On restricting the franchise

 A few days ago, several RS contributors discussed how and why the U.S. should consider restricting the “franchise,” i.e. the right to vote.  This semi-unserious discussion was triggered by a recent Rasmussen survey showing that only 53% of Americans believe that capitalism is preferable to socialism.  In fact, this survey shows that for those under 30, it’s almost a dead heat – 37% prefer capitalism, but 33% prefer socialism.  This is a stunning outcome, and it seems to reflect a fundamental disconnect from the responsibilities of citizenship in a free country.

I’ve often stated that a person begins the journey towards conservatism the first time they see the huge chunk of taxes that the government confiscates from their paycheck.  Conversely, the trip towards liberalism begins when the government giveaways kick in.  Today, tens of millions of Americans do not pay income taxes* – and many receive welfare tax credits in addition to not paying* in the first place.  These government junkies have become indentured servants of the US Government and are chained to leftist political giveaways such as Obama’s proposed “tax credits” that pay even those who owe no income tax.

So, it appears that the only citizens who are truly invested in the process of government without indebtedness to politicans are those who are taxed.  This taxation may be property ownership and property taxes, but it seems that restricting the franchise to property owners may be too restrictive – after all, there are many “invested” taxpayers who live in apartments or other non-property-owning situations.  So I’ve argued that any restriction of the “franchise” should be applied to paying income taxes. 

Those who do not pay taxes are unduly influenced by governmental giveaways.  After all, why bite the hand who feeds them?   Who would want to vote for politicians who want to pull the handouts?  Unfortunately this is precisely the policy that the Obama administration is pursuing…increase the number of non-taxpayers and as a result, their leftist voter base grows.

Others have noted the flaw in “representation without taxation.”  Karl Marx himself noted this in his “Communist Manifesto”:

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury and bankrupt the nation.

Cliff May also pointed out the problem in The Corner just prior to the 2008 election:

What if, not implausibly, in the next administration that number rises to 51% or more? At that point, the majority of Americans not paying taxes would elect leaders who decide how much the minority must fork over to the government — to be redistributed to the majority through government programs and services.

I believe that is the plan.  Last week, over at the American Thinker, Alan Aronoff wrote an excellent review detailing the numbers of the situation.  His conclusion is key:

When beneficiaries of government policy do not sufficiently overlap the payers of those benefits, we have a governing system of representation without taxation. This type of system is not sustainable long term, but history suggests it may persist for some time under the pretext of ‘economic justice’ unless soundly rejected by the American people.

In this week’s Weekly Standard, P.J. O’Rourke writes of “A Nation of Moochers“.  While O’Rourke writes of those on the dole who do pay taxes, the message is even more appropriate when applied to the non-taxpayers.  O’Rourke writes:

Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union did some complicated mathematics and says, “By my reckoning, somewhere between 85 and 95 million households out of 115 million total have a smaller tax liability than the per-capita spending burden.” The breadwinners for 18 to 26 percent of our households are shoveling coal in the engine rooms of the ship of state, while everybody else is a stowaway, necking with Kate Winslet like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.

Indeed, the stowaways are the problem.  They are the ones who think that the Obama dream of wealth redistribution, demonization of the financial services industry, bailouts of dying industries and governmental meddling in private industry is just dandy.  They are the ones who are jazzed about socialism.

O’Rourke writes:

America’s grossly unfair tax system won’t lead to class war. Or, if it does, the war will be brief. There are millions upon millions of us Sponge Bobs and relatively few of the sucker fish we’re soaking. On the other hand, young people–with no dependents except their Twitter followers–need to earn only double their age to be ladling gravy to Uncle. These are the devotees of the multi-culti who most adore super-diverse Barack, and they’re being “bled white,” as it were. They could turn on the president if they started thinking about this–or anything else.

There is one puzzling aspect of this:  why would younger people approve more of socialism when they are the ones who will be left holding the bag when the bill comes due?  Are they so ignorant of economics that they believe that printing money will solve the problem, or they have been so steeped in leftist political theory in college that they can think of nothing better than the Maxist paradise that was preached by their Birkenstock- and tye-dye-wearing profs?

Of course such restrictions on the franchise will likely never happen, especially while Obama is in office, but the scenario is interesting to think about.  The republic was founded on the concept of “No taxation without representation.”  With respect to our current situation, we must consider whether “no representation without taxation” is not equally important.


* – the Leftists will blather about the 7.5% payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare, but those are “taxes” that are little more than a forced retirement benefit – a “benefit” (if we ever see it) that is an entitlement which, for all practical purposes, cannot be affected by voters/politicians.