Thoughts

On voting rights

Yesterday’s presidential elections in Romania have prompted me to write about something that’s been on my mind for some time: voting rights in a so-called “democratic” country.

I’m concerned about the quality of the electorate and their capability to make objective decisions for the good of the country, not just for their own good. I’ve seen the average comprehension and literacy levels of adults drop across the board, on both sides of the pond. It’s a scary prospect, to be faced with a general electorate that can understand less and less of what you, as a legitimate candidate, are trying to communicate. If this keeps up, our future presidential candidates will need to yell, “Me, give food! Me, give shelter!”, wait for the grunts of approval to subside, then add “Press red button for me! No press red button, no food!”

Pandering to the lowest common denominator leads to short-sighted political decisions, to skeezy populism, to electoral promises/lies, and to a wanton disregard for the kind of leadership that is needed in a world increasingly screwed up by people — the kind of world where governments need to start making long-term, tough, redressive decisions and abide by them through regime changes.

We can look at the origins of democracy (Greece, Rome) in order to see how they handled voting rights, and the main takeaway in those cultures was to not let anyone vote who didn’t have “skin in the game”. By that the Greeks meant well-to-do men who’d also served in the military and the Romans meant men who came from good families (aristocratic) and were well-educated. Women weren’t allowed to vote, and neither were immigrants.

Here’s my proposal:

  • First we need to start thinking of the act of voting as a privilege, not as a right. It’s rightfully a privilege that can be lost if one screws up.
  • We won’t take away any of the hard-won voting privileges that exist in current democratic countries. Clearly women’s voting rights will stay. Clearly naturalized citizens will be able to continue to vote. But we’ll add some requirements; more specifically, the ones below.
  • You must be actively employed or own an active business entity, and you must have done so for at least 1 year prior to voting. In other words, you must be a contributing member of society who’s been working productively, or employing people productively, and paying taxes to that society. This is the crux of my proposal: if you want to have a say in how a society is currently run (which is the definition of a vote), you must currently contribute to it.
  • This means that certain groups of people will not get a vote: the retired and the unemployed. These are the two classes of people who’ve been skewing elections in the wrong direction in Romania for decades, and who almost sabotaged the current presidential election. Criminals will also lose their voting privileges, and rightly so.

I have nothing against retired people; they’ve put in a lifetime of work and they deserve their pensions, but they always vote for the people who will promise them $10-20 more in their monthly pension checks, regardless of what horrible things those people have done and will do to the country. And it’s a lot harder for them to vote objectively. A lot of them vote subjectively, particularly through the lens of nostalgia. This has to stop if a country is to move forward.

I have nothing against someone who’s temporarily unemployed and is looking for a job, but we have a huge problem in Romania with people who game the unemployment system and collect checks while they’re working here and there on the gray and black markets. They’re sucking up aid from the government any way they can, including by making babies for the sole purpose of getting more money per month from the government, while they contribute nothing. And their political allegiance is to any party and/or group of politicians that will bribe them off ahead of the elections and will promise to keep their aid coming. These people are uneducated, morally bankrupt shirkers whose only cares are whether they have enough cheap crap to stuff into their mouths and working television sets. They produce nothing except body odor, and they contribute nothing except body waste. They are the biggest threat to a country’s fiscal stability, particularly in the face of a decreasing work force, because they start barking and getting violent as soon as you tear them away from the teats on which they’ve been suckling. No politician wants to touch them, but they’re a problem that has to be addressed.

Thankfully, anyone excluded from voting under the rules I’ve proposed above can quickly remedy the situation by getting a job or starting a small business and contributing to the society in which they’re living. Then they’ll have earned the privilege to vote.

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Events

Congratulations, President Obama!

We have seen democracy in action, and we have achieved something amazing, as a country: we have elected the first African-American president. That’s something that goes a long way to wipe the wrongs of the past, and is something that would have probably made some of our country’s founders proud, had they been able to witness it.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7811491813839468741

There’s a long road ahead, and it’s paved with incredible challenges. I believe our new president is equipped to deal with them, and that’s why he got my vote and my wife’s vote. I hope he does what he promised to do, and that he brings positive change to this country. We’re in a huge mess, and we need someone to clean house.

Our federal government will now be a Democrat government, from top to bottom, which is something I’ve not seen yet. I hope they use their collective legislative power to do good things, and they don’t get caught up in bureaucracy or infighting. I think the next four or even eight years could be used to build our country up in an historic way, not unlike the period after WWII. The opportunity is there, but the right people need to do the right things, and they need to support our new president as he charts our country’s course.

One thing I also hope is that they’ve beefed up the security around him. I don’t want to see anything tragic happen. It would be disastrous. It is very unfortunate that there are still people in the US who can’t get over someone’s skin color even when that person is rational, intelligent, respectful and kind. But those people are around, and I’m fairly sure that they’re not dealing with this Obama win in any sensible manner. Let us hope the Secret Service does their job and neutralizes any threats before they arise.

I want to end on a positive note and wish Barack Obama and Joe Biden all the best in the years that lie ahead. I hope and pray they will meet every challenge rationally, calmly, and decisively, and that they’ll hold true to the promises they made during their campaign.

Image used courtesy of Barack Obama.

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Events

We voted today!

We got back a few minutes ago from voting for Barack Obama. Our polling place was Walter Johnson High School, in North Bethesda, MD. The line wasn’t too long. We waited about 25 minutes in line and it took about 5 minutes to vote.

The voting machines were electronic, and — I’m disappointed to say this — they were Diebold machines. After all of the controversy and research that Diebold has spurred since the last election, I am shocked to see the machines still in use, particularly after Maryland passed a paper ballot initiative a couple of years ago. These machines used a card with an embedded chips, that I inserted in the machine to get the votes written to it. When I got done, I put the card in a collection box and walked out.

Somehow this whole electronic process doesn’t inspire me with confidence. When I read up on it a few years ago, I found out that Diebold tallies the votes on a single computer, in an Access database that is easily hacked. Having designed and built Access database systems, I know how easy it is to bypass any sort of login restrictions and get right at the tables where vote totals can be changed in an instant without any sort of tracking record.

All I can say is that I hope for the best. Let’s hope this transition of power occurs smoothly, correctly, and in a democratic fashion, as George Washington wanted it to be from the get-go.

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