In the United States, any citizen who is at least 18 years old and not a convicted felon has the right to vote. Most of us accept and celebrate our universal suffrage. But is it a good idea? In my view, no. Not every adult U.S. citizen should have the right to vote.
- Oliver Hudson, November 13, 2012
David Wagner, of the Atlantic Wire, lists the year's 50 worst columns. Presumably, he reads them so we don't have to. Among them was a post-election contribution by conservative Oliver Hudson. Hudson laments universal suffrage.
Hudson's central point is that taxes are essentially a legitimized mechanism of theft. It follows that democratic government is primarily an agent of an immoral act. His solution is simple. Voting should be restricted to taxpayers. And more votes should be awarded to those who have the most income. The theory being that those who make the most also pay the most in taxes, and those who make the most money do so, in a free market economy, by contributing the most.
Even most conservatives, I suspect, would reject the reversion of the United States to a banana republic. Even those countries generally recognized as plutocracies are careful not to acknowledge that themselves.
Most of the wealthiest in our country would not subscribe to the Hudson thesis. But there is a sense of resentment among some that goes beyond naked self-interest. In fact, from a purely financial point of view, pretty much every person with a staff of servants and a mansion should be steadfast in voting for Democrats.
On the whole, Democratic administrations have been better for investors than Republicans. The online news organization, Economist, recently put their comparative analysis into a one minute video, based on data from Barclays Capital.
The bare facts don't really take even that long to consider. Since 1929, Democratic administrations have promoted growth. In the years of Democrats, American equities have grown by over 450%. In Republican years, the growth has been less, only 100%. Inflation should be taken into account, though. It has been higher under Democrats. We should be comparing value after inflation.
Inflation under Democrats has been 3.5% a year. With Republicans, it has been less, only 3 percent. That can add up. It affects not only return on investment. It affects return of investment. So Barclays, and the Economist, applied inflation to both sets of figures. Here is what they found:
With Democrats, real growth of investment plus return was - - - 300%
Hey, that's pretty good!
With Republicans, real growth was - - - zero
That's as good as stuffing everything in a mattress.
Well, that's Keynesianism for you.
More to the point, bankers, investors, business owners, pretty much everyone who owns a piece of America - most especially the Romney and Boehner 2 percent, would be stampeding madly toward voting booths to pull every lever they could for Democrats - from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama - if they were just motivated by money.
There is something else at work.
That something is pretty much anyone's guess. Maybe it's something different for each strain of wealthy, Country Club Republican.
I count as one of those anyones. Here is my speculation.
Many of these folks are people who made their money through a combination of skill, hard work, and luck. They took risks. Any risk brings the possibility of losing a lot, maybe everything. So they are brave as well.
It has to be tempting to regard everyone else as lacking these attributes. Those not in the economic elite have to be seen as unskillful, or not willing to work hard, or risk averse, which is to say: if not cowardly, then unbrave. Or maybe just unlucky, or as conservative Rick Santelli became famous yelling, they are losers.
Seeing oneself as a winner in a land of losers, courageous in a world of timidity, deserving in a universe cluttered with those who covet what they do not deserve, provides a sort of defensive set of obvious privileges.
It also carries an emotional drawback. The pebble in the shoe of the virtuous is the indifference that is very much a part of a democratic society. The lack of recognition of those virtues must be an irritant for some. Even occasional derision must be a little wounding for the deserving.
Knowing that you are blessed might be tempered by those who refuse to recognize the justice of your reward. Deserving honor in a society that regards you as merely equal might well promote a resentment toward the takers, the 47%.
If the accumulation of wealth was the only thing, the wealthy would be eternally enthusiastic about Democrats. There is more to life than money.
It can be lonely at the top.
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The link above (Sorry, I can't seem to be able to embed a link here.) is an interesting article discussing a model (admittedly a very simple and idealistic model) that demonstrates that everyone, including the very wealthy, do much better when there is wealth transfer from the top to the bottom instead.
It is in the wealthy's own self interest to raise their own taxes.
That would be more compelling if taxation really corresponded to spending. Instead, we have massive deficits.
Taxing the wealthy at a higher rate now doesn't mean that more money will end up in the hands of everyone else. We spend as if we had already taxed the wealthy. Instead, taxing the wealthy at a higher rate means that the wealthy will have less money and our deficit will be a bit lower.
The question seems to be: Is the minor deficit reduction from that taxation worth the potentially harmful effects? Of course, we can ask the same of any proposed cuts. It's not like anyone has proposed a reasonable method of balancing the budget in the near future. If our choice is between (1) a deficit of $1.3 trillion and (2) a deficit of $1 trillion with $300b in spending cuts and tax hikes, why bother to reduce the deficit?
As T. Paine recently said: "All of this nonsense amounts to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
That said, Hudson has a 1st amendment right to say it. Free speech is not meant to protect only that speech which nobody finds objectionable or foolish. Indeed, what one person might find to be responsible, another might find to be grotesquely irresponsible.
Woe be to the person who's speech the arbiter doesn't like. Your solution, Mr. Jodell, is more dangerous to American liberty than is Mr. Hudson's asinine suggestion which very few people would ever take seriously anyway.
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