Our very own Katherine Mangu-Ward has argued, persuasively I believe, that voting is an essentially pointless activity. She also addressed the rather banal arguments raised by documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris, in favor of voting, which even he doesn't seem to find very convincing. Yet, many of us continue in this pointless activity, myself (intermittently) included, even though we agree with my esteemed colleague that we're wasting our time. You know why? Because we're not allowed to unload our votes, or even our entire right to vote, on the deluded clods who actually value the things.
Hey, I'm not the only one thinking along these lines. George Washington knew enough to offer voters a hell of a party in return for their support. Says the Smithsonian:
Even the father of our country, George Washington, was known to bribe the electorate with booze. In his recent book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent writes: "When twenty-four-year-old George Washington first ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he attributed his defeat to his failure to provide enough alcohol for the voters. When he tried again two years later, Washington floated into office partly on the 144 gallons of rum, punch, hard cider and beer his election agent handed out—roughly half a gallon for every vote he received."
I think we're on to something here. It's not like Americans have changed much, despite all the goo-goo hectoring. A few years ago, Politico inspired cries of outrage by detailing how a poll of New York University students revealed their willingness to trade votes for tution payments or electronic goodies.
Two-thirds say they'll do it for a year's tuition. And for a few, even an iPod touch will do.
That's what NYU students said they'd take in exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found.
Only 20 percent said they'd exchange their vote for an iPod touch.
But 66 percent said they'd forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they'd give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.
Personally, I think a million bucks way overvalues the right to vote. But, you know, a thing is worth whatever somebody else is willing to pay, and who knows …
Of course, buying and selling votes is illegal everywhere in the United States, although modern mail-in ballots at least make it do-able, if you're willing to do the exchange under the table. Hand over a little money or Washingtonian grog in return for the ballot, and a win-win deal has been closed. Selling an overall right to vote is a lot more challenging — impossible to enforce under our present system, so far as I can tell.
But why should it be? All the exercise-your-franchise nagging demonstrates only that some people value voting a lot more than do others. If it's so damned important to them, why shouldn't we give them a chance to put their money where their civil religion is and buy votes from those who'd rather sleep in on Election Day?
How's this: With the caveat that I'll feel no more bound by the results of elections than I do now, and assuming that we can reform the system to make such a mutually beneficial transaction possible, I'll open bidding for my right to vote at $100,000. Any takers?