Sunday, October 30, 2005

Service Guarantees Citizenship!

I was just watching Starship Troopers again today. I like that movie for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its idea that citizenship isn't conferred by birth.

Talking about the Virginia's governor's race and voting, I said, "I feel it's better to make no decision than an uninformed decision". I really don't think that all people should have the right to vote. Some people are just stupid. Some are just ignorant. I thought that maybe some kind of test to evaluate a person's knowledge prior to allowing the person to vote might be good (on an at least yearly basis), but I think the test writers would then have a lot of political sway.

The idea in Starship Troopers that you have to earn citizenship is an interesting one though. I suppose the idea is that if you care enough about your country to do something for it, then it shows that you should have a say in that country's government. I haven't read the book, though, so I don't really know anymore than that.

The bottomline is, I think people, in general, are stupid. In America, it seems like we have more than our fair share of stupid people. And sometimes even a minority of stupid people can move the country towards more stupidity.

Whether it's through testing or some kind of public service requirement (or whatever), there really does seem to be a need to weed out those that would do harm to the country.


lem said...

While I totally agree with you about the stupid people of our country and have often said that everyone does not deserve the right to vote there really is no good way to weed people out. I don't think "service" is the way to go. I mean look at the people volunteering to go fight in Iraq. That's all I'm going to say about that because I'm sure I've offended someone. Of course service for the greater good (i.e. volunteering) wouldn't be a bad idea...just for the betterment of society. I don't think that would increase people's intelligence though. People are inherently lemmings. What I find really sad is that immigrants who become citizens usually know more about our country than the average American.

Gabe said...

While armed service wouldn't necessarily increase book knowledge, I think it (and particularly deployment) does give a person better perspective on the world and the person's country's role in the world. In that sense, I think armed service provides much greater experience to an individual than acting locally in a volunteer capacity (peace corps and the like are another matter).

As far as "there really is no good way to weed people out", I think there's no way to get around that either. I think the only (reasonable) thing to do is to push for better education, specifically regarding law, history, and ethics.

Richard A. said...

We used to have tests for voter rights. They were administered by Southerners trying to keep blacks from voting remember? A little before women weren't allowed to vote because they were perceived as lesser citizens. A little before THAT only landowners were allowed to vote.

While I do worry about our voting pool and blame them for things like Dubbya being the POTUS I don't think exclusion is the answer. I think the real problem isn't stupidity. Throwing that word around makes you sound elitist (whether you are or not) and doesn't convey the true problem with voting. I see it as two fold.

1)Apathy, so many people just don't vote here for whatever reason. They may be smart, stupid, or somewhere in between but the point is they come from all walks of life and just don't vote.

2)Status quo. I think an even bigger problem than apathy is that most people either vote Democrat or Republican regardless of the candidate or their stance on issues. This, to me, is the most horrible perversion of the process. It's not what party the guys up there are from, it's what they stand for and what they'll do. I personally have more Republican leanings because I share the "core" values the party was SUPPOSED to be founded on but there is no way in hell I'd vote for Bush. In my mind he's not a Republican. He's a right-wing ultra conservative panderer.

Either way I don't stupidity is the right line the sand. Stupid people vote for both the guys you want in office and the guys you don't. We just don't worry about them as much when they're padding the numbers we're rooting for.

Gabe said...

I didn't realize there was a test, but I do recall that blacks were prohibited from voting. I recall there was something about a grandfather clause or some such. That, of course, I remember. Of course I remember women's suffrage. And I remember that only land owners were supposed to be able to vote. I'm not sure if that's what you're referring to as a "test", but either way, you'll recall I already said that something like that, while full of good intentions, probably wouldn't work because the test writers would then be the ones in power, meaning, as you say, that they would have the power to arbitrarily exclude or willfully mislead.

If I blame stupidity, and if that makes you think I'm elitist, well, that's because I am elitist. But, as you will recall, I am an elitist who is willing to exclude myself (recall that I feel that I don't have enough information and am therefore excluding myself from voting in the Virginia's governor's race). And the problem isn't elitism, the problem is not enough elitism. There is a negative connotation surrounding the word, and that's just because people don't like having their feelings hurt (that and the stupid AOL script kiddies). I am an intellectual elitist (although as noted above, not necessarily an intellectual elite). I don't believe in plutocracy or aristocracy; that's not what this is about.

I don't quite understand how you can see that stupid people do stupid things, and recognize that stupid people can swing the votes in or out of your favor for nothing more than stupid reasons, but still not recognize that stupidity is a bad thing. Why on earth would you want stupid people in charge of anything important?

Regarding apathy, yes that is a problem, but as Heinlein said, (or I think he was trying to say), only those who show that they do care should be allowed a say in government ("Service guarantees citizenship!"), anyway. I don't care if only 10% of the population votes as long as 100% of that 10% is well informed. Whether service guarantees intelligence is another matter entirely, but it at least addresses your apathy problem (the apathetic /shouldn't/ vote). Apparently Starship Troopers (the movie) was also made as a statement against fascism, but that's another matter.

Regarding voting party line, I am in complete agreement with you, which is why I thought that yearly testing should be mandatory, so that it could cover current events, as well as other things such as interpretation of law and history. I would think that it would be far less likely for a person that is well informed to make party line decisions. In fact, I would go so far as to advocate the dissolution and illegalization of political parties. Well, maybe not that far, but this two party, you against me attitude that most Americans seem to have has got to go. It distracts people from actual issues and discourages thought. People then go out and vote and think they did something for their country, when in fact, when they vote without thinking, they only hurt their country, and, in my opinion, shouldn't have been allowed to vote in the first place.

For example, in the W and Kerry campaign, one of W's main points was pointing out that Kerry was a "flip flopper". W pointed out a few things, all of one that I forget. The one I remembered being Kerry reversal of a vote for some military bill. However, as shown by some political analysis article, between the two votes, the bill in question had actually changed substantially, particularly regarding funding in the range of $80b, or some such. The rest of the points on which he "flip flopped" were also similarly justified (as far as I remember). The point isn't sour grapes about Kerry losing, but that I don't want people that are so easily swayed by a campaign advertising slogan. As a side effect, if there were less people voting, and the people that did vote actually went out and found things out for themselves (or paid attention for scheduled debates and such), I don't think advertising (and therefore campaigning) budgets would be nearly the problem that it is today.

As another example, regarding the Virginia governor's race, Kilgore is running ads questioning Kaine's ability to carry out death sentences if elected governor, trotting out a victim's father for whom Kaine represented the victim's murderer. I don't want people voting that are so easily swayed by emotional campaign ads that they wouldn't be willing or able to seek out the facts surrounding the case.

R. Awbrey said...

All good points. (By the way it was a biased literacy test administered to blacks to keep them from voting.) My point wasn't that stupidity should be overlooked but rather that stupidity, in terms of politics seems to depend on whether or not the person making the arguement agrees with the "stupid" people or not. It tends, from what I've seen to not truely be about any level of actual or applied intelligence.

To your point on elitism, I'm not say it's good or bad, or that you're good or bad for it. What I was trying to get at is that if you want to initiate change you're not going to get support from a body of backers big enough to make any changes if you come across as elitist. That was my only point. I don't pass judgement on anyone based on their level of elitism or lack there of.

I don't necessarly want people lacking in intellectual compacity to make decisions for my country. I just don't want to lay down rules and laws restricting their right to do so. It's like abortion. I don't think that killing fetuses is cool but I don't to set laws governing what a woman does with her body. For an equally controversial example, I don't think the death penalty is an effective deterrent to violent crime but if somebody killed someone I care about (even you Gabe ol' buddy) I'd want to SOB dead.

The party voting is something I don't have a practical answer for. Education sounds great but how do you effectively execute it and who executes it in an unbiased way? George Washington repeatedly spoke out against a party based political system. But that's pretty easy when you're the only one everybody wants for the first job. :) Our two party system and the inability of a decent third party to make a dent is a factor of the system we've set in place. You have to have the backing of one of these deep-pocketed groups to launch and win a national campaign, although state elections have been making some headway. I don't have the answer. Our two-party system sucks. The European elections are chaos with the 4 to 20 parties they have. But that's another arguement and another problem. Maybe for you next blog :)

Gabe said...

Regarding your point that stupidity depends on whether you agree with the person, of course you're right that people often attribute an opponent's victories to the deficiencies of his/her voters. What I was saying is that regardless of who they end up voting for, they're stupid anyway (not because of who they vote for), and that is something that should be corrected for. I brought up a testing system but acknowledged it wouldn't work for somewhat the same reason you bring up in the literacy test.

Regarding elitism being detrimental to the argument... there isn't any change I see happening from anything I say. But I highly, highly doubt, that even if such a proposal (the testing) gained traction with anyone of consequence, that it could pass on a national level, regardless of what words or attitude is used. The reason being, I don't see people consenting to having their voting power taken away, even on a conditional basis. Of course that's laughable given the observation of voter apathy, but there you are. One of the first steps to being wise, I think, is recognizing what you do not know or at least recognizing that you do not know. I don't think most people would be willing to concede that they might not make a good decision. And I think that most people value their ability to make a decision well above what that decision is worth. And really, recognizing the presence of valueless votes means recognizing that valuable votes are being /de/valued. Drowned in a sea of mediocrity, the pleas of the mindful are quieted by the dull roar of the masses.

Regarding not setting rules restricting rights, I am no governmental theorist, but I'm not sure to what extent voting should be considered a right. I agree that there shouldn't be an excess of legislation regarding human activity, but that view has more to do with what an individual does concerning only that individual. When an individual votes, that individual is thereby influencing what other people do, and therefore should, in my opinion, be held to a higher or more stringent standard.

I'm not sure I get your meaning regarding the death penalty, but I'm gonna guess it has to do with illustrating the limits on your idea of allowable human autonomy. Painted by nothing less than death on both counts :) And clearly we're just going to have to disagree on this point. You feel that voting is a universal right, and I feel that it should be left to those best qualified (a dramatically lesser number to be sure).

Regarding how to institute educational standards, I forget how widespread it is, but I think there are already state-wide standards for certain subjects in at least Georgia and Florida. Our revered leader W also instituted a "No Child Left Behind" act (of which I've heard bad things) on a national scale. That is to say, I would say that the framework for enforcing a certain level of competency is already in place. What remains is determining how high and what in, admittedly, important and potentially controversial steps. The curriculum should clearly be open for inspection and debate. If we trust our government enough to teach our children and prepare them to lead the country, it probably shouldn't be too large a jump to go through the same process to determine higher standards for government reform through education. Haha, have them put it up for a vote: more education or less voting? Everyone over 18 will vote for more education and everyone still in school will.... not be able to vote :)

Regarding requiring the backing of a party to succeed, like I said before, having less people to convince (if not through testing, by some other means) means requiring less resources to do so, means less dependence on party affiliation, means less influence by a party. We probably wouldn't have things like DeLay getting charged with laundering money. We probably wouldn't have (or would have a lot less at any rate) things like companies or special interests exerting undue influence on legislation. While an optimal education solution would have /everyone/ at the (formerly) intelligent elite level, realistically, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. There are bound to be laggards, i.e., stupid people, and they will never know what they need to know, and they may never understand the importance of what they're being taught.

I don't know hardly anything about the European elections, though. You should start up your own blog ;)

R. Awbrey said...

Nah. It's much more fun to poke holes at other people's ideas than to prostrate my own. ;)

Gabe said...

By choosing to converse, you've already laid your ideas prostrate. And lo, I didst poketh them in kind :)

The question is whether you'd provide the venue. So... your place or mine? ;)