Universal Suffrage – Alternatives

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.

Universal Suffrage Was A Mistake

Part one of a two part series questioning universal suffrage.

The concept and application of universal suffrage, one person one vote, is actually a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. In this post I will be explaining why I believe universal suffrage has been a factor in the decline of “Western” civilization. I will be referring specifically to the experience of the UK, but I believe the trends are in fact common to most “Western” countries, which have followed a similar course.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SOCIALISM IN THE UK

With the ‘Representation of the People Act 1918’ all men over 21 in the UK gained the vote (previously voting had been restricted by property ownership constraints). This was followed by the ‘Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928’ when all women over 21 also gained the vote. This paved the way for socialism to gain the upper hand in UK politics. After the Second World War, politics swung heavily to the left with the election of a very socialist Labour government under Clement Attlee.

This government introduced the National Health Service and the Welfare State. A large scheme of council housing began, over a million new homes were built by the government. A huge program of nationalization of industries took place including the railways, telephony, coal mining and steel production to name just a few. There’s no question that in the beginning the living and working conditions of large numbers of people had been improved rapidly. Quite how quickly the free market would have produced the same improvements we’ll never know.

By the 1970s however things were not going so well. High inflation led the government to cap public sector pay increases and trade unions reacted by going on strike. Coal production fell and electricity consumption had to be rationed, leading to a 3 day working week for a time. A Labour government was elected and wages were increased again to placate the unions. However soon even the Labour government could not keep the trade unions happy and there were widespread strikes during the “Winter of Discontent” (1978-1979). Finally the Conservatives were elected under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, and politics swung heavily to the right, and a large program of denationalization began. Even the Labour government elected later in 1997 was quite right wing in comparison with the Attlee era.

MASS IMMIGRATION AS A FORM OF GERRYMANDERING

Since the 1950s, the UK has experienced fairly high levels of immigration. However, this greatly increased from the “New Labour” period onward (1997 – present). At least in part this was due to a deliberate policy by that left wing government. A secret memo later came to light that that government was deliberately “rubbing the Right’s nose in diversity” by allowing in huge numbers of people from poor countries. Of course, these poor immigrants were expected to become Labour voters, as they would be on low wages and benefit from the more generous state handouts promised by Labour, as well as free education and health care. Thus this immigration policy can be seen as a hugely irresponsible form of gerrymandering by the left – altering the population to increase the left’s vote in the future. Quite how much these immigrants have contributed to the economy is disputed. Of course many are hard working but there is a tendency of the children of immigrants to not be so hard working and many end up on benefits.

A Conservative government was elected in coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, partly thanks to their promise to vastly reduce the rate of immigration, which was causing disquiet among the general population. They have completely failed to deliver this, net migration has continued at very high levels. This situation is in part due to the UK’s membership of the EU, which is heavily dominated by left wing ideals and is also committed to free movement of people.

THE PRESENT DAY

In the present day many UK voters were born and lived in an era of prosperity and they have no recollection of the most problematic days of socialist governments. Many new arrivals from foreign countries near and far are also quite ignorant of this history. Extreme left-wing ideas are once more on the rise and the Labour party have a new leader called Jeremy Corbyn who is ready to promise the earth to gullible voters who believe that money grows on trees. He has quite literally suggested that a government under his leadership would print money and give it to poor people.

Despite the fact that relatively right wing politicians have been in power since 1979, many of the left wing changes brought about by Attlee’s government remain. The welfare state and the free health care service are still intact.  Most children receive free education.  Students in higher education receive generous loans which often are never repaid. Some welfare reform has been achieved, but very large numbers of people are still dependent on handouts from the state. In addition, increasing life spans have increased the numbers of people living on state pensions. The state is struggling under a huge national debt burden, something like £1.5 trillion. A lot of taxpayers’ money is simply servicing this debt.

All these burdens are being carried by the less than half of the population who are taxpayers. There are only 29.3 million taxpayers out of an official population of 63 million (2011 census). The actual population of the UK may be considerably higher due to illegal immigration. Furthermore, of those taxpayers quite a substantial number are public sector workers. Of course these people provide some value in services, but their wages are paid for by the state through the taxes of those working in the private sector, so in a sense the taxes they pay are merely token. Thus, substantially less than 29.3 million people, maybe as little as 30% of the population, are supporting all the rest to varying degrees (19% of the workforce are employed by the public sector but not all of these will be taxpayers).

The left are also now pushing for another form of gerrymandering, through the further lowering of the voting age to 16 years. Of course, younger people are more likely to be left wing, as they have less experience of the realities of life.

SUMMARY

Allowing those who only take from the state to vote is a little bit akin to parents giving their children an equal say in how their household finances should be run, clearly a recipe for disaster.  The introduction of universal suffrage has led to the election of left wing governments in the UK whose policies have been based on promises of unrealistic state largess. Even the current “Conservative” government is in fact quite left wing in many ways, in part because they know that they simply could not get elected on a more right wing manifesto.

Furthermore, the left’s hold on politics has deliberately been strengthened by mass immigration and they are trying to strengthen it further by lowering the voting age. It has also been strengthened, crucially, by the sheer numbers of people now dependent on the state financially. Large numbers of immigrants arriving in the country have also increased the vote for the left because the left favours more immigration, and immigrants want to be able to bring more of their relatives and people from their culture here to join them.

Reducing any of these unrealistic expectations is extremely difficult politically because all those dependents of the state have a vote. A return to property ownership based voting rights would not be a fair option, because many hard working people who pay taxes also rent their homes and own no property. In the next post I will examine other possible alternatives.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_immigration_to_the_United_Kingdom

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/pse/public-sector-employment/q2-2013/sty-public-section-employment.html

http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/pressarticle/83

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6418456/Labour-wanted-mass-immigration-to-make-UK-more-multicultural-says-former-adviser.html