Once while I was in college, I was assigned to group in class and told that we should complete an important class project as a team.
If you know anything about group projects, you probably know that they suck. There is always that one slacker who rides the coattails of everyone else in the group, and then coasts in with the grade that the group, not the individual, earned.
Those slackers are the worst.
This story actually goes in a direction that might surprise you. See, this time, I was the slacker in the group.
In my defense, at the time I was taking a full load of classes and working two jobs… but even that doesn’t excuse the pitiful effort (or lack thereof) I made with this particular group project. The morning the project was due (class was at 10 AM), I quickly Googled something having to do with the presentation I was assigned to deliver, printed it out, and showed up to class with the intention of winging my section of the presentation we were all assigned.
Right about now, I know what you must be thinking. Why did I bother spending money on a class that I was going to put so little effort into? Didn’t I care that my groupmates grade was riding on this? But I was convinced that my plan was foolproof. How would anyone catch on that I had just Googled something vaguely having to do with my assigned topic literally an hour before class?
But shockingly, they did.
My groupmates were not happy with me. They had all done their parts of the project… and its a good thing too, because if they hadn’t I might have dragged us all down much lower than a B-. If I am being honest, we didn’t all deserve a B-.
They deserved A’s. I did not.
I hear variations of this story used countless times by my conservative friends to illustrate why taxing the rich to give to the poor is a bad idea. Why tax productivity and reward laziness? It’s a stupid idea, and I agree. It’s government mandated charity… and since many of the people who are electing others into positions of power have a vested interest in being on the receiving end of that charity, it actually amounts to theft. In this case though, instead of using a gun, you are using a government. Either way, it’s not fair.
But how do we solve a problem like this? I mean, we live in America, right? Everyone has the right to vote.
Ever stop to wonder why that is? Why DOES everyone have the right to vote?
I mean, seriously guys. I can’t be the only one who has found it frustrating that I can do my best to educate myself on the issues, spend time and effort in researching the various candidates and their positions, show up on election day with the intent of making a sound and well thought out decision… only to have my vote cancelled out by some crazy uneducated zealot of a dude who is voting for the other guy because his friend showed him a YouTube video made by a super political action committee that had not one iota of actual truth in it.
But why should my vote count more than his? Just because I made my decision based on research and critical thought rather than an emotional video made by people with money and a agenda?
As much as I’d like to scream “YES! THAT’S EXACTLY WHY!”, the truth is, it shouldn’t… and the reason why is because there is no impartial arbiter that can point to me and say “That guy researched, he gets to vote, and that dude didn’t, so he shouldn’t.” If we try doing that, pretty soon we will get some rich guy that decides that only land owners get to vote, or people with a net worth greater than X. This is a horrible idea, because people who have a lot of money and power tend to horde it, usually at the expense of the people they have power over.
While I am a Capitalist, I am not a Capitalist because I think Capitalism is awesome. With the Bernie Madoffs of the world swindling people of their hard earned retirement money without a care, and sociopath’s rising to the top of the corporate food chain, I think the system of Capitalism let’s a LOT of stuff happen that sucks… it just sucks much less that other forms of government ideologies, like Socialism, where there is no incentive whatsoever to produce or achieve. But just like the pendulum can swing too far towards Socialism (Hey, lets take everyone’s stuff and divide it into equal piles regardless of if they are hardworking or lazy!), it can also swing too far towards Capitalism (Hey, lets invent a system called high-frequency trading that uses fiber optic lines to front-run the stock orders of others and sell it to them at a profit! Sure, we aren’t going to actually produce anything of value for the market… in fact, we are just leeches sucking away the retirement savings of millions of hardworking Americans, but WE will be rich, right?).
When that crap happens, you often see the sort of income inequality that we are having problems with today.
If you want something like a Capitalistic Republic (like we are supposed to have), you’ll find that without adequate regulations and checks-and-balances it very quickly disintegrates into Crony Capitalism, where the candidate with the most money wins, the general public starts voting themselves all sorts of goodies with no care about how its going to get paid for, national debt skyrockets like it has in many Western Countries, and society suffers.
So what’s the solution?
Well, its obviously not simple, because no one has gotten it yet. However, if I could change things, I’d start with term limits.
Then, I’d say something controversial: Not everyone should have the right to vote.
What? Why? Steve, have you gone insane? That’s one of the sacred tenants of being an American! That we all have a voice! That our vote COUNTS!
Yeah. I know. But consider this: many people, in fact, most people, are not voting in the best interest of the country. Nonsense economics aside, this is obviously a bad thing. If a majority of the population votes “We should separate the black people from the rest of society“, I’m pretty sure we can all reasonably say today that this is not a good thing for the country. In fact, it was a very painful transition from something worse to what was right… equal rights.
Likewise, if a chunk of the population decides they don’t want to work and just collect welfare at the expense of everyone else, I’m pretty sure that this also is not a good thing for the country. First, it takes away from their fellow countrymen who actually need help. Second, give people without skin in the game a voice on how the fruit’s of the industrious people’s labor is used, and we are not that far away from socialism.
I would respectfully put forth the idea for your consideration that a system where “everyone has a voice” doesn’t work as often as it does. If you have ever experienced what I talked about earlier, where you took time off work to go vote after spending time and effort researching the issues and candidates only to have that vote cancelled out by someone who only wants free stuff at the expense of the taxpayer, you know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the truth. Voting is not an opportunity rub your “knowledge” in someone else’s face, and it is not intended to divide us as countrymen by regurgitating sound bytes from our favorite news channel at one another. It’s a huge responsibility, because the decisions reached by voting impact all of us. I would much rather have the right to vote… no, the RESPONSIBILITY to vote… given to those who have earned through personal sacrifice for their countrymen rather than those who got more support from the radical left or radical right. It’s easy to talk like you are smart and altruistic and care about your country (just turn on Fox News or MSNBC for a quick dose), but its quite another thing to live it.Think about it. If you devoted years of your life to unpaid charity work to help your fellow countrymen, you are very likely to empathize with them and want them to succeed. Would you then vote to spend public money on welfare? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe in the course of working at the soup kitchen you saw that there were people who fell on hard times, and also people who just didn’t give a crap and were homeless for a reason. Maybe you would think that something other than “welfare for all” would be better for your country and even for your individual countrymen, and decide to vote for that instead. Maybe you think some people need help, but some people just need a swift kick in the pants. Your vote will not be cancelled out by welfare queens who want free money. Your vote was earned through your personal sacrifice to your country.
The same goes for people who spend years of their lives in the military, away from their families with little pay to ensure their countrymen are safe. They sacrificed something on a very personal level for the greater good of their fellow countrymen, and for that, they can participate in the process of making the decisions about where this country is headed. Would they vote to go to the Middle East and fight to overthrow dictator X? Fight wars in the desert over oil or WMDs? Arm Syrian rebels?
Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe they know firsthand that they were doing good over there. Or maybe they think that our blood and treasure was being wasted overthrowing a dictator that would only be replaced by a worse dictator. Maybe, because they have sacrificed something personally for their country, they care about the issue a little bit more than your average citizen who sits in their armchair and yells at cable news shows on the TV , and then goes and angrily posts about it on Facebook.
“No taxation without representation” was a noble ideal, but maybe “No representation without taxation” is a noble ideal as well. The idea that you get a say in the running of a country that you take from without giving to is a bit like me being upset at my groupmates that I got a B- on our group project instead of an A when I did none of the work.
The real trick is finding a way to institute a system like this fairly. If you have ever read (or watched the movie adaptation of) Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”, you can see that I am not the first one to come up with this idea. In the movie, “Service guarantees citizenship!” is the commercial enticing high school grads to sign up for the military and serve mankind. Their service requires personal sacrifice, but it also earns them the right to have a say.
An interesting excerpt from Wikipedia on Heinlein’s famous book:
“There is an explicit contrast to the “democracies of the 20th century”, which according to the novel, collapsed because “people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted… and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears.” Indeed, Colonel Dubois criticizes the famous U.S. Declaration of Independence line concerning “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as unrealistic. No one can stop anyone from pursuing happiness, but the Colonel claims life and liberty exist only if they are deliberately sought and, often, bought painfully by great effort and sacrifice.”
Maybe as our national debt continues to skyrocket exponentially, that’s something we should consider.