Who should have suffrage?


Tom Paine puts two ideas. one flowing from the other:

Each time the government takes money, it wastes much of it in administration costs. Public sector workers should pay no tax, because that “payment” is a costly myth. They should also not vote, because they have a clear conflict of interest with taxpayers.

The tortured logic of the original post [which said that public sector workers are still humans who would swell the dole queues if thrown out – JH] is the reason why it’s so dangerous that the state’s dependents – i.e. public sector workers and the otherwise economically inactive now hold the balance of electoral power.

It’s wrong for people to be able to gang up (under the banner of “democracy”) on a productive minority in order to take their money from them by force. And a very simple economic point that the Treasury does not “lose” the taxes of public sector workers who become unemployed, because it had to give them the money to pay those taxes in the first place.

William Gruff takes issue with this:

It is … unreasonable to advocate the disenfranchisement of public sector workers merely because their perception of their interests may conflict with those of net tax payers.

I do think that we need to rethink the concept of universal suffrage but we need to be wary of arguments that advocate disenfranchising groups merely because their interests may not be ours.

The issue of public and private sector was looked at in that post but I’d like to look now at suffrage itself.  Longrider writes:

Ultimately, democracy is merely another form of tyranny. If it is direct democracy, it is the tyranny of the majority. If it is, as we have, a representative democracy, it eventually deteriorates to a tyranny by a political class. As a system it is deeply flawed.

… to which I replied:

As always, it’s the abuse of the alternatives which is the problem.

… and Dick Puddlecote mentions:

Requiring individual registration to vote would help. Not just on a list, but actively interested enough to register for the each election.

… something I thought we already did, which comes back to a post here from some time back on rule by Votemeter, a relatively simple way to go about it.  The idea is direct democracy via a little black box you need to purchase – something to show your seriousness – plus a short test on knowledge of English history [and yes it is perfectly possible to make a simple, non-controversial history on facts and dates, at about Year 8 level].

Then we don’t need politicians any more but a rump of admin services to collate results or at least to oversee the computer which sorts it out.  Any citizen can introduce a Bill, all the relevant literature is available to read and so on.

People took issue with the qualification to vote, i.e. they considered that any in the land – ASBOs, idiots, anyone, has the right to vote and need know nothing about what they’re voting for.  Others took issue with the ordinary sheeple running the show.  After all, they said, government should be in the hands of the professionals, e.g. the politicians.

Personally, I believe in meritocracy, from within the ranks of the taxpaying citizens of the country, via the Votemeter.

Under the Votemeter scheme, people with a minimum qualification [to get the black box] decide national matters, on the advice of any experts who input data and opinion into the discussion panel.  Only skeleton issues are still decided nationally, e.g. defence and most are decided locally.  Any taxpaying citizen of the country can go for the certificate.

Tom’s scheme was that only true taxpayers, rather than any public sector dependents, have the vote.  My mate says no, any citizen should be allowed to vote but not immigrants [or the EU].  I ask Tom what about English born who are domiciled oversees and vote by remote control?

Your view?

18 comments for “Who should have suffrage?

  1. October 20, 2010 at 07:42

    Is that the same Tom Paine who was involved in the American Revolution, who recommended that all land be taxed and the proceeds dished out as a Citizen’s Dividend, or some blogger who just calls himself that?

    PS, the ‘political class’ only get away with it because people are so stupid as to believe them e.g. people firmly believe that the Tories are EU-sceptic and so ‘a UKIP vote is a wasted vote’. The irony is that the Tories are even more EU-phile than Labour, in practice.

    This country is a democracy, it’s not Burma or somewhere, and democracy is not a tyranny, whatever anybody else says.

  2. fake
    October 20, 2010 at 09:34

    Firstly i would make the voting age Age +24 (I am 29, and i do remember what a complete ignorant plonker i was at 18ish).

    I would also make it so that you have to physically go pick up your voting papers (not to vote, just the paperwork), you should be prepared to make the effort, it should be something you have to make the effort to be allowed to do. The only exception being disabled, though i would still ban postal voting (to open to corruption, has already been abused, will continue to be abused, and i feel that a legitimate vote is more important than making voting easier for the disabled).

    This i would say is enough. Youll have to jump a few hoops to get your voting papers, but only in that youll have to physically collect them and maybe stand in a que. No testing on compentency should ever be introduced, as the obvoise point to make their is “who does the testing”.

    Personally i view the public sector as the service sector (hey, they do bang on about “protecting” vital public services).

    They are the providers of the services we vote for, I don’t really see any logic in the service providers voting for what services should be provided.

    +24 in age, not on the goverment payroll, and a willingness to jump a few hoops to get the vote is all I would ask for.

  3. JD
    October 20, 2010 at 10:30

    If the only ones to be enfranchised are the ‘productive minority’ working in the private sector, then who are they precisely?

    You will need to define who exactly is productive and who is not.

    Because you are in the private sector does not automatically make you a wealth producer, you could be a wealth administrator or a wealth distributor. Shopkeepers for example are distributors of the wealth created by others. Accountants and lawyers are administrators of the wealth created by others.

    Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

  4. October 20, 2010 at 11:08

    Of course suffrage should include all convicted prisoners. According to Hirst v UK (No2), the franchise may be removed for those, for example, who have engaged in electoral fraud. It also refers to maybe removing the vote for those who have abused their position in public office. This could mean, for example, those expenses fiddling MPs if they are convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

  5. October 20, 2010 at 11:24

    On age qualification – a uni student comes out, after five years, at 22, unless there was a gap year. A year in the workforce is necessary, so 24 sounds good or at a minimum, 23.

    This 23 crops up in the area of minimum age to dally with a female too. I’d like to see 23 as the age of majority in all things. I remember 21 and was still too raw to be of use in a political sense. 18 is a joke.

  6. fake
    October 20, 2010 at 12:16

    “If the only ones to be enfranchised are the ‘productive minority’ working in the private sector, then who are they precisely?”


    Sorry, i’ve only scanned the OP but who is asking for that?

    Myself i am only asking that voters are not on the goverment payroll, possibly people have said “taxpayers” and that’s been too literally taken to mean “producers”.

  7. Patrick Harris
    October 20, 2010 at 12:22

    Yesterday I popped in and out of the televised HoC debate concerning the referendum on electoral reform, it would seem that having the right to vote might be complicated by knowing how to use that vote.
    These are some of the points raised by different members of the House.
    Is “first past the post” an accurate description of the curent system?
    If a party has not got 50%+ at the first count it will only have to have 51% of 2nd preference votes to win, at least that’s the way I interpreted what was said, I could be wrong!.
    Any information, be it anti or pro the system, is to be promulgated by the electoral commission who will, apparently, act impartially (beg to differ there).
    Both sides of the argument the YES side and the NO side should get to veto any information put out by the electoral commission, if so, there’s possibly going to be a dearth of information upon which the public can use to make an informed decision.
    British citizenship should be a requisite qualifier to partake in/of GENERAL ELECTIONS. Why does this matter need to be addressed?
    16 should be the age limit for the referendum vote because it will affect those who will be 18 at the next GE.
    It’s rivetting stuff but headache inducing.

  8. MadPiper
    October 20, 2010 at 12:52

    I’m partial to Heinlein’s idea that citizenship and the right to vote is earned by completing military service. What costs us little is esteemed little. Self sacrifice tends to breed caution in the use of power.

  9. October 20, 2010 at 14:58

    No convict should be allowed to vote, nor should he hold any ‘human’ or citizen’s rights while in prison. Such rights should be reserved for those who do not prey upon their fellows. Those convicted of serious crimes should be denied all rights for a significant period after their release, in some cases this should be for the rest of their lives. Ideally murderers would be hanged but there have been too many cases of police fabricating evidence against the innocent to allow for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

    In permitting criminal filth to live amongst us as our equals we degrade both the society we live in and ourselves. The franchise should be stripped from convicted criminals.

  10. fake
    October 20, 2010 at 15:46

    So you believe that prisoners should be tied up and tourtured.

    I know, we can cut out their organs and sell them on the market, that would pay for the prison system as well.


  11. Patrick Harris
    October 20, 2010 at 16:50

    Fake, some people pay good money for that sort of treatment, so I’m told.

  12. james wilson
    October 20, 2010 at 18:51

    Tocqueville described our predicament exactly in a letter.

    “Universal suffrage is a detestable element of government, but it is a powerful revolutionary instrument . You are in danger of falling into the worst of tyrannies—that of a despot appointed and controlled, if controlled at all, by a mob.
    Universal suffrage is the least remediable of institutions. Those who consider universal suffrage as a guarantee of the excellence of the choice made are under a complete delusion. Universal suffrage has other advantages but not that one. ”

    In 1787, the most informed electorate in the history of democracy narrowly passed the Constitution of the United States into law.Less than one quarter of the population was eligible to vote. Now we are dealing with universal suffrage, and the employees of local, state, and national government are no less a problem in maintaining a republic than recipients of innumerable welfare programs. We have reached the point where we see why democracies do not end with a bang but with a whimper.

    A bang might bring improvement, but no one wishes to hope for that. Catch 22.

  13. October 20, 2010 at 19:27

    [Observing with interest]

  14. October 20, 2010 at 20:45

    Fake: Since this is Higham’s blog and not mine I will refrain from replying as robustly as I would and will constrain myself to stating what ought to be obvious to all but the most obtuse, which is that the denial of rights to an individual does not accord to others the right to mistreat him, though what constitutes mistreatment is subject to consensus. An embarrassingly simple analogy can be had from the example of the mosquito and the schoolboy. The mosquito has no rights, that I am aware of, but the immature schoolboy is not thereby entitled to pull its wings off and fry it with sunlight concentrated by magnifying lenses.

    Out of interest: Does your mother know that you have fantasies such as those?

    As an aside: I shouldn’t take up history were I you. A tendency to jump to conclusions on no evidence at all tends to result in ridicule, if not opprobrium.

  15. Patrick Harris
    October 20, 2010 at 21:02

    On the doorsteps of Meon Valley people said that they were using their vote to get Brown out not to get Cameron in.
    I see above that the American constitution was voted in at a time when only a quarter of the population were eligible to vote, Tony Blair came to power with 26% of the votes cast on the day of the ballot, look where that got us.
    I hear tales of electronic jiggery pokery during the last three US elections starting with the “hanging chads” in Florida moving on to the last election where people, declared ineligible, were turned away in amazement.
    Diebald a company that not only manufactured but programmed the election computers have been accused of some pretty sharp practices.
    Who can forget the fiasco at some polling stations in the UK that had insufficient ballot papers and closed up shop with voters still queueing.
    I think Universal suffrage is more about dismissing an errant Government than choosing it’s replacement.

  16. Patrick Harris
    October 20, 2010 at 21:08

    Sorry – It’s Diebold and here’s an example of the jiggery pokery to which I referred:

  17. fake
    October 21, 2010 at 14:43


    I think your idea of “rights” are not the same as mine.

  18. October 21, 2010 at 21:13

    Fake: I’ve seen no evidence of thinking from you.

Comments are closed.