Thursday, December 4, 2008

Well-Meaning Leftist of the Week

This Week: Heather Smith, Executive Director, Rock the Vote

Rock the Vote, like a number of other "get out the vote" non-profits, is a grassroots political action group whose existence is premised on the assumption that higher voter turnout in an election is always better than lower voter turnout. For a catalogue of their "efforts," this last go-around, see here. Adherents of all political ideologies in America have somehow got the cool idea that "every vote counts," or that it's just really important to "participate in democracy."

Now, I'm not saying People of the Right should advocate disenfranchising anyone (not sure that would go so well); but I am saying that the shallow, easily-marketable idea that every single person should vote, and should even be morally compelled to vote is one of the near-sighted leftist misunderstandings that this column is all about. As Aristotle said all those years ago, one of the problems with a democracy is that the votes are counted, not weighed as they should be. Experience, knowledge, character, and wisdom play no role. To cast a vote, the only requirement is a certain biological age. In democracies, as Alfred Focke says, "defenseless illiterates are dragged to the voting urns."

All people's judgments are not equal. When we look for a doctor, we understand this fact of inequality, for some reason. Why would we think it's an unqualified better thing when just a whole bunch of uninformed people have their say in what our government looks like? Yay for the bandwagon!


  1. "I am saying that the shallow, easily-marketable idea that every single person should vote, and should even be morally compelled to vote is one of the near-sighted leftist misunderstandings that this column is all about."

    True. Why do we not feel morally compelled to become informed about what's going on rather than just obligated to help the nation make decisions regardless of whether we actually know what decisions need to be made in the first place? It just doesn't make sense to enter a voting booth and consider pulling a lever as fulfilling a moral obligation when you haven't have any clue as to the impact of your actions.

  2. You should do it because Leonardo Dicaprio said so

  3. The unfortunate thing is, that especially among young people, the notion that merely pulling a lever is enough to perform one's civic duty is not going away. Rock the Vote isn't going to shut down and certainly any sort of minimum proficiency requirement would never see the light of day.

    Also, as NTOA pointed out in the discussion following "Why is he on the dollar bill again?", we cannot force anyone to become informed.

    The best we can do is strive to put the information out there, and make the best case we can. That is why we started C4tR in the first place.

  4. There should be a minimum IQ to vote. Not that that would solve all the problems, b/c you can have a high IQ and be uniformed, but it would definitely weed out a number of people who definitely do not belong in the voting booth deciding our country's future!!!

  5. I don't know that IQ is necessarily the answer. As you said, IQ != informed. Similarly, you can have a lower IQ and still work hard to understand issues.

    I always figured a basic knowledge of civics would be a reasonable requirement - do they still teach that in high school?

  6. I was being a bit sarcastic with the IQ comment. But it would probably be a good idea as a requirement to register to vote, people would need to pass a simple civics test. After all, people that immigrate to America and desire to become citizens must pass a test on the history of America and basic government functions, etc. So it seems reasonable that if someone would like to vote, they should get a booklet not unlike the driver's manual and study and take a test in order to receive a voter registration card. It shouldn't be too much to ask that voters have a basic understanding of civics like you said. Even dumb people have a driver's license, so, they should be able to pass a simple voting registration test. Nothing too complex, but on the level of the drivers test. 20-30 questions tops.

  7. I find this blog typical of many conservative blogs. Many of you seem to define yourselves by what your against. Most of the commentary on here is criticizing progressives. Rather than criticizing progressives most of the time you could try coming up with your own Ideas. Its easy to criticize others but its a lot harder to come up with ideas of your own that work.

  8. Readers: the previous post is a great example of the dismissal-by-generalization technique. All you have to do is fit your opponent into one of your prefabricated categories for organizing different sorts of people, and then you don't have to address anything they say. It's easy to do, and great fun too. I'd encourage you all to try it some time.

    Anonymous, in all seriousness, (1) I'd be interested to know how you define progressivism. Just reasoning from the column you responded to, I can only assume you're defining Heather Smith as a progressive? Your burden of proof would then be to show that [higher voter turnout] + [poor information] = "progressive." Or you could contest the claim that voters are largely uninformed. Either one would work, really.

    (2) The "Well-Meaning Leftist of the Week" column is intended as a light critique. I guess I could build a positive philosophy from the critique. I don't know...monarchy is better than pure democracy? Frankly, I'm not sure there's a decisive answer to the fact that people are usually too stupid to "govern themselves," but as John responded, we can always try to inform them.

    (3) Have you honestly tried to read any of the myriad posts on this blog? Check out, for starters, John's most recent posts explaining the free market. I believe the philosophies undergirding a free society are positive philosophies, not just critiques of other philosophies. Oh, and I'm no mathematician, but to make the claim that "most of the commentary on here" is only negative, I think you'd have to read all of it. Have fun.

  9. I define being progressive as someone who wants a more perfect Union. As the constitution speaks about. Not stagnation. Just as I wouldn’t want to drive a car that is a hundred years old. I wouldn’t want the same government that was around then. I don’t think anyone here would be for things like segregation.

    How about this: a lot of what I see on here criticizes others. If “progressive” blogs do that all the time they aren’t very worthwhile either. I’m all for good ideas.

  10. Oh. Cool. We're all progressives!

    Just a little clarification: it's important to keep in mind that all good ideas carry inherent within them rejections of other ideas--unless everybody is right. The original "progressives" were some of the more critical people of their day. How else would progress occur?

  11. In politics its good to find common ground that way you can actually get things one. I’m glad you agree that you are a progressive too. You, Hillary Clinton, many others and me.

    I’m not saying you should not criticize others; what I am saying is that if you criticize someone you might want to have a good idea to replace the one you think is so bad.

  12. Anon - the way I look at it, or every right right direction, there are an infinitude of wrong directions. For every good idea, there are a multitude of poor ideas - many of which sound good on the surface.

    Pointing out the flaws of the poor ideas is at least of equal importance as proposing new ideas - and since many poor ideas look good at first glance, it is likely more important.

    While promoting ideas that will better our society are certainly noble, warning of dangers lurking beneath the surface of well-meaning, but misguided policies is critical.

    That said, here are two posts illustrating the benefits of free market economic policies. We also favor our readers education here and here - note Joe even included a book by Karl Marx. We also believe that traditional moral values and faith in God are beneficial to our nation - and are part of what permitted it to become great in the first place.