You may have a right to vote, but no obligation, if you are an ignoramus

“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.”

Mindich commented:

“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.

7 comments on “You may have a right to vote, but no obligation, if you are an ignoramus

  1. Steve says:

    Is piecemeal socialism. Right now and for quite some time it has become piecemeal socialism. It is working on becoming full blown socialism, make no mistake, the dumbing of the generations is taking hold as we watch.

  2. Proof positive, Steve:

  3. Chelsea says:

    Mitchell, I respect and concur with many of the issues you’ve brought up here. However, as a tongue-studded high school student, I am sick and tired of the incessant indignities our generation is subjected to. We are not all these entitled, apathetic mounds of flesh previous generations make us out to be. Some of us are TRYING to educate ourselves, but it’s hard not to throw in the cards and avoid politics altogether when we are constantly being told how unintellectual and materialist our generation is. When will people stop blaming the generation after them for the inevitable, societal changes that aren’t even a consequence of that generation’s actions? We were RAISED in the the Y Generation, we didn’t raise it.

    Now, I’ve recently read the novel Brave New World (go ahead, have a good chuckle) and, if I recall correctly, the World State’s primary means of achieving socialism was by conditioning the young, by telling all the youngsters who they were, what they wanted, and how they behaved. To me, what the past generations are doing is just that. Go ahead, talk about the media and blah blah blah. But, if we are being told from very early on that we are nothing but hedonistic, unintellectual, ignorant, glazed-eyed philistines, don’t you think we will turn out to be JUST that?

    Please, for your own sake and for our sake, stop defining us. You’re killing our spirits, our potential, and only bringing us one step closer to completely succumbing to your accusations.

  4. There are exceptions to the rule, but there is still the rule. And, yes, public education is largely responsible for a high ratio of apathetic dolts. Don’t whine about being labeled. Change it.


  5. […] I don’t recall when the R-J began offering its common sense advice, but I offered it back in 2004 in a newspaper column and again earlier this year in this blog. […]

  6. […] always thought we should have taken that opportunity to add: “or any self-imposed ignoramus, as determined by a poll […]

  7. […] always thought we should have taken that opportunity to add: “or any self-imposed ignoramus, as determined by a poll […]

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