I Fought the Mob and the Mob Lost

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Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Jonah Goldberg dances around the politics of giving freed ex-felons the vote—Marion Barry! It's a Democratic ploy! Hillary Clinton! Advocates are exaggerating! Willie Horton! Opportunistic Blue-state federalism! What's racism got to do with it? It's a stalking horse for letting prisoners vote! Did I mention Marion Barry?—before reasonably settling on federalism as the best way to deal with the issue. Then he closes with this:

The principle behind Clinton's proposed legislation […] is that the nation's democracy is "enriched" when more people vote.

Who says? If you are having an intelligent conversation with somebody, is it enriched if a mob of uninformed louts, never mind ex-cons and rapists, barges in? People who want to make voting easier are in effect saying that those who previously didn't care or know enough about the country to vote are exactly the kind of voters this country needs now.

While Goldberg's distaste for Jeffersonianism is touching (as is his bizarre analogy of voting as "an intelligent conversation"), his description of what enfrancishement advocates "are in effect saying" is wrong, at least in my case. The principle isn't that ex-sodomites or first-time drug offenders who've served their time will vote well, or Democratic, or even at all, but rather the quaint notion that taxation of free citizens should be bundled with at least the option of representation. Also, there are way too many damned felonies.

NEXT: Goldwater Democrats, Take 3

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  1. Good point about taxation without representation – we had a little thing called the Revolutionary War over something similar, didn’t we?

    And of course there are too many felonies. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the things folks got a felony for were actually horrible things, but unfortunately there’s a lot of felonies that shouldn’t be, such as non-violent and first-time drug offenders. But then again, I’m just a hedonistic heathen, so what do I know?

  2. Ummm OK Matt, I’ll go along with that. But I’m thinking of Motor Voter when I say that, “People who want to make voting easier are in effect saying that those who previously didn’t care or know enough about the country to vote are exactly the kind of voters this country needs now.” is the most (only?) intelligent thing Jonah has ever written.

  3. “the quaint notion that taxation of free citizens should be bundled with at least the option of representation”

    This is why I argue for the vote at 16. After all, you start paying taxes then, shouldn’t you have a voice?

  4. If I read the piece correctly, no one is proposing that felons be marched to the polls at gunpoint. “Those who previously didn’t care or know enough about the country to vote” still won’t vote – only those who did care or know enough about the country to want to vote will actually register and vote.

    Anything to cut down on “the wrong sort” of people voting is ok with National Review.

  5. his bizarre analogy of voting as “an intelligent conversation”

    indeed, it’s more like the deafening screams and senseless babble one finds in a typical third-world sanitarium.

    what would you say, mr welch, to someone who *wanted* to be taxed but unrepresented because he felt that universal suffrage has increasingly meant sidelining or driving underground the voices of the wealthy and self-interested rationalists — while replacing the political discourse with a cartoon analog of red-herring sensationalism and populist propaganda, putting power in the hands of the least informed but most populous demographic groups in the state? 🙂

  6. gaius, nobody is forcing you to vote.

  7. so this has been bugging me for a long time now. what the hell is a Red Herring?

  8. the problem isn’t just me, mr thoreau — it’s all us folks! 😉

  9. Good point about taxation without representation – we had a little thing called the Revolutionary War over something similar, didn’t we?

    we actually, mr lowdog, had a bourgeois tax revolt that ended up enfranchising the 5% or so of the american population which was white, male and met freehold property requirements.

    i don’t think i know anyone who would advocate reverting to the racism and sexism of those times — but limiting the vote to the people who actually have a financial stake in limiting both the size and intrusiveness of government (as opposed to expanding it to benefit from its font of entitlements) makes a lot of sense to me.

    of course, it won’t happen. just a thought.

  10. limiting the vote to the people who actually have a financial stake in limiting both the size and intrusiveness of government (as opposed to expanding it to benefit from its font of entitlements) makes a lot of sense to me.

    See, here’s what I don’t get about you:

    First you complain about the size and scope of government. OK, fair enough, I frequently agree.

    But if somebody says “I don’t want Social Security because I can take care of myself” you’re just as likely to point out that this selfish individualism is destroying society and what we need is a system that is more traditional and focused on community well-being. Or if somebody complains about regulation you’re just as likely to jump in and complain that free markets are a conceit of the hyper-individualists destroying society.

    So I’m confused: More government or less?

  11. what would you say, mr welch, to someone who *wanted* to be taxed but unrepresented because he felt that universal suffrage has increasingly meant sidelining or driving underground the voices of the wealthy and self-interested rationalists — while replacing the political discourse with a cartoon analog of red-herring sensationalism and populist propaganda, putting power in the hands of the least informed but most populous demographic groups in the state?

    Um … hi-five? Dowatchalike?

  12. I think gaius has finally entered the terminal stage of Nietzschean neurosyphilis.

    I’m sure the elite of self-interested rationalist Ubermen will find a way to get what they want despite the throngs of the unwashed with access to the polls.

    Call me a crazy conspiracy theorist…but I think they already have.

  13. hi-five?

    lol

    So I’m confused: More government or less?

    everything as a matter of degree, mr thoreau. i certainly think less would be desirable under other circumstances, but is impossible with how we feel it right to behave today — would be a recipe for a savage chaos, imo. what i think it’s important to see is that the expansion of government does not exist in a vacuum — it is the response to the irresponsible level of individualism of our society. i think the way to reducing the role of government without imploding society is first increasing the intensity of collective responsibility — which means voluntarily (at least for most), as a matter of cultural practice, putting aside self-fulfillment for social good and submission to compromise and limitation of ambition to a much greater degree than almost anyone currently does.

    that’s almost the antithesis of a desirable life these days, it seems, and i think that’s largely because we have lost the old identification of servitude and common good with virtue. we’ve replaced it with something far more selfish and egotistic. vico called that loss of virtue the “second barbarism” — i think that term about fits.

  14. I’m sure the elite of self-interested rationalist Ubermen will find a way to get what they want despite the throngs of the unwashed with access to the polls.

    lol — there’s nothing uber about an aristocracy, mr pavel. it isn’t mystical. wealthy interests will make mistakes and fall prey to excesses.

    but it’s a damn sight better than putting the crowd that makes “american idol” out to be top-flight entertainment in charge of international affairs.

  15. Because, God knows, taste in television is so relevant to foreign policy.

  16. Mr Goldberg doesn’t allow the possibility that a felon could reform themself and become good citizens despite, or because of, their past felony. Shouldn’t people be judged by who they are, rather than who they were?

  17. “The principle isn’t that ex-sodomites or first-time drug offenders who’ve served their time will vote well..”

    Those people aren’t disenfranchised anyway because in most places those crimes are typically misdemeanors not felonies.

    While I agree with Gaius I also point out that, contrary to what is taught in public school, there are all kinds of things the public has no right to vote on anyway. Like whether or not Wal-Mart can build a store in Inglewood for example.

  18. i think it’s good to take in a lot of points of view one disagrees with, mr pavel. fwiw, i think libertarianism will have growing currency in times to come, as a means of emotionally disengaging oneself from an increasingly unattractive world (rather as the stoics of marcus aurelius’ time did, separating personal virtue from any exterior conditionality). so it pays to hear what gets discussed here and how, imo.

  19. If we want to reintegrate criminals into society, isn’t it a good idea to bring them into the political process? Isn’t voting a part of being a responsible citizen?

  20. I think this whole debate is premised on the
    absence of any theory about what the point of
    voting might be.

    If the point of voting is to aggregate
    information about the candidates so that the
    best one is chosen, then adding voters with
    no such information just adds noise and
    degrades the quality of the overall signal.
    This was, I think, the view of the Founders,
    and, though I tend to agree with the Founders
    on lots of things, this view is silly, though
    it was much less silly in their day. This
    is Goldberg’s view.

    If the point of voting is to remove very bad
    politicians who are bad in certain ways (i.e.
    in ways that offend a majority) while the
    business of day to day government is run by
    elites, then there is again little point to
    letting felons vote, and little point in not.

    If the point of voting is divvy up that
    portion of what the productive produce and
    hand it out to the unproductive in proportion
    to their votes, then letting felons vote is
    clearly to the detriment of other (largely)
    unproductive groups but of little concern to
    the productive unless the overall amount of
    taxation is increased.

    I am unclear on Matt’s view.

    I think the point of voting is some combination
    of removing certain types of bad politicians
    combined with the psychological buy-in that
    comes from voting. There is a reason that
    communist countries make people vote even
    when there is only one choice.

    In some libertarian dream world, it might be
    nice to have two chambers in the legislature.
    One gets elected by everyone, for the other,
    only individuals who do not receive regular
    checks from the government get to vote. This
    would help to reduce the rampant moral hazard
    inherent in, for example, allowing old people
    to vote in large numbers for representatives
    who then set the level of social security
    benefits. That is rather like letting the
    foxes vote in the elections for the chicken
    house parliament.

    Just avoiding work.

    Jeff

  21. Because, God knows, taste in television is so relevant to foreign policy.

    sadly, mr eric, zogby says it is:

    Nearly half of Americans (48%) say television is the source which they most often rely on for foreign affairs information.

    which likely means the first ten minutes of ‘the o’reilly factor’ and jay leno’s monologue are probably the most influential pieces of foreign policy analysis in the world. viva democracy!

  22. Jeff Smith — Matt’s view is that if you are a free citizen of voting age, you should not be denied the right to vote.

  23. Jeff, good stuff.

    gaius,

    Don’t you think that you might be holding on to a view of virtue that’s a little long in the tooth? How about living in the modern world and not in the ancient. Things have changed a bit, you know.

  24. So let me get this straight, a reformed felon is bad for society to vote. An uneducated illiterate or senile old man is ok to vote. Makes perfect sense to me. This is Jonah’s logic, no gaius’.

  25. I totally agree that felons should be allowed to vote, but only after they’ve finished serving their time and are no longer under direct parole supervision – as most states already allow.

    If you let a prisoner vote, you’re pretty much just giving the jailer a vote he doesn’t deserve. To a lesser degree, this is true of convicts in halfway houses or whose daily life is supervised minutely by a parole officer. There is no way to be assured that their vote is genuinely uncoerced.

    After all, it was originally the North that did not want slaves to be counted for purposes of apportionment of representation, and it was the South that did want slaves to be counted for such purposes, resulting in the 3/5ths compromise. It wasn’t that anyone wanted to give the slaves the freedom to vote – it was that a slave entitled the owner or the state of the owner’s residence to an extra virtual vote. That was a really bad idea.

  26. Don’t you think that you might be holding on to a view of virtue that’s a little long in the tooth?

    i think of it as “time-tested”, mr bill — as opposed to “recently contrived of ideological abstraction”.

  27. Jeff Smith, what is the purpose of free speech? Of the right to bear arms? Of limits on search and seizure?

    The purpose of allowing citizens to vote is to have a system of government that recognizes that governments are established among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed. Which is to say, that recognizes that citizens in a democratic republic have the right to have a say in their government.

    There are pragmatic advantages to elected governments, to be sure, but they are secondary.

  28. …but it’s a damn sight better than putting the crowd that makes “american idol” out to be top-flight entertainment in charge of international affairs.

    condescending…

    i think libertarianism will have growing currency in times to come,…so it pays to hear what gets discussed here and how….

    self-important…

    …which likely means the first ten minutes of ‘the o’reilly factor’ and jay leno’s monologue are probably the most influential pieces of foreign policy analysis in the world….

    and humorous!

    different space, SOS.

  29. Joe: I am a rule utilitarian, not a natural
    rights guy. It is an occupational hazard
    associated with being a (neoclassical)
    economist. Let’s skip the natural rights/
    rule utilitarian meta discussion today … 🙂

    Matt: I meant your view of the point of voting.
    Your policy view is clear from your post, your
    view of the rationale for voting was not.

    All: I meant to say, but forgot to add, that
    I agree with all the comments to the effect
    that there are far too many felonies (and thus,
    far too many felons). One could make a second
    best argument that given that there are far too
    many felonies, we should let felons vote, even
    if we would not want to in a world with just
    the right number of felonies. This is a serious
    argument but I think I would still disagree.

    Jeff

  30. Joe: here is a formulation that you might
    like better.

    The point of government is to secure the life,
    liberty and property of the citizens. Therefore,
    the optimal scheme of choosing a government is
    the one that maximizes the extent to which that
    occurs.

    That is my view, stated better (and with a bit
    of nice sounding 18th century wording tossed
    in for fun). I care about the end result, not
    so much about process. In 1980, I would have
    picked Hong Kong, with no voting but lots of
    freedom and low taxes, to Sweden, with plenty
    of voting but high taxes and less freedom.

    Voting per se does not do much for me. As
    Churchill said, democracy is the worst form
    of government except for all the others. I
    would rephrase that to say that voting is the
    best of a bad lot of feasible solutions to the
    problem of maximizing the security of my life,
    liberty and property.

    Jeff

  31. There are pragmatic advantages to elected governments, to be sure, but they are secondary.

    which is another way of saying Ideology First.

    The purpose of allowing citizens to vote is to have a system of government that recognizes that governments are established among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.

    i disagree, mr joe. every monarchy, for example, exists by the consent of the governed — there’s rarely one that could survive a groundswell of motivated and widespread popular opposition, and therefore every successful monarch works to secure his/her popularity on some level. i think every form of government recognizes that, regardless of where power is said to originate, it can be upended by the mob.

    democracy is instead the manifestation of the unevidenced rousseauian ideological belief in the will of the mob as the repository not just of power but of *virtue*. you put the people in charge because you believe the people are good and right. i find that a laughable concept — and nothing our english parliamentarian founders believed — but it has been a contagious idea in the age of self-empowerment.

  32. Jeff, voting in democratic elections, and having the government subject to those democratic elections, is not only a means to achieving freedom, but is in fact part of the definition of freedom.

    “I am a rule utilitarian, not a natural
    rights guy. It is an occupational hazard
    associated with being a (neoclassical)
    economist. Let’s skip the natural rights/
    rule utilitarian meta discussion today … :)”

    I’ll have to drop out of the discussion, as “Because this is the United States of Fucking America, you snob!” is pretty much where I’m coming from.

    Who the hell are you people, that you’re so convinced of your superiority to those around you, and of your divine right to have authority denied to them?

    Yeah, I’m talking to YOU, Rome-boy!

  33. Joe: I am not quite sure why you are so
    upset. All I am saying is that voting
    is a means, and not an end.

    I recognize that some folks, who view
    the point of the state as something other
    than to protect my life, liberty and
    property, see voting as a good because
    it implies mass participation in the
    political division of resources. That
    view is coherent given different beliefs
    about the purpose of the state than I
    hold. I would not call it a particularly
    American belief, however.

    My concerns about voting have nothing
    to do with elitism and everything to do
    with moral hazard problems and rational
    ignorance.

    Jeff

  34. Switzerland is a pretty free country (not perfect, I know) with no wars, excellent chocolate, excellent engineers, and a strong tradition of federalism as well as direct democracy (two things that some Americans believe to be mutually exclusive), not to mention multi-culturalism (another thing that some Americans believe to be incompatible with direct democracy). And under multi-culturalism I’m referring to the coexistence of four linguistic groups (well, OK, 3) as well as Catholics and Protestants (once upon a time a very combustible combo).

  35. I’m not upset with you, Jeff. Your comments reflect none of the elitism that’s got me wound up.

  36. Jeff — As a person who actually voted this morning (for the L.A. mayoral primary), my rationale is … um, private. What I mean is, I vote early and often for purely personal reasons, and don’t spend much of any time thinking about why, nor do I begrudge anyone’s reason for voting or not voting how they see fit. I’m not a very philosophical person….

    I vote, especially in smaller elections, on the chance that the vote might mean the difference either in who wins, or who gets how much of a mandate, or (in the case of California) what damned fool Proposition passes or fails. I was scarred at an early age from watching Gary K. Hart lose by a whisker to Robert Lagomarsino in 1988 simply because of abysmal turnout in the overwhelmingly pro-Hart area of Isla Vista, California. Also, I like to vote; it’s goofy and fun, makes me feel all warm and civic inside.

  37. Jeeez, and to think that I think voting doesn’t matter. If it did, it would be illegal!

  38. I’m going to have to ponder this new idea of a
    non-philosophical libertarian a bit … 🙂

    Jeff

  39. Yeah, I’m talking to YOU, Rome-boy!

    lol — sorry to offend, mr joe.

    honestly, i’m not part of the freeholding elite. i don’t envision myself as part of a ruling aristocracy. i am all hoi polloi. i know that’s counterintuitive in a day and age where EVERYONE is angling for self-empowerment — but self-empowerment (to the nth degree) is exactly what i’m against.

    i am in agreement with mr jeff:

    The point of government is to secure the life,
    liberty and property of the citizens. Therefore,
    the optimal scheme of choosing a government is
    the one that maximizes the extent to which that
    occurs.

    the point of government is not, imo, to provide the optimal playground for plebiscitarian narcissism. i think life/liberty/property/security is probably most quickly assassinated by democratic mob rule — and that was part of the reason the founders kept the electoral college, senate, supreme court and constitution so distant from the vote of the people. a lot of those barriers between the people and power have been effectively removed in the last hundred years, turning our republic into a democracy. the end of fiscal discipline and the rise of both the imperial presidency and the police state are a direct consequence of that change in character, i think.

  40. gaius: Gimme a double-shot of property rights, hold the anarchy… My argument is that you don’t need to draw up laws to restrict people’s rights, while my understandin is that joe’s view is that you need some experts to infringe on people’s rights “legally/correctly.”

    joe: Either you believe in elitism – where only the elite get their say in government), or you believe in populism – where everyone gets a say no matter what? Yeah, the world always divides neatly like that.

    Hmmm… I’m looking at the Founder’s elegant solution to this problem and thinking that they were able to see a subtle solution to the problem that made the best of both views, even tho they only allowed the vote to a certain set of people.

    For the record, I don’t think the government or any other organization or person, has a right to my property, or even yours. The public should not have a right that supersedes the property owners, IMO.

    The job of an elected body SHOULD be to protect property rights. Not get together and decide that my house gets bulldozed to make room for green space or build a Wal-mart or whatever. (Then again, if Wal-Mart was willing to pay enough I’d probably cave and sell out.)

    As for pretending that authority over the gov’t and authority over people are somehow NOT the same, what world are you living in?!?

  41. Speaking of authority over gov’t and authority over people being the same, the primary difference is that when gov’t abuses it’s authority I have no recourse – since it’s the outfit that’s supposed to protect my rights. If joe tries to steal or bulldoze my house it’s illegal and he’ll likely go to jail for it or at least pay restitution. If joe, as an expert for the elected gov’t, determines my house should be bulldozed to make way for a new bypass I have no recourse.

    (Sorry, hijacked thread… back to the issue at hand!)

    I believe that of all people who should be denied the vote, the only ones who qualify are those who are imprisoned for a real felony, one that actually victimizes someone. If you can’t play by the agreed-upon rules, you don’t get to make them is sensible…

    HOWEVER, once you’ve served your sentence (and completed your parole if you get it), you should also regain the right to vote, bear arms, have the freedom of association – even with your old cell-mates… In other words, all of the things that apply to someone who has never committed a crime.

    Why? Because you did your time, you’ve paid the price society demanded of you for your crime. Welcome back to society.

    Now, whatever you do, try not to shoot the guy who has your house bulldozed…

  42. Sorry for arriving late.

    Why does anybody Joshua Goldberg seriously about anything? He plopped out of Lucianne for Christ’s sake–the guy’s got excuses enough for a lifetime for his idiocy.

    OK, back to your deeply philosophical shit.

  43. Let’s look at an example from history when suffrage was expanded – the Voting Rights Act. When were impositions on people’s rights more prevalent in the American South – when black people were denied the right to vote, or when their rights were protected?

    empowerment is at least immediately beneficial — no one would argue. the quality of rights of not only women and blacks but of the entire proletariat improved dramatically with the vote as freehold requirements and poll taxes were retired.

    but this is actually the problem, isn’t it? not particularly with this or that subsection, but with the rights of the entire population — which have wildly expanded from the 18th c to include the right to such things as “freedom from want”, a minimum wage, a 40-hour workweek, family leave, prescription drug coverage, etc etc. such rights may be distributed more fairly now, but they have also multiplied exponentially.

    putting aside for the moment the virtues of each of these, the excesses of these benefits defined by law are the direct result of the people being able to vote themselves priviledges out of the treasury without regard to a fiscal reality. it has fostered massive problems for us which have yet to come home to roost but surely will. at best, the expansion of the vote — and with it, rights — is a double-edged sword, and at worst the eventual downfall of the republic. history indicates that it often takes collapse and dictatorship to resolve such profligacy as we now experience.

  44. and that was part of the reason the founders kept the electoral college, senate, supreme court and constitution so distant from the vote of the people

    In regard to the electoral college, it quickly ceased to function as an independent body early in the history of the Republic, long before universal suffrage or any of the other populist changes that you bemoan. And the reason is quite simple: Electors only get to make one decision, so those who choose them will choose them based on which decision they’ll make. Whether electors are chosen by state legislatures, or white male landowners, or the unwashed masses, or whoever else, electors will inevitably be proxies because they only meet once to decide one single matter. The electors don’t meet and deliberate, they don’t scrutinize candidates, they show up and vote for the person that they originally pledged to vote for. And it’s been that way almost since day 1.

    Now, people can debate or disagree over the merits or demerits of other aspects of the electoral college (e.g. the way that it apportions power among the states), but the notion of electors as wise and independent decision-makers has been false since very early in our history, and it has nothing to do with populism. It’s simply the nature of the institution.

  45. Here’s a good question for people like Goldberg who support stripping felons of voting rights: Do you believe Martha Stewart should never be allowed to vote again for the rest of her life? Based on the information here ( http://www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/barredforlife.pdf ) it appears she’s barred for life in at least 6 states.

  46. SR, Martha doesn’t need to vote. She just needs the chads after they’ve been punched out. You can string them together and make a lovely bracelet, or use them as confetti to decorate for parties.

  47. I personally think it’s stupid and unconstitutional for felons to be barred form voting for life, but I also don’t think that immediate reinstatement of the vote is reasonable.

    There’s a reason that after serving your sentence you have probation for awhile. There’s nothing totalitarian about establishing that a felon has learned their lesson first. It’d be wonderful if we could spot likely repeat offenders w/ 100% accuracy and refrain from releasing them, thus negating the need for probation periods at all, but that’s not going to happen.

    A side-bit, since someone mentioned Martha Stewart: convicted felons also can’t head publicly-traded corporations, AFAIK. What thoughts do you guys have on that? Is it the same thing as w/ the right to vote, or is it something to be weighed in a completely different manner? Are both unjust? Or neither?

  48. what would you say, mr welch, to someone who *wanted* to be taxed but unrepresented because he felt that universal suffrage has increasingly meant sidelining or driving underground the voices of the wealthy and self-interested rationalists — while replacing the political discourse with a cartoon analog of red-herring sensationalism and populist propaganda, putting power in the hands of the least informed but most populous demographic groups in the state?

    I’d say you know very little about the history of American voting. 🙂 The idea that there was some “golden age” of American voting is just hogwash. The vicious, underhanded, histrionic, etc. election of 1800 demonstrates this vividly.

    thoreau,

    If you read the Federalist Papers, you’ll see that Hamilton argues that the EC will be a means by which the Republic picks “moral” men for the Presidency. Its just one of the claims about the nature of the Constitution that turned out to be flat wrong.

  49. gaius marius,

    we actually, mr lowdog, had a bourgeois tax revolt that ended up enfranchising the 5% or so of the american population which was white, male and met freehold property requirements.

    You are such an ahistorical twit:

    “During the Revolution states with poll taxes and taxpayer franchises (such as North Carolina and New Hampshire) established nearly universal free male suffrage. When suffrage qualifications were tied to the value of an estate, wartime inflation eroded barriers. All states ended religious restrictions on voting. At war’s end, the eligible electorate numbered from 60 to 90 percent of free males, with most states edging close to the high end of that range.”

    http://www.answers.com/topic/suffrage

  50. gaius marius,

    Do you think that there is really much to praise Marcus Aurelius for given his choice of successor?

    democracy is instead the manifestation of the unevidenced rousseauian ideological belief in the will of the mob as the repository not just of power but of *virtue*. you put the people in charge because you believe the people are good and right. i find that a laughable concept — and nothing our english parliamentarian founders believed — but it has been a contagious idea in the age of self-empowerment.

    No. You put the people in power because they are selfish and parochial. Read the Federalist Papers – our theory of government is there and not in the works of Rousseau.

    And of course Rousseau never argued for anything like what you claimed he argued for; that’s why he advocated a “censor” for his ideal society. Indeed, Rousseau was very much in favor of control of the “General Will” by a set of elites.

  51. Anyway, the debate ignores the fact – long acknowledged by political scientists – that the “mob” which gaius marius fears largely excludes itself from politics in the first place.

    gaius marius,

    i think life/liberty/property/security is probably most quickly assassinated by democratic mob rule

    That certainly wasn’t the case in the 20th century.

    and that was part of the reason the founders kept the electoral college…

    Thoreau already eviscerated this silliness.

    senate

    The idea that state government appointment was any less politicized or corrupt than a direct vote is just silly.

    supreme court

    The SCOTUS remains an unelected body. Indeed, it is one of the least anti-democratic bodies in our federalist system.

    constitution

    The Constitution remains as distant as it ever was. The means to change are the same as they were when the Bill of Rights came into being.

    the end of fiscal discipline and the rise of both the imperial presidency and the police state are a direct consequence of that change in character, i think.

    Well, the country has always been rather see-saw like when it comes to “fiscal discipline” – after all, public debate was a major issue during the Early Republic. As far as the “imperial Presidency” is concerned, that started with Washington – after all, he was the first President to declare that he had unenumerated, inherent powers, etc. We’ve always had some aspect of the police state going – be it the Alien and Sedition Acts, the southern states forbidding the publication and distribution of abolitionist literature, etc. In many, many ways were are more free today than we ever have been.

  52. “you put the people in charge because you believe the people are good and right.”

    No, I don’t make any claims of the superior morality and wisdom of the People. You, on the other hand, claim quite openly that The Better Sort (that is, wealthier people) deserve greater political rights than their fellow citizens, because they will make wiser and more decent decisions. If you look at K Street, you will notice that the people who own most of the wealth in this country are far from adverse to voting themselves benefits from the treasury.

    The purpose of making suffrage as broad as possible, is to ensure that no one interest or faction can dominate the government. The People are not such an interest, but an evershifting collection of opposing interests.

  53. joe,

    Its interesting to note that those states which resisted universal male suffrage in the early republic were slave holding states like South Carolina.

  54. gary, you’ve virtually ended my interest in this board singlehandedly.

  55. Gary-

    I’ve read Federalist No. 68 before, and it is funny to realize just how much the EC has fallen short of the original design. Procedurally it of course functions as intended (with modifications by the 12th amendment), in that it meets when designated and votes as designated. But it has zero deliberative character.

    Particularly funny is this passage:
    It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes.

    Of course, since the electors are proxies rather than decision-makers we still have what amounts to an election for President, only with the votes counted by state. (Which may be a great thing or an awful thing, depending on one’s perspective, but it clearly isn’t a procedure that chooses a deliberative body.)

    I think this is one area where we could stand to learn a lesson from the Swiss, whose system of government I admire.

  56. gaius marius,

    Because you are a clueless twit who makes claims about the historical record and the thoughts of philosophers that simply don’t hold water. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t talk about issues you know nothing about.

    BTW, anyone with the barest knowledge of the English colonies or the early republic wouldn’t make the moronic 5% claim that you did. First, most of the colonies in the 17th century had white male suffrage which reached above 50% because land ownership was so ubiquitous and land ownership amongst white males was no less ubiquitous – you clueless fucktard – in the 1760s, 1770s or 1780s.

  57. GG,

    That was unnecessarily pissy.

  58. thoreau,

    I’m impressed. Most folks have little familiarity with the Federalist Papers. They are more limited in their applicability than is generally acknowledged (partly because they did not receive wide publication outside of New York), but they are a good way to approach the theoretical and practical aspects of the Constitution.

  59. joe,

    I don’t believe so.

  60. claim quite openly that The Better Sort (that is, wealthier people) deserve greater political rights than their fellow citizens, because they will make wiser and more decent decisions. If you look at K Street, you will notice that the people who own most of the wealth in this country are far from adverse to voting themselves benefits from the treasury.

    i agree. any aristocracy would tend to run the government for its own benefit — such is the example of history — which is why i feel its best to construct systemic checks against their power. but i do think that aristocracies tend to be less passionate, better informed and more interested in maintaining the status quo against change than the people — and so have an important role to play in divided government. this is a role i think they’ve been all but eliminated from in the west.

    The People are not such an interest, but an evershifting collection of opposing interests.

    i think we idealize them too much. they’re frequently rendered pliable by fear, propaganda or some other common passion, i would argue. i’m far from the first to point out this weaknesses of crowds — le bon, mackay and much of behavioral science stands as an indictment against the intelligence of the people. one can also read a plethora of examples in the greek city-states and the roman republic who abetted their own enslavement. i don’t see any reason to presume that we are different.

  61. That was unnecessarily pissy.

    this is the thing with gg — it’s not that i disagree, or that i don’t think he’s anything to add. i happen to find his point on early american suffrage informative.

    but who could care to engage a person who’s so plainly vile? what does it matter if he knows something? he behaves in the least civilized manner possible and then tells you that it’s your fault you’ve been the subject of such unnecessary abuse. there’s nothing gg knows that is worth enduring such ill-mannered petulance to discover.

    i know that the internet is a showcase for the worst of human behavior. nonetheless, it’s all but snuffed my interest in commenting here.

  62. I, on the other hand, like reading GG’s comments. There’s nothing so entertaining as a guy who rails against adhominem attacks one day, and then includes “you clueless fucktard” the next day.

    Of course people are rarely consistent, but GG does a good job of being consistently hostile. It’s entertaining, even when it’s aimed at me, just to watch the rational struggle with the irrational that flows from GG’s keyboard.

  63. I also cling to the elitist belieft that the carrying capacity of a bridge’s suspension system shouldn’t be settled by referendum. Bad, bad joe.

  64. it can be funny, but is it what anyone is here for? perhaps. to me, seizing on an unsubstantiated percentage (and i could try to defend a casually uttered number i didn’t mean literally — but why?) to call people names (and what names! — i had to go into my high school yearbook to find the last reference to “fucktard”) is characteristic of someone who cares less for dialogue and understanding than quelling personal insecurity.

    i don’t see the point of being part of that, whether its funny or not, whether its pointed at me or joe or you or whomever.

  65. The purpose of allowing citizens to vote is to have a system of government that recognizes that governments are established among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed. Which is to say, that recognizes that citizens in a democratic republic have the right to have a say in their government.

    Who the hell are you people, that you’re so convinced of your superiority to those around you, and of your divine right to have authority denied to them?

    I’d agree with, and even cheer, most of what Joe’s posted on this thread, except doing so would prove my love of bloodless ideology and taint me with LP sympathies…

  66. gary, you’ve virtually ended my interest in this board singlehandedly

    And three posts by him later, we know at least that Marius does mean “vitually”.

  67. virtually…

  68. Um, no, I argue that the public has the right to have a say over land use, and you argue that they don’t – that the authority to decide what gets built should be in the hands of the economic elite, without interference from the rabble.

    It’s fascinating that letting “the public…have a say” on the actions of “the economic elite” means things like letting cities take someone’s property with some nominal compensation so as to give it to people or companies with more money.

    It’s really just fascinating how often “the public” and its right to be involved is brought up as a rhetorical device to justify giving government officials (sometimes even unelected ones) powers that will be used as quietly as possible.

  69. gaius marius,

    I have a low level of tolerance for the ignorant. If that’s a character flaw, well I’d say that is a character flaw I wholeheartedly embrace. 🙂

    rob,

    I, on the other hand, like reading GG’s comments. There’s nothing so entertaining as a guy who rails against adhominem attacks one day, and then includes “you clueless fucktard” the next day.

    There is a difference between the former and the latter. In this instance, gaius marius clearly is a “clueless fucktard,” whereas the former generally eschews such substantiation. 🙂

    Of course people are rarely consistent, but GG does a good job of being consistently hostile.

    I’m a very friendly person. 🙂

    It’s entertaining, even when it’s aimed at me, just to watch the rational struggle with the irrational that flows from GG’s keyboard.

    Well, we all struggle with that.

    Eric the .5b,

    *lol*

  70. Gary-

    I haven’t read every article in the Federalist Papers, but I’ve read some of them. I agree that they aren’t exactly a user’s manual for our government, but they do have some good insights at times. And perhaps even more useful than their insights are their mistaken predictions about how the government would function. It’s a lesson to anybody who thinks he can design institutions with foresight.

  71. Eric, I certainly do not support the government making planning decisions “as quietly as possible.” There is nothing about belief in activist government that suggests belief in unaccountable or non-transparent government.

    And for all you sniping, you still can’t get around the fact that I, the horrible elitist, am the only one on the board who argues for the public’s right to have a greater say in actions that effect their homes and neighborhoods, and you argue they should sit down, shut up, and let their betters decide what the neighborhood is going to be.

  72. Yes, joe, you are bad. Unfortunately it’s not in a “bad is good” James Dean kinda way.

    Then again, maybe I was just overly influenced by Douglas Adams opening to Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, in which Arthur Dent’s home is being knocked down to ensure that, as joe puts it, the “public’s right to have a greater say in actions that effect their homes and neighborhoods” leads to bulldozers in front of Arthur’s home.

    Mr Prosser said “You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time you know.”
    “Appropriate time?” hooted Arthur. “Appropriate time? The first I knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I asked him if he’d come to clean the windows and he said no he’d come to demolish the house. He didn’t tell me straight away of course. Oh no. First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me
    a fiver. Then he told me.”
    “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine month.”
    “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually
    telling anybody or anything.”
    “But the plans were on display …”
    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
    “That’s the display department.”
    “With a torch.”
    “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
    “So had the stairs.”
    “But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”
    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.”
    A cloud passed overhead. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent as he lay propped up on his elbow in the cold mud. It cast a shadow over Arthur Dent’s house. Mr Prosser frowned at it.
    “It’s not as if it’s a particularly nice house,” he said.
    “I’m sorry, but I happen to like it.”
    “You’ll like the bypass.”
    “Oh shut up,” said Arthur Dent. “Shut up and go away, and take your bloody bypass with you. You haven’t got a leg to stand on and you know it.”

    Maybe I’m an evil elitist who is only looking out for those with the ability to buy land and build a house on it, but I find myself on Arthur’s side, rather than joe’s on this subject.

    For that matter, I wonder if joe is really as similar to Mr. Prosser as he sometimes sounds. Tell me, joe, do have you a prediliction for little fur hats?

  73. I also cling to the elitist belieft that the carrying capacity of a bridge’s suspension system shouldn’t be settled by referendum. Bad, bad joe. – joe

    I heartily agree, joe. After all, if a bridge company didn’t follow the standards set down by the most eminent organizations of civil engineers, how would they ever raise the funds to build the bridge, or get an insurer to cover their enterprise? That’d be like trying to sell electrical appliances without a UL seal!

    Kevin

  74. Kevrob: LMAO!

    Of course, now that I’ve posted a big chunk of THHGTG, Peter Bagge puts out a cartoon that illustrates my point:

    https://www.reason.com/0503/bagge3.shtml

    (In just 3 panels, no less!)

  75. And for all you sniping, you still can’t get around the fact that I, the horrible elitist, am the only one on the board who argues for the public’s right to have a greater say in actions that effect their homes and neighborhoods, and you argue they should sit down, shut up, and let their betters decide what the neighborhood is going to be.

    Well, considering all the passion you muster to argue that anyone in the public who would object to the practice of kicking people off their property for a more upscale commercial development is a crazy property-rights fanatic, you’ll have to forgive me for not taking that on faith.

    And, as always, I love the citation of our terrifying “betters” as the justification for government power that mostly ends up used on the little guy.

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