“I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 1820
I’ve been saying it for years, usually to gasps of disbelief and disdain: Don’t vote.
Don’t vote just because you can. If you are not informed about the issues and candidates on the ballot, stay home. Don’t go cancel my informed vote with your ignorant one. That’s how we got Barry and Harry in the first place.
The Right to Vote is not universal. The Nevada Constitution sets out certain residency (six months in the state) and age (18) requirements. It states that those “convicted of treason or felony” and — until some politically correct lawmaker changed the language — any “idiot or insane person” may not vote.
I can’t help but wonder sometimes whether we should add a category for self-made ignoramuses. We can’t have a poll tax, but perhaps a poll test?
Do we really want those tongue-studded, glazed-eyed, MTV watchers who can’t pass the high school proficiency test to cancel out our reasoned and informed ballots?
New citizens have to take a civics test. Why should the mere fact that a native-born person has inexplicably managed to survive for 18 years qualify that person to have the power to alter the political makeup of our state and country? Before being allowed to vote in Nevada, why shouldn’t a person be required to, say, name the current governor, name one of our two U.S. senators, identify three of the five prohibitions in the First Amendment, find Iraq on a map and explain what the motto “Battle Born” means?
Now John Stossel seems to agree, and cites some rather well-informed sources to back up our contention.
Stossel quotes Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.” Stossel writes:
“Caplan has a radical proposal for citizens: Be honest. If you know nothing about a subject, don’t have an opinion about it. ‘And don’t reward or penalize candidates for their position on an issue you don’t understand.’
“Political life differs from private life. If you vote for a candidate while ignorant about issues, you’ll pay no more than a tiny fraction of the price of your ignorance. Not so in your private affairs. If you’re dumb when you buy a car, you get stuck with a bad car. You get punished right away.
‘And you may look back and say, “I’m not going to do that again.” … It’s not so much that voters are dumb. Even smart people act dumb when they vote. I know an engineer who is very clever. … But his views on economics (are) ridiculous.’
“It’s not what people don’t know that gets them into trouble. It’s what they know that isn’t so.”
A couple of years ago David T.Z. Mindich, a journalism professor at St. Michael’s College in Vermont and a former editor for CNN, wrote a book titled “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.”
“It is not hyperbole to say that if a citizenry unilaterally abandons political knowledge, it relinquishes power as well. It has been said that America is a system ‘designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.’ But this is not entirely true. The Constitution does provide checks against our greatest mistakes of the moment. And elections do provide a quick check against the government’s neglect of the people. But nothing in our Constitution protects us against the long-term ravages of neglect by the people themselves.”
Stossel predicts that if Americans keep voting for politicians who pass more laws and spend more money, the result will be piecemeal socialism.