Part two of a two part series questioning universal suffrage.
First part: Universal Suffrage Was A Mistake
The rights of prisoners to vote has become something of a first battleground over suffrage in recent years. Of course the left tend to be more lenient towards prisoners, so they are more likely to vote left. There is no doubt at all in my mind that people who have been convicted of crimes, and are now having to be housed at huge cost to the taxpayer, should NOT have the right to vote.
Beyond that I have found the question of exactly who should have the right to vote quite a difficult one. Of course the concept of universal suffrage is a very simple one, one person one vote, any alternatives are likely to be more complicated. However I think there is a very good argument to be made that anybody that is not working and is dependent on the state financially should not have the right to vote. Thus those on any kind of welfare benefits but also those on state pensions and students in receipt of grants as well would also lose the vote.
Some people would go further and say only taxpayers should have the right to vote. Why should those who are not paying any tax have a say in how that tax is spent? A problem with limiting the vote to only taxpayers is that governments don’t just spend taxes, they also pass laws. Everyone is affected by the law, regardless of whether they pay tax, it might lead to unjust laws. Such a restriction would mean housewives without their own income would lose the vote. Such a restriction would also exclude pensioners who had worked hard throughout their lives, and responsibly saved to provide for themselves in their retirement. These people are often the wisest members of society, their wisdom earned from a lifetime of experience. For these reasons I don’t think that the right to vote should be limited only to taxpayers.
Some people would go further still and say only taxpayers should have the vote AND they should get a proportion of the vote in line with the AMOUNT of tax they pay. Why should someone who pays only £1 tax have the same voting rights as someone who pays £1 million? However, in addition to the objections I raised in the last paragraph to the general idea of taxpayer only voting rights, there is also the problem that rich people are not necessarily the wisest. George Soros is a very rich man, as are Leonardo di Caprio and Paris Hilton. I think that giving the rich a disproportionately high share of the vote would be likely to narrow the electorate too much.
Some people would say that public sector workers should also be excluded. This is a tempting proposition, because public sector workers often vote left, generally they are more in favour of state power. They are likely to vote for a government that will give them more pay and shorter working hours. However for similar reasons to the above I think this would be a step too far, it would narrow the electorate too much. Public sector workers such as the police, fire service, armed forces also risk their lives for the public good, it would hardly be right to exclude them.
An objection to all these restrictions on universal suffrage might be that in time of war, every able bodied man of a certain age, would be required to fight in defence of his country. No doubt the sacrifices of so many men in World War I was a contributory factor in the granting of universal suffrage in the first place. However, after nearly a century of universal suffrage, I think the drawbacks have become too obvious and there is now a real risk that the left will actually destroy “Western” civilization if they are simply allowed to continue. There are simply now too many people dependent on state largess.
Another restriction I have heard mooted is that there should be some sort of literary/knowledge of public affairs based test for voters. However I see this as impractical as it would be easy for the answers to the questions to be widely distributed.
In summary then I think the right to vote should be taken away from prisoners, those dependent on welfare and state pensions, and students who are dependent on government loans. Possibly the latter might be excluded simply by raising the age of suffrage back to 21. The vast majority of those under 21 years of age have either contributed little or nothing at all so far in taxes, so I think this would be fair.