The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Who should be allowed to vote?

Shortly after I posted my piece on Fred Karger, I looked him up on Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, the biggest piece on his opinions given in the article referred to his positions on gay rights, but there were two other things given: his stance on Israel, which seems not too far from my own, and his advocacy of an amendment to grant the vote to sixteen-year-olds, the most radical of his positions I've seen so far. My own position on that point is ambivalent. When I grew up, you had to be twenty-one to vote, and I was a big advocate of lowering it to eighteen. By the time that it happened, I was too old to benefit; I was already older than 21. But is 16 too young? I'm not sure. I am aware that I had mostly formed my political opinions by the age of fourteen, so I could have voted intelligently at 16. But I'm not typical. I really don't know. The few places that I've seen that give the vote to under-18s are not very likely to inspire confidence. Two if them are Iran (with a fifteen-year-old voting age) and the former Italian neo-Fascist party which allowed twelve-year-olds to vote in party questions! (On the other hand, the only other party I know of to have such a rule was the Canadian Liberals, certainly a democratic enough organization. I don't know if this is still the rule, but at one time their rules allowed fourteen-year-olds to vote. At least some of their local organizations still do.) For me, the jury is still out.

It is interesting that States are no longer permitted to require literacy tests; when I was growing up, my then-home-state of New York did, but because some Southern states used literacy tests unfairly administered to disenfranchise nonwhites, the Voting Rights Act prevented all states from using literacy tests. I cannot see a justification for allowing illiterates to vote. If they cannot read the campaign materials, and they cannot read the ballots, they have no right to be allowed to vote, in my opinion. But because some Southern states used the tests in a way that deprived college professors of their votes, the Feds made it impossible to use literacy tests. That, I think, is a shame.

The biggest variation in the voting rules of different States is how criminal backgrounds are handled. In the State where I now live, Maryland, because two different laws which were passed at different times are involved, criminals with only one serious conviction can vote as soon as they are released from any parole/probation obligations, but criminals with more than one serious conviction can only vote after a three-year waiting period. This is a middle-of-the-road rule; on the one hand, in Maine, criminals can still vote while serving time; on the other hand, in Virginia and Florida, one conviction on a felony charge means no vote ever, unless you get the governor to restore your rights. Both of these seem pretty extreme, though I'm not sure whether Maryland's is the best compromise.

There are even some places (the city of Takoma Park, not far from where I live in Maryland, for example) that don't even require you to be a citizen to vote in local elections. Now that is going too far, though.

1 comment:

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