In Brief: Why Not Fewer Voters?
Kevin Williamson ponders the unthinkable: Is having more voters necessarily good?
It is an a priori assumption for most Americans that having the most Americans vote is a good thing. But we’ve had a fair bit to say about the woeful under-education of the citizenry in the civics department, and National Review’s Kevin Williamson shares those concerns.
Much of the discussion about proposed changes to voting laws backed by many Republicans and generally opposed by Democrats begs the question and simply asserts that having more people vote is, ceteris paribus, a good thing.
Why should we believe that?
Why shouldn’t we believe the opposite? That the republic would be better served by having fewer — but better — voters?
Many Americans, being devout egalitarians, recoil from the very notion of better voters as a matter of rhetoric, even as they accept qualifications as a matter of fact.
Those qualifications by necessity exclude some people, even though, as Williamson says, that person “might make a good voter, or a better voter than someone who is eligible.”
I’m not convinced that having more voters is a good thing in any case, but, even if I were, that would not be the only good, but only one good competing with other goods, one of which is seeing to it that the eligibility rules on the books are enforced so that elections may be honestly and credibly regulated.
Compare it to other things, he says:
There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine. The fact that we believe unqualified doctors to be a public menace but act as though unqualified voters were just stars in the splendid constellation of democracy indicates how little real esteem we actually have for the vote, in spite of our public pieties.
And then he gets to the civic ignorance and group-thinking of many Americans:
One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing … if you haven’t met the average American voter.
With our public education in its current state, and politicians exchanging favors for votes, is it any wonder we find ourselves in such a predicament?
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