Monday, August 9, 2010

Universal Suffrage vs Universal Liberty

When American politicians took the election of the President of the United States into their hands, they had no idea that this would be the result. No one then imagined that everyone should vote, or ever would vote. In all the States, voting was restricted.

Today, voting is an American superstition. Hardly anyone ever thinks about it. Americans take it for granted that every human being has a natural right to vote.

Of course this is not true. No one has a natural right to vote. Everyone is born with inalienable liberty, but nobody is born with an inalienable ballot. (…)
For why does anyone suppose that a majority of citizens should control their Government?

No one imagines that a majority of passengers should control a plane. No one assumes that, by majority vote, the patients, nurses, elevator boys and cooks and ambulance drivers and interns and telephone operators and students and scrubwomen in a hospital should control the hospital. Would you ever ride on a train if all passengers stepped into booths in the waiting-room and elected the train crews by majority vote, as intelligently as you elect the men whose names appear in lists before you in a voting booth?

Then why is it taken for granted that every person is endowed on his twenty-first birthday with a God-given right and ability to elect the men who decide questions of political philosophy and international diplomacy?

This fantastic belief is no part of the American Revolution.  Thomas Paine, Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, did not entertain it for a moment. When this belief first affected American Government, it broke John Quincy Adams' heart; to him it meant the end of freedom on earth; it made him doubt the goodness of his God.  The superstition that all men have a right to vote is a triumph of Old World reasoning. (…) Just as doggedly, they believe that Authority, Government, controls all men. If they do not flatly deny that men are free, they reason this way: To control himself, an individual must control the Government that controls him. (…)

The Old World belief is this: Individuals are cells in a greater organism. All men are naturally dependent, obedient, controlled by Authority. (Communists, Fascists and Nazis say this in a cliche, "The individual is nothing.") Government is Authority, controlling the masses and responsible for their welfare. Therefore, the stronger the Government, the better for the masses. Liberty is the right of the masses to choose the men who control the masses. It is doubtful whether it is advisable to grant the masses this liberty; but, if it is granted, it is a right to vote.

(…) Thus, the largest possible number of persons will control the Government that controls them.  Then what becomes of the exercise of freedom by the individuals in the minority? Why, they must submit to control by the majority. Everyone should be happy to sacrifice himself (the Greeks did) to the pagan god Demos, The Greatest Number. The voice of the Greatest Number is the voice of God. If anyone is not willing to obey the Greatest Number; why, this is outrageous, this is anti-social; make him submit and obey. (…)

This is not the reasoning of the Americans who wrote the Constitutions that protect individual freedom. It is not the reasoning of many Americans now. But it is the reasoning that has been extending the vote in these States for half a century.

Small groups of reformers, fiercely determined to do good to others, have made these extensions by using the threat of the vote upon office-holders. A few crooked politicians and ward-heelers have aided them. They have worked against the vast indifference of most Americans. For instance: American women did not want to vote; Miss Alice Paul forced woman's suffrage through Congress and the State legislatures.  These extensions of the vote are in two directions; they take in increasing numbers of the population, and they throw more office-holders to the wolves of "a common passion or interest felt by the majority." (…)

Average Americans have common sense. They know that there are always enough stupid, ignorant, dishonest voters to carry any election; they know that demagogues, liars, hillbilly bands, popular actors and orators, free picnics and votebuying can always corral enough voters. They know that these extensions of the franchise have broken down the moral standards of American politics, and have so overcome the moral character of American politicians that both parties use these methods of getting votes. And that therefore an election is merely a sporting event, like a ball game, its outcome depending on luck as well as on skill, and its object being no more than to get ballots into boxes, and men into office.  Unquestionably, these extensions of the franchise are dangerous to individual liberty and human rights.

They are dangerous because, by amending the Constitutions, they destroy representative government and increase the danger of democracy—which always creates an irresponsible tyrant.

And they are dangerous because they are made in the superstitious belief that individuals can control a Government that can control individuals, and therefore they tend to increase the false, counter-revolutionary belief that Government is an Authority controlling men and responsible for their welfare.

More and more, the multitudes who vote are believing this, and demanding that Government be responsible for their living conditions. (…)

The increasing belief that everyone has a natural right to vote because voting is mass-control of a Government that controls individuals, is counter-revolutionary in these States. It is a revival of the ancient Old World superstition. It threatens every American's home and liberty and life; it threatens the existence of the Republic and the survival of the Revolution. 

(Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane)

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