Politics Over Dinner

We just had a discussion over dinner about politics – what the most important issue is, who the best candidate is, etc. I’m going to zoom in on a particularly interesting section of the conversation:

Person A: If it were up to me, I’d have a basic test that people would need to pass to vote.

Me: Eh, I don’t know. In theory, yeah. I just don’t trust the people designing the test. Actually, my idea is much more radical than that. You’re not going to like it at all.

Person A: What’s your idea?

Me: I’d restrict voting to people who are married with a certain middle class level of income.

*Silence*

Person A: …That’s completely insane. You know you’d be restricting yourself from voting?

Me: Absolutely. Married people are the people who have the most stake in making sure society is set up for the future, as opposed to instant gratification – government handouts. No question.

Person A: That’s so insane. What if your aunt wanted to vote to make a better life for her nieces and nephews? She can’t vote now?

Me: No. She might have the right idea, but single people in general wouldn’t have the same stake in society as married people. You don’t make rules based on exceptions.

Person A: So what if you’re divorced? You can’t vote now? Come on.

Me: No. If you’re divorced, you’re not as interested in the forwarding of society.

Person A: Well, what if your religion forbids you from marrying or something like that?

Me: Then your religion is clearly not going to have as large a stake in the betterment of the future of society, and people a part of it should not vote.

Person A: [For the rest of the conversation repeats how my idea is so insane it’s not even worth discussing]

…Annnnnnnnnd scene. Yes, this actually just happened.

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15 Responses to Politics Over Dinner

  1. Replace “parents” with “soldiers” and I’m pretty sure you just replicated Starship Troopers.

  2. Jakeithus says:

    People are always quick to disadvantage others when they feel they never have to worry about whether they are risk of being similarly disadvantaged. Sure, it starts with only the lowest IQ individuals being disenfranchised, but why stop there? Doesn’t it just make sense only to let the elite of the elite make the decisions that affect our society? Any arbitrary line you draw can be pushed further if it will lead to a better outcome right?

    • Is this meant as a reply to me or person A?

      • Jakeithus says:

        Person A. A simple test sounds so innocuous, most people think what could it hurt to administer one before we allow voting. Not like your “insane” plan that would disenfranchise people Person A might actually know.

        Your suggestion is at least honest in what it values and rewards. The problem with disenfranchising stupid people is that stupid is all relevant, and I don’t really see a new to push that boundary further than we already do. The people Person A doesn’t want to vote likely don’t vote already, so if you institute a test and nothing really changes, the reason why someone might call for a test will still exist. To get the result they want, restrictions might have to go further and further.

      • Jakeithus says:

        So many errors… Relative not relevant, need not new.

  3. Kevin Stuart Lee says:

    Your idea and the reasoning behind it don’t sound too far off from the old freehold model, except instead of a freehold of the propertied, it’s a freehold of the family. You might find that a worthy notion to explore in a story.

    Nice job defusing Person A’s rhetorically-charged questions at each stage. His objections sound like emotionally-fueled ejaculations elicited by some irrational feeling that your suggestion is beyond the pale and somehow unjust.

    • Res says:

      To be fair, as Syllabus specified, Malcolm was basically just asserting things based on very little. One might as well ban smokers from voting, as they might shorten their own life-time or something along those lines, and leave it at that. Other than that it’s just a mass of assumptions (and where does ‘marriage’ come into any of this anyway?) which comes off as in its source emotional and it might not have been worth treating as otherwise than this.

      In any case past a certain point you’re abstracting from voting involving viewpoints and etc. concerning society and the universal, which is surely baseline, so that wouldn’t necessarily be worth discussing. Irrational exclusivity vis-a-vis views on the future would only be worth keeping if you had had some kind of really pronounced opposition to socialism, which in any case would be irrelevant because you would clearly not like to vote while the others do. At a certain point it just comes across as contradicting the other person by saying that they’d prefer it if people could only vote if they were idiots about it, while the other person was at least being ambiguous about the nature of the testing and not straight-out admitting that what they envisioned as the test would be something along the lines of a high school examination.

      In any case marriage and the family are a state institution, the state can hardly be subjected to them as it could be responsive to people who are not a state institution. The state doesn’t come after the law.

      • To be fair, as Syllabus specified, Malcolm was basically just asserting things based on very little.

        Of course I was. It was a dinner conversation, not a full debate. The idea isn’t that only non-idiots can vote, but that people who are married have a bigger stake in the future of society than others.

        This is true even if I don’t like the results of the voting, but it does make sense.

  4. Syllabus says:

    but single people in general wouldn’t have the same stake in society as married people.

    A “lesser stake” according to… well, what? An abstract notion of people who have progeny caring more about the future of a given society? That just begs the question about whether one thinks that the continuation of a given society is good for one’s children, or that there is any one conception of what will be good for one’s children shared by all parents that would make such a thing feasible or actually protective of the future society — beyond something like “I want them to have a job” or “I don’t want them to have to fight in a civil war” or stuff like that. The problem then just iterates itself, though, since there are multitudinous conflicting conceptions of such conditions that would not let something like that be feasible. I’m not saying that there is no fact of the matter about what does bring these states of affairs, only that there’s no way of feasibly enacting a means by which such a process as you suggest would find that agreement.

    I guess what you may mean by “stake in society” is “stake in society properly ordered”, which is fine. We all have some or another conception of what the just society would look like, and we attempt to convince each other of it all the time. The trouble is that, if such a thing were really brought about, then you would have to rule out the people who had a stake in not having society properly ordered along the lines you would like it to be, since they’re roughly in the same boat as single people in not having a stake in your future, and thus if you didn’t rule them out you’d have no principled ground for ruling out single people.

    Now, what that does is reduce your proposal to something for all intents and purposes like “only married couples who hold to the same view of the proper ordering of society as I do should be allowed to vote”. Which is basically a form of aristocracy or one-party state.

    • I guess what you may mean by “stake in society” is “stake in society properly ordered”, which is fine.

      Yep.

      The trouble is that, if such a thing were really brought about, then you would have to rule out the people who had a stake in not having society properly ordered along the lines you would like it to be, since they’re roughly in the same boat as single people in not having a stake in your future, and thus if you didn’t rule them out you’d have no principled ground for ruling out single people.

      Not really. My logic is based on the ground that the family, and indirectly then marriage, is the building block of society. Single people really aren’t a part of that building block in a meaningful way. They may be useful contributors to society, but they’re not nearly as important, in general, as the family unit.

      Married people DO vote differently than non-married. Look it up.

      • Syllabus says:

        My logic is based on the ground that the family, and indirectly then marriage, is the building block of society.

        Sure, but you’re missing the larger point: in terms of contributing to society properly ordered, only those families who think the way that your idealized family thinks are going to contribute society in the way that you want people to contribute to or constitute it. Sure, on average married people vote differently than non-married people, but I take it that your preference for married-over-single voting is not based on them just having progeny, but that having progeny and so forth makes them contribute in a certain way.

        So if your argument lets certain married people who aren’t contributing to society in the way which would order it properly, I don’t see why you’ve got a reason for not letting singles vote that isn’t just “on average they don’t vote the way I think contributes to the proper ordering of society,” regardless of the motivations for that. Which is just as feasibly an argument for not giving Oregon or Washington State or Maryland two or indeed any places in the Senate — or, hell, from prohibiting black people or Hispanic people from voting, given their usual voting patterns.

      • You need to make a limit somewhere; we do all the time. That’s why criminals can’t vote (as far as I know? If they do they shouldn’t).

        It’s less that families will always vote “correctly” but that they have the biggest and most important stake.

  5. Craig says:

    Following that logic, shouldn’t it be married people *with children* and a middle-class income?
    This is actually the same sort of idea as the property requirement for voting, popular back when the U.S. was getting started.

  6. Ilíon says:

    Me: I’d restrict voting to people who are married with a certain middle class level of income.

    My desideratum would be to restrict the franchise to *men* who citizens and are married (to a woman), with no income restrictions.

    I’d settle for restrictign the franchise to citizens who are married (to a person of the opposite sex), with no income restrictions.

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