchise (or perhaps requiring voters to earn the right to vote through military or other service). On the surface a behavior- or service-based criterion seems less troubling than a biological or identity based one.

Heinlein's utopian vision has been kicking about for years. The idea has great emotional appeal, but like all utopian schemes it rests on the premise that social ills spring from flaws in the system rather than flaws in human nature. If we could just find the perfect voting scheme, somehow people would stop acting like people! They would become virtuous, responsible, and wise.

History has a way of dispelling such notions. It reminds us that although times and laws change, human nature remains depressingly constant. In the Federalist #10, James Madison examines the problem of faction:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

The wisdom and foresight of the Founders never ceases to amaze me. They were, many of them, ordinary men but theirs was an age when men still looked to previous generations and sought to learn from the mistakes of their fathers and grandfathers.

I've been reading Sowell's Intellectuals and Society with great enjoyment. My problem with utopian schemes is that I've never met a person who was wise or disinterested enough to decide who "deserves" the vote. The notion that any commonly shared experience so ennobles fallible human beings that it would ensure a wise and disinterested electorate strikes me as naive at best. Such arguments, like Derbyshire's fond wish for a purer, more masculine, more rational (but I repeat myself) electorate that would never allow the other party to set foot in the White House substitute pragmatism (or perhaps it's just arrogance) for principle. They amount to a prettied up version of "the end justifies the means".

But on a more basic level, they're just plain unreliable. How would the last 38 years of presidential elections have turned out if only men had been allowed to vote? As it turns out, virtually the same as they did with more women voting than men. An all male electorate would have changed the results of only ONE election in the past 4 decades:


There seem to be a lot of folks who would be willing to disenfranchise entire classes of their fellow Americans if doing so would result in their party winning. Losing is always hard and when we lose we tend to look around for someone to blame.

The one constant seems to be that that someone is never us.

CWCID for the graphic: Elise and her link to the NY Times. Their graphic was edited (by me) to remove women and highlight the winning party in each election.

Posted by Cassandra at August 27, 2010 09:23 AM

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But I’ll say this – if [women's suffrage] were to be [repealed], I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep. - Derbyshire

[R. Lee Ermy]You know what makes me lose sleep? YOU DO! Maybe we should run off to namby-pamby land and get you a brain! ya jack-wagon.[/R. Lee Ermy]

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 27, 2010 11:01 AM

Madison was, of course, one of the leading advocates for the widest possible franchise (though not so wide as to include women, of course). Alexander Hamilton is your usual favorite Founder, when we debate other issues -- indeed, over the years we've often discussed the question of how much democracy is too much, and you've taken his side against the Madisons and Jeffersons.

So here is what Hamilton wrote on the subject. He begins by citing Blackstone. His position is certainly not mine, which looks to service rather than wealth, and to frith rather than having the means to be independently wealthy; but he was definitely in favor of limiting the franchise:

"Hence, it appears that such “of the people as have no vote in the choice of representatives, and therefore are governed by laws to which they have not consented, either by themselves or by their representatives,” are only those “persons who are in so mean a situation that they are esteemed to have no will of their own.” Every free agent, every free man, possessing a freehold of forty shillings per annum, is, by the British constitution, entitled to a vote in the election of those who are invested with the disposal of his life, his liberty, and property.

"It is therefore evident, to a demonstration, that unless a free agent in America be permitted to enjoy the same privilege, we are entirely stripped of the benefits of the constitution, and precipitated into an abyss of slavery. For we are deprived of that immunity which is the grand pillar and support of freedom. And this cannot be done without a direct violation of the constitution, which decrees to every free agent a share in the legislature.

"It deserves to be remarked here, that those very persons in Great Britain who are in so mean a situation as to be excluded from a part in elections, are in more eligible circumstances than they would be in who have every necessary qualification.

"They compose a part of that society to whose government they are subject. They are nourished and maintained by it, and partake in every other emolument for which they are qualified. They have, no doubt, most of them, relations and connections among those who are privileged to vote and by that means are not entirely without influence in the appointment of their rulers. They are not governed by laws made expressly and exclusively for them, but by the general laws of their country, equally obligatory on the legal electors and on the law-makers themselves. So that they have nearly the same security against oppression which the body of the people have.

"To this we may add, that they are only under a conditional prohibition, which industry and good fortune may remove. They may, one day, accumulate a sufficient property to enable them to emerge out of their present state. Or, should they die in it, their situation is not entailed upon their posterity by a fixed and irremediable doom. They, agreeably to the ordinary vicissitudes of human affairs, may acquire what their parents were deficient in."

So what you have in Hamilton is a recognition of the flaws of human nature, to whit, the fact that poverty can place you under the influence of others; and a desire to structure a system that minimizes the dangers of that flaw by limiting the franchise.

I don't agree with his concept of how this is best done, of course; although I do agree with Jefferson that having independent means (such as a small business, or a small farm) is ideal, I don't think it's necessary. What is necessary is the civic virtues that Plato was talking about, and that you were just talking about. By looking to those who have demonstrated some degree of sophrosune, we're not asking for a system that ignores human nature and expects people to suddenly become virtuous. We're looking for people who actually have shown some evidence of virtue. They need not be better than they are; we are taking them as they are.

Posted by: Grim at August 27, 2010 11:12 AM

I don't suppose it needs to be said, but I shall say it anyway: I certainly do support the right of women to vote, and will defend it if it seems to me to be in any danger. Nothing I write here, in exploration of the idea of limiting the franchise, is meant to be an argument against women voting.

Rather, I'm interested in exploring the idea of limiting the franchise in a very traditional and old way, to those who perform citizen service of one type or another. This is most traditionally defensive service (again with Plato! For the Greek citizen was expected to be a soldier, and the Charmides opens with Socrates returning from battle); but other kinds of service are likewise important. I have mentioned faithful parents as someone who are performing a core service of great importance, and ones whose influence would be beneficial.

Posted by: Grim at August 27, 2010 11:21 AM

"Heinlein's" system was not considered the best, or even sustainable in the long term, because it had some inherent flaws built in that, like other voting systems, would cause humans, being humans, to abuse it.

that said, it was a fascinating exploration of the question, people being people, and all of us being flawed, how do we help pressure society such that those who have the right to vote actually have some incentive to do so in a way that doesn't just benefit them?

IIRC there are several essays on heinlein, and ST in particular, including one by SF Author Spider Robinson that are worth looking at.

Posted by: Darius at August 27, 2010 12:41 PM

The case against women was exceptionally based upon the social and legal context of the times. Women did not own property, could not own property at times, and were controlled by patriarchs. That means if you let them vote, you are essentially giving a double ballot to one patriarch or a clan.

Whether king or chattel, it was simply better to use the vote as a way to avoid violence. And it was only possible if you excluded kings and chattel. If King George had been more reasonable, violence and social disturbance could have been avoided. The vote, as the FOunding Fathers saw it, should serve for the benefit of all in society, rather than a few.

Thus, it makes sense that those that lack independence should not be voting. Their judgment is flawed or impaired or easily coerced and influenced. Yet kings are not easily coerced, still they are barred same as slaves. Because kings should not have a say given a conflict of interests. A king has too much authority, a slave not enough.

Society should be ordered around reasonable people deciding issues to the benefit of all, or at least to none's detriment.

The times have changed. What makes people dependent or tyrannical now, has changed from the past.

I don't agree with his concept of how this is best done, of course; although I do agree with Jefferson that having independent means (such as a small business, or a small farm) is ideal, I don't think it's necessary.

The question of good government is not what it must necessarily require of citizens. The question can only be that good government can only legitimately use the power of coercion against people's privileges, within due process, if they apply under certain disqualifications.

Nothing is necessary except to demonstrate that the person voting is not doing so because of bad faith. Disagreement can be tolerated, but not active sabotage nor fraud.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 27, 2010 12:48 PM

What distinguishes the Founders from the present-day citizen is that they had a thorough (what used to be called) liberal education. They were, in fact, educated in classical Western ideals. They did a lot of reading, in books with very few pictures and a lot of text.

Aside: I have a complete collection of the Boy Scout Handbook, from 1910 on. All were intended to be read by 11-year olds. The evolution will astonish you.

They were taught that their antecedents had a lot of good ideas, and that they were to build on them. They were taught that their antecedent's faults did not automatically invalidate their ideas, although (as it obviously proved out) that didn't mean they couldn't be challenged. They were taught that the culture they sprang from was the best one and that they should spend the majority of their time studying it instead of others. They were taught that there were absolute truths and absolute right and wrong - everything was NOT relative, and other cultures were NOT just as good as theirs, either for them or for those in those other cultures.

They were not graded on a curve. If you didn't learn the material, you didn't pass. If you didn't pass, you didn't graduate.

Posted by: RonF at August 27, 2010 01:20 PM

Where I would limit the franchise is to change it back to age 21. If you're not considered old enough to consume alcohol responsibly, I don't see how you should be considered old enough to vote responsibly.

Posted by: RonF at August 27, 2010 01:27 PM

I quit supporting Garrison Keillor and his sponsors when he said that conservative Christians should be disenfranchised because they got GWB re-elected (Joke show 2004).

That said, I would like to see a change to the franchise, so that proof of responsibility was required to register - age 21 and presenting several months of pay-stubs or a year's paid rent or utility bills. At times I lean towards requiring national service, although I'd miss being able to vote (can't meet physical standards since I can't run more than a quarter of a mile, even if pursued by a large carnivore). I'd also like to see a return to the property ownership requirement for jury duty. Both of which are about as likely as the sun rising in the west tomorrow.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at August 27, 2010 01:43 PM

You can start by getting rid of those people who vote multiple times.

Just get fingerprints and facial profiles, then run em through the database at every poll center.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 27, 2010 03:50 PM

This nation doesn't need to protect airports. The citizens can do that. But the citizens can't gather intel on everybody that enters a polling station to enforce anti-fraud.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 27, 2010 03:51 PM

of the people as have no vote...are only those “persons who are in so mean a situation that they are esteemed to have no will of their own. To take a part of Hamilton's logic, possibly fatally out of context, and following it to its end, we get the following: nearly all of us are under the influence of others; whether the dutiful, yet adult, son (and daughter today) to his parents; the employee to his employer; the soldier to his commander; the union worker to his local boss; and so on. Thus, we might say to one group, "Sorry, you're 'under the influence,' you must have no franchise." And on to the next group, thus with each iteration, concentrating power in fewer, and so exacerbating the degree of "no will of their own" and potentiating the sequence. In the end, we're left with the status quo ante, an unfettered king--not even the relatively constitutional monarchy of George III. To me, this chain makes Hamilton's means test fail.

Were it appropriate to limit the franchise in some way (personally, I'd like to see a "literacy" test of sorts, requiring the potential voter to prove s/he understands the issues at hand, but the very large horsefly in this ointment includes answering questions like who gets to write the tests, and who gets to score them) I suggest it cannot be a static limit, in this way: political systems, like animate life, constantly evolve. Extant pressures lead to varying responses, some of which will be favored by those systems over others. And the feedback loop: the new responses will alter the political system/environment, leading to new pressures, and so to new responses, a new set of which will be favored over others. And so the definition of "virtue" evolves (an extreme example: the Aztecs' human sacrifice to the gods vs the Christians' view of a merciful and actively loving God). What constitutes "people as they are" will vary over time, and so the necessary pressures (assuming we can define "necessary") will vary over time. The inputs to the franchise evolve, and so need frequently to be revisited, if not constantly watched.

Society should be ordered around reasonable people deciding issues to the benefit of all, or at least to none's detriment. That was the colonial landed gentry's view, and it assumed that people were better than they are. What worked out was the citizen soldier, who fought for independence with just as much zeal and blood and relative fortune as the colonial aristocracy (the Washingtons, Hamiltons, Marions, et al.), these common folks, who were not gentlemen by the definition of the times, took the gentry at their word concerning what the war was about, and began getting themselves elected to the various legislatures at all levels of jurisdictions. And they voted their personal pecuniary interests rather than what was best for society at large. What fell out of this was highly effective, though: the vector sum of everyone's individual interests turned out to be pretty good. Compromise, so that everyone could at least get a taste, let things get done. When "gentlemen," with no personal stake, disagree, compromise often is impossible, as the disagreements fall on purely ideological grounds.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 27, 2010 03:56 PM

You can start by getting rid of those people who vote multiple times. And look at disenfranchising roughly 6 million Chicagoans. It's not yet been established that the dead should be allowed to continue to vote.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 27, 2010 04:00 PM

Note, LR1, that you're endorsing Blackstone's (and Hamilton's) basic concept: that only those of demonstrated independence have developed the free and independent will that allows them to vote as independent agents.

Some would argue that virtue is another necessary condition for free will: indeed, Kant argues that the only truly free actions are those that are decided upon by reason, and not animal desires. As he conceives of virtue as arising from rational nature, he believes that a person who is not virtuous is actually not exercising a free choice at all. They're giving into their animality, which determines their course for them. For example, a drug addict may be so overwhelmed by the animal nature of the "reward centers" in his brain that he no longer can choose not to do drugs. Kant thought this applied to any choice driven by animality instead of reason.

The idea strikes me as not quite right, but also not empty of value. When we talk about "free will," we don't mean just the capacity to decide to eat or to sleep right now; a dog can do that. We mean an ability to reason to a free choice, and the ability to accept and pay the consequences of that free choice. If someone doesn't have the ability to do that -- if they are, for example, a drug addict -- Blackstone's and Hamilton's reasoning seems highly valid.

Posted by: Grim at August 27, 2010 05:32 PM

When we talk about "free will,"...[w]e mean an ability to reason to a free choice, and the ability to accept and pay the consequences of that free choice. And therein lies the weakness of Kant's argument that free actions are decided upon by reason. If we're as driven by logic as the addict is by his addiction, we're still not acting freely. This is not too different from BF Skinner's argument that we're never truly acting freely--all of our actions, all of our behaviors, are the mandated results of our histories of stimulus responses.

We must be absolutely free to choose between the rational choice and the animal choice--or just to select at random some response--or we're not free to act.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 27, 2010 05:51 PM

You don't have to go far out of your way to convince me that Kant was wrong. When Plato writes about "Reason," he means something different from pure rational nature: he means a reason that can love beauty. The Form of the Beautiful is either one of the highest forms (along with the Form of the Good), or the same as the Form of the Good.

Both "love" and "beauty" are non-rational concepts. Even if you settle on some notion of beauty that is purely mathematical, you're still stuck with "love." (You're probably also wrong about what humans find beautiful.)

Now, the ancients also had the idea that virtue is required for a free choice. Aristotle wrote about that in his political theory. For both Aristotle and Plato, politics grow out of ethics; the right political state encourages and shapes ethical men, and in turn gives space for men to make ethical choices.

Posted by: Grim at August 27, 2010 05:58 PM

It depends on the size of the cage that is imposed by the restrictions. The mouse in the cigar box is in a very different situation than the eagle in Alaska (caged by gravity, atmosphere, available food ....)

We all wear blinders of various kinds, some chosen "voluntarily", some imposed by others, whether the courts, family, religion, physical size, ....

The problem is to try and see around or through those blinders. Those who say there are no blinders there are not even looking.

Posted by: htom at August 27, 2010 06:02 PM

I don't think everyone should vote.... I think it should be limited to those who are interested and motivated enough to do it when it's not easy. Not to be confused with being a huge hassle, just...not automatically-signed-up-for-voting-in-your-mailbox-when-you-get-a-driver's-license. (Like here in WA-- and we STILL only had some incredibly low number of votes getting in.)

Posted by: Foxfier at August 27, 2010 11:05 PM

“Heinlein's utopian vision has been kicking about for years. The idea has great emotional appeal, but like all utopian schemes it rests on the premise that social ills spring from flaws in the system rather than flaws in human nature.”

I disagree. Heinlein clearly uses human nature as the benchmark rather than the structure of government. A person may select to earn their citizenship for trivial reasons, but the difficulty of doing so would force that person to relent in their desire to do so unless they transitioned to a more substantial reason such taking personal responsibility for the citizens in their community. By using human nature you effectively secure the system against tampering by outside forces. In essence, standards will never be relaxed to accommodate individuals who are weak willed and prone to corruption.

As for the founding of Heinlein’s Federation, again it was the flaws of man and not the system that brought down society. As man grows more dependent upon the government, he grows less active in his community and cares less for the day to day affairs of the community. The system becomes dysfunctional as a result of the flaws of the public as our own government has become dysfunctional because of our flaws as a people.

“If we could just find the perfect voting scheme, somehow people would stop acting like people! They would become virtuous, responsible, and wise.”

As man is not perfect, no system that can be created by man can be perfect. What the Heinlein system of franchise does is analogous to the selection of leaders in Plato’s Republic. That does not mean that the government will function flawlessly or that occasionally a citizen will not become corrupted.

However, you theoretically have a better guarantee of governmental fidelity than any other system that has ever been tried on Earth. This is because those who run it have had their will and integrity severely tested. Each citizen risks both life and limb in order to earn the right to vote and to hold office. It is extremely difficult to pass the test, but very easy to quit. Without such tests, you can only go on the word of the person doing the job and that has obvious drawbacks.

As for factions, Madison’s concern was how factions could sway the government in favor of a tyranny of the minority. I would argue that such factionalism has already occurred with the packing of the Federal courts, judicial activism, and the introduction of foreign law governing cases in the U.S. system. This effectively gives the left the means to override the will of the American people without their input on the matter. As an example, I refer you to Roe v. Wade. As such, franchise does not enter into the argument as the electorate is cut off from involvement.

Heinlein’s Federation is no utopia. It is merely a fictional government that could theoretically work in the real world. Heinlein’s government is very similar to the American system. Further, there is no difference between a citizen and a civilian in terms of rights, privileges, or benefits with the exception of voting and running for office. As evidence of this, Rico’s father was a multi-millionaire CEO of his own company and a civilian. He had no interest in government other than how it affected his business and saw no upside to citizenship.

There are people like that in the United States today. They either don’t bother to vote or don’t care how their vote impacts others within the society. When a person casts a vote, he is taking an action that will impact lives within his community. Do we really want that person to be casting that vote without giving any consideration to the consequences of that action? The Democrats always run a bus through poor neighborhoods and round up people who otherwise wouldn’t vote. They give them a lunch and some kind words and tell them who to vote for and then they run them home. The people who vote don’t give a flying leap about what they voted for or why they were told to vote that way because they got a break in their daily routine. That would never happen in Heinlein’s Federation.

If you had to risk your life and work your guts out to earn the right to cast that ballot you would not take a cavalier attitude toward casting your vote. Most citizens would take the time to educate themselves on the issues and consider the impact of their vote on the community at large and then cast their ballot. This goes back to Heinlein’s premise that something given has no value, but if you earn it you will take it very seriously and protect it. This is also why bribery will most likely fail because you cannot become a politician unless you are a citizen.

Ordinarily, I agree with you 110%, but on this issue I cannot see your argument. If you are basing your argument on the movie, I suggest that you read the book as it is a much more thorough account of Heinlein’s system. The movie intentionally portrayed Heinlein’s Federation as a fascist regime and ridiculed his ideas unfairly in an attempt to show Heinlein as an idiot. The sequels went even farther down that road.

Posted by: William Stout at August 28, 2010 12:07 AM

The problem with using virtue as the criteria for the franchise is this: who defines what is virtuous? Today, if you were to ask those on the Left and the Right, and those in the middle, what kinds of actions are deemed virtuous, you would get different answers, especially from those not in the middle.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 28, 2010 02:21 AM

And they voted their personal pecuniary interests rather than what was best for society at large. What fell out of this was highly effective, though: the vector sum of everyone's individual interests turned out to be pretty good.

Voting to elevate their personal conditions is not the same as taking a couple cool mill from the New York Docking fees and high tailing it to England, as one of Jackson's guys did.

Personal interest on this matter, is still subject to judgment and criticism by virtue and not simply vice.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 28, 2010 03:58 AM

The problem with using virtue as the criteria for the franchise is this: who defines what is virtuous?

The same way patriotism can be judged valid or invalid, true or false.

You have an institution backed by a society of values, which becomes self-reinforcing based upon chaos principles. Once a system of interlocking regenerative and self-correcting mechanisms is built, it sustains itself.

Even though the Left says they love America, and the wife beater says he loves his wife, their truth is not our truth.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 28, 2010 04:00 AM

To William Stout above - you sir, have put it beautifully!

Posted by: acuvue oasys at August 29, 2010 02:55 AM

The good thing to have a keen perspective on organized sabotage and conspiracy to deceive, is that it is rare to simply settle upon Ending Women's Suffrage was a One Box Solution set.

Instead, countering sabotage is better done thinking outside the box and targeting the humans involved in the programs. And that has not much to do with voting or elections. They are only ancillary connections to mass movements and organizations. They are not the source, thus not the source of the threat.

They are only the superficial surface details. Best ignored to go after the real threat and terminate it. The feminist movement was hijacked and by what and whom?

You can start the target list from there.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 29, 2010 08:15 AM

As our hostess has already pointed out, denying women the vote would have affected the result of only one of the last 10 presidential elections. It seems to me that's because it does not address one big problem with any election involving more than a hundred or so voters.

The problem is this: The more voters there are in any given electorate, the less likely your one vote is to make a dime's worth of difference in the final outcome - and therefore, the less of an incentive you have to do your homework and make a truly informed decision about your vote*, as opposed to simply (1) voting for the candidate from your own political "tribe", (2) voting for incumbents when the economy is going well, or voting against them after it has gone south, or (3) not bothering to show up at the polls at all. Add a mediating mechanism like the Electoral College into the mix, by which the candidate you've voted for can win your state and even win the overall popular vote but still lose the election, and the incentive to give a damn about who you vote for drops even further.

IOW, the problem isn't that women have the vote; rather, it's that there are several orders of magnitude too many voters to keep elections from being reduced to glorified popularity contests.


* This dynamic is by no means limited to individual voting decisions in democratic elections. In particular, it also affects individual family-forming decisions (i.e. whether or not to have children, and if so, how many) in the context of the larger society. Since that topic is also right down Cassandra's alley, yet veers way off-topic for this thread, I'll let her (and you) chew on this point for awhile before elaborating further.

Posted by: Joshua at August 29, 2010 02:14 PM

Heads-up to Cassandra (and everyone else): The Preview feature for comments doesn't seem to handle line breaks correctly, at least not with the Firefox browser. The reason my paragraphs are spaced so far apart above is that I added a couple of line-break tags to the end of each one, because otherwise they run together as one great big paragraph in the preview.

Posted by: Joshua at August 29, 2010 02:19 PM

re: Hamilton

To this we may add, that they are only under a conditional prohibition, which industry and good fortune may remove. They may, one day, accumulate a sufficient property to enable them to emerge out of their present state. Or, should they die in it, their situation is not entailed upon their posterity by a fixed and irremediable doom. They, agreeably to the ordinary vicissitudes of human affairs, may acquire what their parents were deficient in."

And we gals could always have sex change operations :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 30, 2010 08:18 AM

Anyone who advocates (or even fails to oppose) the idea of disenfranchising women as a solution to society's ills is neither thinking clearly nor seriously. And the fact that Derbyshire even tried to suggest it has cost him a great deal of respect from me at least. And for the record, I'm sure he'll lose no sleep over that fact (if he ever indeed becomes aware of it).

Posted by: MikeD at August 30, 2010 09:44 AM

Oh I rather doubt anyone over at NRO is paying attention to this thread. VC is the ant on the monster truck tire of blogging, and I'm quite happy for it to stay that way :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 30, 2010 09:50 AM

Carter did not take over 50% of the male vote in 1976. Where did you get that figure from?

The right to vote should be tied, as Heinlein observed to those who both have a stake in society and are willing to defend it. Those who will not defend it or participate in it shouldn't have a voice in it. Those who pay no tax; those dependent on it; those who violate its laws.

Further we need to eliminate a permanent political class. One term limits for each office is more than sufficient.

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at August 31, 2010 02:58 AM

The link is right there in the post.

Carter did not take over 50% of the male vote in 1976. Where did you get that figure from?

Where did you get "over 50%" from? The graphic says 50%, not over 50%. At any rate, CBS, the NY Times, and Roper all have the male vote for Carter at 50 or slightly over that.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 31, 2010 03:22 AM

I suspect you are confusing "50% of men who voted, voted for Carter" with "50% of the votes Carter received came from men".

They're not the same thing.

In an election where only men were allowed to vote, the relative size of the male and female population doesn't matter (b/c women can't vote). If 50% of the men vote for Carter and only 48% vote for Ford, Carter wins.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 31, 2010 03:40 AM

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