Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Not To Be Antimidated

Over an hour and a half in line at the poll in my district - yikes. Fortunately, the first two districts I voted in took less than 15 minutes, so I didn't kill my whole morning. An election official removed a small flier posted by a church on the door to the poll offering a free lunch to anyone who has voted - there was absolutely no political preference expressed on the flier at all. I protested to the official that I now have no idea where to get a free lunch. Apparently there is law about signs within 40 feet of the poll entrances.

But then I remember that as we progressed in line along the side of the school/community center, hanging from within the building is a rainbow colored banner saying "We the People Say No to the Bush Agenda." So when I am still closer to casting my ballot, the election official who denied me my free lunch comes walking by, and I pipe up and tell her about the banner. A cheer goes up from the crowd, the people hoist me on their shoulders, people are throwing flowers at my feet ... it was really quite a scene. Actually, apparently someone else had just complained as well, and she said she was on her way to take care of it and thanked me. Seconds later, I am staring at a ballot initiative on my electronic ballot: "Do you support a bond in the amount of such and such to fund Arlington County schools." Hmmm, thinks the Hatcher, that much money would sure buy a lot of little anti-Bush propaganda to shove on the little kiddies over the next four years. "No" to the funding! Why? Because Hate is Not a Family Value!

Here is one from the archives, lamenting the Motor Voter Bill:

The Motor Voter Bill is the most recent legislation intent upon removing any barriers - including laziness and indifference - from full participation in elections. We’ve come along way from the days when you had to be a landowner to merit the privilege of voting. Poll taxes have been eliminated, woman have gained the right to vote, and barriers keeping minorities from voting have been removed. To that list, the Motor Voter Bill registers anyone who applies for a driver’s license, and so now those who couldn’t justify the half hour of extra time it used to take to become a registered voter no longer have to.

Dead people vote often in national elections, as do people whose citizenship seems dubious - this, all in the name of democracy. The next step is a hard one to predict - my guess is that either prisoners will get the right to vote, or that each person will have someone bring the ballot to their door for them to fill out without leaving the comfort of their couch. Or, possibly, the voting age will be lowered to capture more of the MTV crowd, which itself threatens to become a dominant demographic group as Generation X one-ups the Baby Boomers in vanity and the infinite desire to be seventeen years old forever. The most promising reform of the future comes from the One-Worlders - why limit the vote to US citizens only? A global democracy would be groovy - kind of like all that free love from Woodstock. Before you know it, the ACLU will be filing a suit that allows a Peruvian teenager the luxury of registering and voting from a pornographic Web Site. And the march of technological progress moves on!

As zoologists become more effective in teaching apes sign language, evidence will mount in favor of giving them the same rights to self-governance that we enjoy. What will it get them? Self-governance would seem to imply that we have more control over the everyday decisions that we face, that our government is less authoritarian, that it is flexible in structure, and that it is theoretically responsive right down to the individual citizen. Self-governance surely must give us more freedom - if not, why would we voluntarily choose it ? But a look at the trend of twentieth century policy tells us otherwise - we apparently seek cradle to grave care at the hands of the government, we like to deal with a myriad of federal regulations regarding our businesses, we prefer not to be given the option of providing for our own retirement and health care, and we constantly look to the Federal government to handle local problems. Much to the chagrin of animal rights activists, if we provide some indication of how apes would handle their new found right to vote, it seems apparent that they would vote to keep themselves in zoos. Moreover, they may even argue that apes in the wild of other continents should be corraled and given the same privilege.

To voice a complaint about extending democracy or the vote is to sound, well, undemocratic. It smacks of ingratitude and comes closest to the American secular version of mortal sin, falling short only because sin is considered an outdated concept. In one fell swoop, the mere hint of a suggestion that democracy should have some restraints merits you the tag of being racist, sexist, and xenophobic. Rather than hanging you in effigy ( too violent for peacenicks ), they dress you up in the public square to look like the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a familiar and effective tactic of the left - guilt by association. Of all the people who hold a certain view, take the set with the most offensive motives, and attribute those same motives to everyone who espouses the same view.

Label those who dislike the current rampaging of the majority as you will, but note the irony that as we have found a larger and larger set of people capable and deserving of voting upon the extremely complex issue of the role of government and its relation to man, this extended right to vote seems to return the verdict that these same people are incapable of much more mundane decisions. It is the equivalent of the teenagers in a family outnumbering their parents, demanding the right to vote on all family policies, and then voting for an earlier curfew. We may perhaps contribute the entangling of the people in more and more paternalistic strings to their wisdom. It is often a wise choice to remove certain options from your opportunity set, so as never to be tempted to choose them - much as the dieter tries not to buy cookies when he is grocery shopping. But it would take the wisdom of Solomon to do this in political decisions, especially in the post Enlightenment atmosphere that sees the mere passage of time as progress for humanity. Now we may be prone to accredit our behavior to wisdom, since it is self-flattering, but then we are left trying to explain the utter gulf in wisdom exhibited by the people in those few areas where we are left to decide for ourselves. A cursory examination of afternoon talk shows is enough to make us believe that a truly wise electorate would give itself no autonomy in personal decisions - the will of the majority could hardly do worse.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Hatch-

I really enjoyed your story about the polls this morning - almost as much as your work on minimum wage. I'm a big fan of your graduate work, and would love to discuss with you potential ideas of where I should apply to graduate school (emphasis on macroeconomics). I'll be in the DC area between Christmas and New Year's with a friend and maybe we could swing by your office for further discussion. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you...keep up the great work with the website (I'm an avid viewer).



1:11 PM  

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