Monday, November 30, 2009

The Child Voter


As I have mentioned previously, my political awakening came when I was nine years old during the summer of 1992, watching then Governor Bill Clinton run for the presidency. I saw Clinton in much the same way that many college students last year viewed "the second black president," Barack Obama. To me Clinton was "change" and "hope." At that time this country faced a major crisis, a multi-trillion dollar deficit and I believed that Clinton was the man to do that; the Republicans had clearly failed after twelve years controlling the office of the president so it seemed reasonable to hope that Clinton could change this situation so I would not have to pay this debt when grew up. (We have failed miserably at this, but I will leave it to some other time to discuss who to blame for this.) I managed to impress my grandfather with my command of the issues and rallied my friends to support Clinton in an overwhelming victory in the mock elections held at school. Despite this, our legal system did not allow me to cast a vote in the actual election. I was not able to vote in 1996 nor was I allowed to vote in the closely contested election of 2000 despite the fact that I had skipped a grade and was therefore already out of high school as I was, frustratingly still just several months short of my eighteenth birthday. Readers are free to disagree with my reasons for supporting Clinton and I have certainly evolved in my political thinking over the past seventeen years. That being said I clearly had achieved, by the age of nine, a certain baseline of political understanding where I was capable, regardless of whether I was right or not, of articulating political views in a coherent fashion. So I possessed a political consciousness roughly equal to that of the average college student yet I was not able to directly help put Clinton into office as they helped Obama.

I am not here to argue for children's suffrage, though I do not consider the whole notion as something absurd to be dismissed out of hand. I recognize that, by and large, most children do not possess the baseline of political consciousness necessary in order to take part in civic life. Most children are not economically self sufficient nor do they pay taxes. They therefore have no stake in the system. Most children are under the thrall of their parents and would vote however they told them to. I accept these arguments, but I find it strange that any liberal accepts them, because to do so a person has to accept as part of the foundation of their political thinking a premise that puts a knife through over a century of liberal thinking, which assumes that one must judge people as individuals and that any attempt to deal with people as a group is nothing but stereotyping and prejudice.

When the authors of the Constitution decided to not give people like my nine year old self a vote, a decision confirmed more recently when the voting age was brought down from twenty-one to eighteen, but not nine, they bought into the notion that, since most nine year olds lack the intelligence or the economic/social self-sufficiency to serve as citizens, all nine year olds were not to be given a vote even those nine year olds who did possess these things. Furthermore they decided that, since most twenty-one/eighteen year olds are intelligent enough and are economically/socially self-sufficient enough to serve as citizens, all twenty-one/eighteen year olds were to be given a vote, even those who did not possess these things. So today if you are eighteen years old or above, a citizen of this country, have not been convicted of any serious crimes and mentally competent enough to carry out the physical action of voting you can vote. (Considering that we dropped the voting age to eighteen at about the same time as we brought in mass college education, I find the whole economic self-sufficiency argument to be laughable. If anything we should have gone the other way and pushed the voting age to twenty-two when most people leave college and start real jobs.) I wish we could scrap the age requirement and directly demand that people pass some sort of citizenship test, like the one we give immigrants, and report a certain level of income on tax returns in order to be allowed to vote. This would make the voting process much more difficult and expensive to boot so we take a short cut and limit the vote to people of the age bracket of people who generally possess the needed qualities despite the fact that many worthy individuals are shafted by it.

At the heart of this disenfranchisement of children is the argument that it is acceptable to disenfranchise people who belong to a specific group, known for their inability to fulfill a necessary requirement for suffrage. Another way to put this is that if person x belongs to group y and z percentage of y lack characteristic a then it is acceptable to strip x of b regardless of whether x lacks a. I do not object to this, it is essentially an extension of the principle that law can only deal with generalities and not specifics, which Maimonides and the pre-modern legal tradition accepted. That being said, this should put a shiver down every one of your spines.

I can plausibly replace children, as the x in the equation with other groups. Take blacks or women in the nineteenth century for example. Were these groups as a whole, at that point in time, at some theoretical baseline of political consciousness and economic/social self-sufficiency to be allowed to vote? Need I point out that keeping them from voting was justified by comparing them to children? There would be nothing irrational or intolerant about saying that white males (or property owning white males) as a group have reached this threshold and blacks and women have not and therefore voting should be restricted to white males. You can no longer argue that there are women and blacks who personally pass the necessary thresholds and white males who do not so one should not work with generalizations or stereotypes. We have already decided that it is okay to engage in generalizations and stereotypes when it comes to children. I do not know what sin the conservative who fought against women's and black suffrage, on the grounds of their fitness, committed; I do know that the non-child suffrage supporting liberal who chastises him for being prejudiced is a hypocrite.

This notion of stripping groups of their right to vote can be brought up to date. Women have proven to be highly successful in terms of education and taking up active roles in the economy. I would say that women in the western world hit our theoretical threshold sometime during the late nineteenth century. Proof of this is the fact that it was at this point that we see a mass women's suffrage movement. This required large amounts of women with educations and outside of the social or economic control of any fathers or husbands. What about blacks and particularly black men, with their frustrating inability to become productive upwardly mobile members of society, today; have they achieved the necessary threshold? To use examples of some of my fellow bloggers, we could say that Miss S., a black woman, should be allowed to vote while MaNishtana, a black man, should not, regardless of their comparative merit. We could take down Malcolm Gladwell, a writer and thinker I am in awe of, because he is black, male and even has an afro to boot. We can say that Obama is not qualified to be president. Is it any fairer than banning me from being president just because I am not forty years old? The argument for equality and against prejudice, so crucial to modern thinking, is nothing but a cheap clay idol packed with straw that fails to aid its believers when needed.

If we are to accept the legitimacy of generalizations than we can abandon any moral pretense of believing in literal equality as the whole discussion of civil rights is reduced to a cold calculus of what exactly is our theoretical threshold for citizenship and which groups as groups fulfill it. Admittedly the whole notion of group is arbitrary and any person can be tied to a group that does not pass the threshold and can therefore be disenfranchised. If someone wanted to they could try to disenfranchise my present self by arguing, that despite my graduate education, I still belong to the autism spectrum group. Since this group as a whole might not pass the necessary threshold, I therefore I should also lose my vote. Let us be clear, we are throwing around hand grenades and they can blow up in all sorts of unwanted places. The decision to put age into play as a relevant group is just as arbitrary as gender, color or even neurological state. It is simply a convenience that we, as a society indulge ourselves even at the expense precocious nine year olds. Of course if some groups can be made to pay the price then so can others; it is only fair.

26 comments:

Vox Populi said...

Good arguments.

I think the basic flaw though is that there is no actual discrimination here. There is no group that is being denied something that is given to another group.

This is because all adults that do have the right to vote in this country were once children. (Although once we give clones the right to vote in about 2076, I predict all hell will break loose.) Therefore, a child (even a preternaturally intelligent one) could not make out a prima facie case of class discrimination here. Eventually, he will be able to vote, as all children either grow up and become eligible voters (or convicted felons). Black men couldn't become white, women couldn't become men, and not all unpropertied men would become propertied. In fact, the likelihood of the unmoneyed becoming moneyed was of course very small. Therefore, the minor is no worse off than the adult, who was once a minor too. When the child grows up, will he be subject to claims from children that he is part of a discriminatory scheme against children?

>If wish we could scrap the age requirement and directly demand that people pass some sort of citizenship test, like the one we give immigrants, and report a certain level of income on tax returns in order to be allowed to vote.

This is actually much like the poll tax idea employed by the South after the Civil War and before the Civil Rights Act. The reason we don't do this anymore is not because it's expensive - but because it's unconstitutional. Voting is a fundamental right. Depriving someone of that without due process violates the 5th and 14th amendments.

It's also a problem from a public policy perspective. Voting is also for people who are poor and uneducated. People who weren't privileged to have the education some of us did, or who don't have the luxury of time to keep politically informed. Often, all they know is that a certain party looks out for their interests, while some parties do not. People who are somewhat alienated from the system are precisely the sort of people that should not be disenfranchised. These people pay taxes to the government - what should it matter whether they are familiar with government? No taxation without representation! They serve in our Armed Forces, should the fact that a soldier is too busy ducking bullets in Kabul to check Wolf Blitzer's tweets really disqualify him from espousing an opinion as to whether the war should go on.

And generally, democracy is strengthened by the more voices that speak, not less.

And, in my experience, a very small percentage of the people would I think meet your standards.

Long ago, democratic theorists resigned themselves to the realization that the masses are asses. Idiots sometimes make the wrong decision. We decided that it's better that laws be made with the consent of the people, however misguided, than be perfect and against their will.

The disenfranchisement that really bothers me is the disenfranchisement of prisoners. I'm not really seeing the connection between committing a crime and being deprived of the right to vote. What do you think?

Miss S. said...

I agree with Vox Populi in regards to the fact that children grow up to become people that are eligible to vote; and also I do not see the connection between being a convicted criminal and having the right to vote...

With that being said, I do not know why becoming a registered voter cannot be more similar to getting a driver's license. You should be familiar with particular concepts about our government and our legislative process. You should have to go in and pass this test before you can vote. I realize this may very well anger many politicians; in that the percentage of eligible voters will decrease and many of them depend on wooing the masses with campaigning that generates an emotional response. What good is that when a good number of the masses cannot vote. But perhaps this is why we are in the turmoil that we are in. Because voters vote with emotion and not with thought about their role in the political arena.

Izgad said...

Vox

Good response.

In 2000 my friends who were eighteen got to take part in the election and I did not. That sounds like giving something to one group and not to another to me.

You have an interesting way of looking at things. You create a new category of second class citizens who are not really second class citizens by virtue of the fact that they are going to be granted first class citizenship at some future date and will be free rule over another group of incoming second class citizens. This does offer a plausible way to get around the stereotype issue. My nine year old self would simply be serving his time as a second class citizen like everyone else. I am not certain though as to why this should be justified, since when do two wrongs make a right? Furthermore I would still be able to stick race into your model. Slave owners like Thomas Jefferson explicitly justified slavery as befitting blacks in their current state of development. We can say: “in ancient times the Romans came and subjugated us Englishmen. This was necessary because back then we were barbarians. We needed to serve our time as a subjugated race in order to become civilized. You Negroes out there lack civilization. Therefore it behooves us now civilized members of the English race to subjugate you so you too will one day become civilized. We are even willing to be more merciful to you than the Romans were to us. Maybe within a few centuries or, if you Negroes really behave yourselves and do your utmost to be like us, a few decades, you Negroes will learn to be civilized. Then you too will have the privilege of finding some other race lacking civilization and subjugate them.”

Early in American history it was quite common to have some sort of property requirement. It is certainly possible to maintain one that does not become a tool of racial discrimination. What if we made it a requirement that anyone who votes has to be wealthy enough to not be receiving any government welfare programs or at least agree to give up excess to them? If it is possible for me to receive government aid money, in other words your money being handed to me because the government thinks that I am more deserving or more in need of it than you are, I am going to use my vote to get as much money for myself as possible. In other words, I am going to try to take as much of your money as I can. This is relevant to our child issue because, with our national debt, we are now making our children foot the bill for our current lifestyle. As for an intelligence test, I fail to see why it should be a problem to make born Americans take the same test that we give to immigrants, who want to be citizens.

We do not believe that more voices make for a better Democracy. We believe that more of the “right” voices make for a better Democracy. Precocious nine year olds do not count as a “right” voice.

Vox Populi said...

>I am not certain though as to why this should be justified, since when do two wrongs make a right?

Imagine a society like Israel in which there is universal conscription. People between, say, 18 and 40 must do national service. People between 18 and 22 full time, and everyone else on reserve. According to your definition, are 18-22 year olds being subject to discriminatory treatment? In comparison to those younger than 18 and older than 22? Are those on reserve duty facing discrimination compared to those older than 40 or younger than 18?

Imagine a society with different tax brackets, much like ours. Why doesn't everyone have to pay the same amount of money to taxes? Different classes of citizens?

Also, I think we are forgetting that distinctions can be made between citizens. Some can have less rights than others, so far as it comports with due process, and is not arbitrary. Prisoners are denied their mobility rights, for example, because we wish to stop them from committing crimes. They are not second class citizens.

The current debate over the rights of homosexuals with regard to marriage is not really over whether distinctions can be made, but whether the distinction is justified.

>Slave owners like Thomas Jefferson explicitly justified slavery as befitting blacks in their current state of development.

Firstly, that's not the actual reason for the law, that's Thomas Jefferson's justification for a law he felt very uncomfortable with.

Secondly, Jefferson's formulation fails the arbitrary standard. When exactly, will African-American be said to have reached national maturity? At some undefined later date is not good enough. The statement is not falsifiable. What you've done is just sentenced an entire people to second class citizenship for an indefinite period. That's much different than children being told they can vote when they turn 18.

Also, more generally, the responsibility of adults vis a vis children is much more strongly accepted, and is a much easier line to draw than that between whites and African Americans.

>Early in American history it was quite common to have some sort of property requirement.

Well, yes. Until it became patently unjust.

>It is certainly possible to maintain one that does not become a tool of racial discrimination. What if we made it a requirement that anyone who votes has to be wealthy enough to not be receiving any government welfare programs or at least agree to give up excess to them?

The seifa invalidates the reisha, I'm afraid. If you make a not-on-government-assistance program, then goodbye welfare.

You've just disenfranchised poor people, also. And it's much harder to take away the vote from people than to not give it in the first place.

Also, discrimination against poor people is still discrimination against a class, which is still discrimination as bad as racial discrimination.

Additionally, it is discrimination that will adversely affect black people more than white people. It is effectively racially discriminatory, which is illegal.

Vox Populi said...

>in other words your money being handed to me because the government thinks that I am more deserving or more in need of it than you are

Well, I can see you're no fan of welfare. :)

When the government uses to taxes to fund welfare, it is not saying that poor people are more virtuous and therefore more deserving of your hard earned money than you are. It is making a decision, made democratically, that society as a whole bears some responsibility to those less fortunate for a whole slew of moral and economic principles.

>I am going to use my vote to get as much money for myself as possible. In other words, I am going to try to take as much of your money as I can.

Okay, but on the other hand, you also have rich people voting to keep as much money as they can. So there's a tug of war that reaches an equilibrium of sorts. I'm not sure why you think this is worse that just disenfranchising a whole bunch of people.

>As for an intelligence test, I fail to see why it should be a problem to make born Americans take the same test that we give to immigrants, who want to be citizens.

Because American citizens already possess the right to vote. You can't take that away. That would be like applying a citizenship test and deporting everyone who failed.

The same reason we don't take away money from dumb rich people and give it to smart poor people.

And, I doubt you'd notice that much difference. Political science has shown that partisan ideology is the number one predictor of voting. Making a Republican (or Democrat) smarter will not really make him change his vote. Cutting out poor people will just leave ideologues with more coherent arguments.

>We do not believe that more voices make for a better Democracy. We believe that more of the “right” voices make for a better Democracy. Precocious nine year olds do not count as a “right” voice.

No. Ex ante, there is no right. We're just people. Even if we were all super educated, we'd still make mistakes. The point of democracy, as opposed to some philosopher king making all our decisions, is that laws, even bad laws, are made with our consent, and can be readily corrected without some sort of bloody revolution. The hope is that we'll come to more "right" decisions than we would by some autocratic method, and judging by our prosperity that seems accurate. But broadly speaking, consent is more important than right.

Vox Populi said...

>With that being said, I do not know why becoming a registered voter cannot be more similar to getting a driver's license. You should be familiar with particular concepts about our government and our legislative process. You should have to go in and pass this test before you can vote.

There are a few differences that I can think of between driving a car, and voting.

First, voting is recognized to be a fundamental individual right in a democracy, in a way that driving is not. By way of comparison, there is no license to free speech, even though free speech can also harm. Freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic right.

Second, the average individual unaware of the rules of the road can do much much more harm in a much smaller period of time than can a voter unaware of the meaning of the full faith and credit clause.

Third, driving is often done by millions of people every day. There are constantly millions of cars out on the road. By contrast, voting is a relatively infrequent activity. It makes more sense to regulate a frequent dangerous activity, rather than an infrequent one.

Let's say we give voting tests. So, a guy passes a test, much like he passed civics in high school. He'll forget what he learned probably, and pretty quickly. If so, what has your test accomplished?

Someone who gets a driver's license, however, may drive every day. There is less chance that he'll just forget to use the signal a month after he passes the test, because it is a task he performs with almost depressing regularity.

>Because voters vote with emotion and not with thought about their role in the political arena.

They're people, in other words. We're not logic machines, and we're not Kantian empiricists. Even the most educated professors of pol. sci. and the most well-informed members of Congress are mostly influenced by emotion and partisan affiliation. Which is why we have leftist and rightist intellectuals. Having them take an ABCs of politics course won't change any of that.

Izgad said...

"Imagine a society like Israel in which there is universal conscription. People between, say, 18 and 40 must do national service. People between 18 and 22 full time, and everyone else on reserve. According to your definition, are 18-22 year olds being subject to discriminatory treatment? In comparison to those younger than 18 and older than 22? Are those on reserve duty facing discrimination compared to those older than 40 or younger than 18?"


I do see something “discriminatory” about such a policy. (Do not get me started on exemptions for Haredim.) I personally believe that it is inefficient to send out 18-22 year olds to fight and die. It makes much more sense to send out twelve year old Kalashnikov kids. I fail to see the moral difference in sending out children to die than to send out adults. They both have an equal right to life. As you should realize by now I do not see discrimination as, pardon my Catholic, mortal sin. Societies discriminate and it is often based on stereotypes. Ironically enough I would see the medieval system as being fairer in this respect. People who fight should be given special status and privileges above and beyond normal people and should be viewed as in some sense “better.” I do not believe in rights. I believe in privileges that you pay for.

Izgad said...

"Imagine a society with different tax brackets, much like ours. Why doesn't everyone have to pay the same amount of money to taxes? Different classes of citizens?"

People who are wealthier have more to gain from the law and order provided by the state as they are the most obvious targets for lawlessness. For example, it makes sense for my wealthy friend to be forced to pay extra taxes for there to be a policeman on duty overtime protecting his mansion. Wealthy people are also of greater use to the state so the extra effort should be made to keep them happy.

Izgad said...

"Jefferson's formulation fails the arbitrary standard. When exactly, will African-American be said to have reached national maturity? At some undefined later date is not good enough. The statement is not falsifiable. What you've done is just sentenced an entire people to second class citizenship for an indefinite period. That's much different than children being told they can vote when they turn 18."

It is possible to put a specific standard on reaching racial maturity. We could make our theoretical threshold more specific or we could declare some arbitrary date in the future. For example the Constitution gives a specific date as to when the slave trade was to be abolished.

Izgad said...

“Also, more generally, the responsibility of adults vis a vis children is much more strongly accepted, and is a much easier line to draw than that between whites and African Americans.”

We are now more than ten trillion dollars in debt. The adults are not going to pay for this debt. In essence grandma is paying for her social security and her meds with her grandchildren’s credit card. That does not sound like the adults showing responsibility for their children. That sounds like the adults taking advantage of their children just like we can usually count on one group taking advantage of another when it gets into power.

Izgad said...

“Well, I can see you're no fan of welfare. :)”

I am a big believer in social welfare. I believe that we as human beings have a moral responsibility to look after the less fortunate. Government welfare is a contradiction in terms. There is no government welfare; there is just the government deciding to take money from one person and giving it to another.

“Okay, but on the other hand, you also have rich people voting to keep as much money as they can. So there's a tug of war that reaches an equilibrium of sorts. I'm not sure why you think this is worse that just disenfranchising a whole bunch of people.”

How about this idea, we are going to put it to a vote how much of your money you are going to be allowed to keep. Because we are nice we are even going to give you some extra voting power. You can vote to keep your money and other people can vote to take it. So there will be a tug of war that will reach an equilibrium of sorts and you will be able to keep some of your money.

Vox Populi said...

>It makes much more sense to send out twelve year old Kalashnikov kids. I fail to see the moral difference in sending out children to die than to send out adults.

Well, if you need a standing army, and it isn't going to be made up of volunteers, what do you do? You know some segment of society is going to be coerced into serving in a military capacity, so which should it be?

Twelve year olds aren't such a good idea, because they are neither mentally or physically fully developed for combat. Most 12 year olds are dumb, and most are wimps.

Guys about 40 have long since passed the peak of their physical prowess. Are they smarter? Maybe. But their marginal increase in intelligence is not useful enough in a military capacity to override their corresponding physical weakness.

Guys between 18-35 are let's say in their peak in both capacities. But we don't need all 18-35 year olds full time. So from which segment should we take them. The period in a person's life between 22-40 is the point in which they stereotypically start a family, career, finish education, etc. It would seem inefficient for people's lives to be disrupted when they are just starting, or looking to start this process. 18-22, say, is the period when a person has ripened physically and mentally, but is not yet mature enough that he has started a family or business that will be disrupted.

In many countries that either have a selective draft or universal conscription, they will often accept the aforementioned conditions (family, education, etc.) in deciding whether to grant such a person who would otherwise be drafted a deferment, or even leave.

Of course, every draft could be a random selection, but that would be much worse. People would be unable to make plans because at any point they could be drafted.

That's the moral argument for 18-22 yr olds. Such a policy is not discriminatory because (a) it is rational and (b) every person above the age of 22 has been between the ages of 18-22 and has had to serve. Every person not yet 18 will become 18 and have to serve. Who is being discriminated against? If everyone has an equal burden, by definition, there is no discrimination.

Vox Populi said...

>I do not believe in rights. I believe in privileges that you pay for.

No. We hold these truths to be self evident. All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...

>People who are wealthier have more to gain from the law and order provided by the state as they are the most obvious targets for lawlessness.

OK, but this is my argument. I thought you were against stereotypes and generalities. Do all rich people use more legal protection? Does the amount extra they use correspond exactly with the extra taxes they pay? Why not institute a pay to play system?

>Wealthy people are also of greater use to the state so the extra effort should be made to keep them happy.

More useful? I hope you don't advocate death panels for poor people. ;)

>It is possible to put a specific standard on reaching racial maturity.

No it's not. Not in any meaningful sense. V'ho raiya - no slaveholding culture that ever pretended maturity was the justification for their continued subjugation of another people ever did.

>In essence grandma is paying for her social security and her meds with her grandchildren’s credit card.

And grandma paid for the children's parent's food, clothing and shelter and ob-gyn and other doctors. That's the passage of time. Sunrise, sunset. After that, grandma will be dead, and no one'll be spending a dime on her.

Look, I'm sympathetic to the idea that we should not be blowing up the world after we die, but we're not quite at that point yet.

What I was saying was that it makes more sense for me to believe that a parent has the right to make choices regarding the welfare of his child, than it is for me to believe that a master can make such decisions for a slave.

>How about this idea, we are going to put it to a vote how much of your money you are going to be allowed to keep

Yeah, that's fine. That's how taxes work. That's how they've always worked. Rich people shouldn't get more voting power, but they get a vote.

>Government welfare is a contradiction in terms. There is no government welfare; there is just the government deciding to take money from one person and giving it to another.

Why is it a contradiction in terms? If a person believed that there was a moral and economic necessity for there to be a certain amount of redistribution of resources to make at least everyone economically sufficient enough to insure that everyone could be fed, clothed, healed and housed, what would be so wrong about everyone getting together and deciding how to apportion it efficiently? Of course, all 330 million of us couldn't fit in a room, but if we sent representatives that could work. So we call that government.

I know people say that government is inefficient, by definition, but I can't think of a more efficient way to effect an equitable redistribution of wealth.

I can't think of a way in which what is essentially charity can be harnessed to the free market.

Izgad said...

“Well, if you need a standing army, and it isn't going to be made up of volunteers, what do you do? You know some segment of society is going to be coerced into serving in a military capacity, so which should it be?”

I fully agree. The difference is that I am very open about the fact that it is coercion. I do not like it, but I recognize that it is necessary. We send eighteen year old children to die and there is nothing fair about that; it simply necessary for the greater good of all.

By the way I should point out that it is an act of discrimination against men that women are exempt from the draft. I would love to see this country attempt to bring back the draft so we can see a mass revolt by the male population. There is no way I would ever agree to serve in a war where my female pairs are exempt unless I would be guaranteed that I would never have to compete against a woman for a job.

“Twelve year olds aren't such a good idea, because they are neither mentally or physically fully developed for combat. Most 12 year olds are dumb, and most are wimps.”

Twelve year olds can fire an automatic weapon and they are easier to brainwash. Also their deaths exert a smaller economic toll on the society; fewer resources have gone to waste when they die. You would waste hundreds of thousands of dollars putting your eighteen year old through a K-12 education and a middle class childhood and all it is going to take is one bullet from my Kalashnikov kid, whom it has cost me only a few thousand dollars to put on the field. Do you really think that you can win such a war?

Izgad said...

“No. We hold these truths to be self evident. All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

Keep in mind that the equality you are referring to is the type of equality that allows slavery. No one gets any special legal status from how they are born, that is it. You have to pay for there to be a government to protect your inalienable rights. So your rights are not very inalienable; you pay for it. This is why I like the pre-moderns so much more than the moderns. The pre-moderns are at least honest.

Izgad said...

“I thought you were against stereotypes and generalities. Do all rich people use more legal protection? Does the amount extra they use correspond exactly with the extra taxes they pay? Why not institute a pay to play system?”

Again, I accept that we need to work with stereotypes and generalities. Hopefully we can be intelligent in our prejudices. I will even grant you that it makes more sense to be prejudiced against children than it is to be prejudiced against black males. In general I support pay to play, particularly for things like food, healthcare, roads, and schools. The exceptions are those things that by definition make something a government. I am not an anarchist; I believe that governments are necessary to protect people from direct physical harm caused by other people. Thus I accept things like police, an army, courts, and politicians. If any of these things were consensual it would not be a government.

“no slaveholding culture that ever pretended maturity was the justification for their continued subjugation of another people ever did.”

You need to read more defenses of that peculiar southern institution.

Izgad said...

"If a person believed that there was a moral and economic necessity for there to be a certain amount of redistribution of resources to make at least everyone economically sufficient enough to insure that everyone could be fed, clothed, healed and housed, what would be so wrong about everyone getting together and deciding how to apportion it efficiently?”

There are people out there who believe things that might condemn them to an eternity of hellfire or at least cause them to ruin their time on this earth. Yet I allow them to do so mainly out of a compromise that stops them from telling me how to believe. I do not force my religion or my morals down other people’s throats. So if Ebenezer Scrooge wishes to sit back and watch people starve to death that is his business. This is of course as long as he does not actively attempt try to harm the poor say by polishing off his musket to go pauper hunting.

Vox Populi said...

>You would waste hundreds of thousands of dollars putting your eighteen year old through a K-12 education and a middle class childhood and all it is going to take is one bullet from my Kalashnikov kid, whom it has cost me only a few thousand dollars to put on the field. Do you really think that you can win such a war?

Yes. There are countries that do use child soldiers, but those countries all suck. They don't filed an army of children because their economists have decided this is the most efficient way of conducting wars, they do it because they have no other resources. If we put a division of Sierre Leone prepubescents with Kalashnikovs against a division of Marines armed with nothing more than Kalashnikovs, the USMC is going to win every time. The recent showdown with the Somalian pirates is instructive. Sure, the good guys had better equipment in that case, too, but that's the whole point. You get what you pay for. Expertly trained, well-equipped, and physically fit soldiers are just so much better than 12 yr olds. That is why any society that has the choice will choose adults. In no instance that I can think of were the countries that used child soldiers opting to do that out of anything but the most dire necessity. (Iran, Sierre Leon, Germany in the spring of 1945, etc.)

>Keep in mind that the equality you are referring to is the type of equality that allows slavery.

No, that's the one Jefferson was referring to. And that's not because he believed that equality allowed slavery and for the rights of people to be taken away from them, but because he simply believed that black people, like white women, were not men, and were thus not created equal. But those who were men possessed inalienable rights. All we've done is expanded the scope of men.

>You have to pay for there to be a government to protect your inalienable rights. So your rights are not very inalienable; you pay for it.

I think you have it backwards. All people are born with equal rights. As you say, you pay for the government to enforce those rights. But those rights are there regardless. No one can rightfully take those rights away, government or no government.

The point of government, in the theory of Locke, is to ensure that my nice pretty little truth is actually enforced. The payment you give to the government to ensure your rights is not taxes per se, but obedience to the government's laws.

>You need to read more defenses of that peculiar southern institution.

Admittedly, this is not my area of expertise, but do you know of any legislative authority in the South setting a definite date for the maturity of the Negroid race?

>So if Ebenezer Scrooge wishes to sit back and watch people starve to death that is his business.

Well, not quite. You can't opt out of society. As you said, obedience to the law is not consensual.

You choose to live in the United States, you have to play by the US's rules. That includes taxes that fund the priorities of the US government. The government is just the instrument of the people. If the people decide that welfare is a sound priority, then it's just as philosophically legitimate as setting up a system of courts. Maybe Ebenezer Scrooge wishes also not to be bound by the decisions of his state legislature. Doesn't matter if he physically harms someone or not, or if he causes someone an economic loss or not.

Incidentally, why am I posting everything twice?

Izgad said...

“If we put a division of Sierre Leone prepubescents with Kalashnikovs against a division of Marines armed with nothing more than Kalashnikovs, the USMC is going to win every time.”

We have yet to see a modern state turn to Kalashnikov kids. All of our modern states have cultures that buy into the Rousseauian nonsense that childhood has some sort of innate value as a time of innocence and should therefore be protected. This has caused such societies to reject the notion of fielding children with moral disgust. Obviously man for man a teenage marine is going to be superior to a twelve year old Kalashnikov kid, but keep in mind that we are dealing with a question of economic efficiency here. Our Kalashnikov kid fielding country, having equal resources to your eighteen year old marine country, is going to be able to field more Kalashnikov kids. So it is going to be more like two divisions against one. Furthermore they are going to be able to better supply them since the money that your country spent teaching year eighteen year old marines Shakespeare in high school can be used to buy body armor without any baking sales.

Izgad said...

“No, that's the one Jefferson was referring to. And that's not because he believed that equality allowed slavery and for the rights of people to be taken away from them, but because he simply believed that black people, like white women, were not men, and were thus not created equal. But those who were men possessed inalienable rights. All we've done is expanded the scope of men.”

Jefferson most certainly believed that blacks were human beings and assumed that they would one day be free. He simply operated with an Aristotelian notion of freedom which assumed that a large percentage of the population would be slaves to serve the free few. We have not expanded the concept of men. We have simply redefined "equal."

“I think you have it backwards. All people are born with equal rights. As you say, you pay for the government to enforce those rights. But those rights are there regardless. No one can rightfully take those rights away, government or no government.”

You may have some theoretical right to life, liberty and property in a state of nature and other may be morally required to respect them, but that is not going to mean a whole lot without a government. When we bring government into the picture we sign a deal with the Devil, bargaining some of our liberty in order to protect them in the first place. The government, particularly your non-libertarian government, but even my libertarian one, can take our money, throw us into the army, send us to our deaths and, if we make a fuss about it, can put us in jail.

Izgad said...

“Maybe Ebenezer Scrooge wishes also not to be bound by the decisions of his state legislature. Doesn't matter if he physically harms someone or not, or if he causes someone an economic loss or not.”

The assumption here is that we are dealing with a government that respects the religious, political and moral beliefs. I imagine Scrooge as being a Calvinist. It would be an entirely different political/moral question if he was living in an England where the law demanded that people practice Anglicanism and did not just send ghosts into scaring old misers to convert to this more jolly religion. Assuming that Scrooge does live in a free society, by which I mean a society in which he can pursue his own good in his own way as long as he does not interfere in the ability of other people to pursue their own good in their own way, it would seem that there is no way for society to make Scrooge give money to charity. Maybe Scrooge follows Ayn Rand and believes that charity is immoral. Maybe it goes against his Calvinist beliefs that God has preordained everything. This would make welfare the equivalent of a state-sponsored church. While we are at it we might as well force Scrooge to sleep with hookers. (Economist Steven Landsburg, in More Sex is Safer Sex, argues that having abstinent people sleep around helps society by putting more STD free options on the market.)

Vox Populi said...

>We have yet to see a modern state turn to Kalashnikov kids.

I don't think that's true. Iran is a pretty modern industrial state, and they've put out child soldiers. Nazi Germany was probably the most advanced military machine (efficiency wise) for its time, and they fielded child soldiers in the end there. I don't think either of these two societies really bought into that much Rousseau, and it's worth noting that they only turned to children when there were really no other options. Not because of some belief in the ideal of childlike innocence, (both Islamic fundamentalism and Nazi youth culture lean against this) but because having 12 yr olds do battle is really grossly inefficient. Better let them live a little longer and get stronger and then use them.

>Our Kalashnikov kid fielding country, having equal resources to your eighteen year old marine country, is going to be able to field more Kalashnikov kids.

So far, no country that did field a child army has anything comparable to the resources of a country that didn't have to, that's my point. History has seen many brutal military regimes, that nonetheless shied from fielding children, not because Attila the Hun believed in the ideal of childlike innocence, but because it makes no sense. It would be like an NHL team sending all its roster players down to the minors in favor of the 18 yr olds they just drafted.

>So it is going to be more like two divisions against one.

Even assuming there are more young people than old people (this is not true in Russia, I think) you're not going to have twice as many 12 yr olds as 18 yr olds. You'll have more, but not enough that you can overwhelm them. And numbers aren't all that important. A smaller capable army will usually beat a larger army of incompetents, or prepubescents.

As for equipment, who's going to carry it? Can your 12 yr old run around a jungle with 40 kg of equipment?

As for our taboo against fielding children, I would assume it developed not of out of some innate Rousseau, as you put it, but probably out of the evolutionary realization that women and children do not hunt or fight the other cavemen, because they suck at it. If you have an army of kiddies, you will lose.

Vox Populi said...

>The government, particularly your non-libertarian government, but even my libertarian one, can take our money, throw us into the army, send us to our deaths and, if we make a fuss about it, can put us in jail.

Yes, that's fine. We're talking about which theory makes more sense to build a civilization around.

I say it makes sense for us to assume that everyone is entitled to their rights, but it is incumbent on society to enforce them.

You say it should be more of a pay to play? I'm not understanding what we're disagreeing about here anymore.

>Assuming that Scrooge does live in a free society, by which I mean a society in which he can pursue his own good in his own way as long as he does not interfere in the ability of other people to pursue their own good in their own way, it would seem that there is no way for society to make Scrooge give money to charity.

Of course there is. Just like there's a way to make me give money to wars I don't like. Or to states I believe should never have been allowed to join the Union. (Do we really need two Dakotas?)

Does this mean that the US govt. is really a Church of War? There are a lot more people out there that think war is immoral than think charity is immoral, but that is besides the point.

The point is that everyone has obligations to society, the executive arm of which is the government. We authorize the government to raise money for the continued health and wellbeing of our society. We can't all agree on what that's going to be, so we hold elections, so at least most of us, or a bare majority, will be in rough consonance with each other here. Some people will find these conclusions unbearable. Okay. Too bad. Go somewhere else. That doesn't mean we don't live in a free society that respects other people's values. But you can't expect to live in our society and benefit from the equitable administration and protection of our laws and then refuse to do your bit. We've allowed for certain exceptions, mind you, to make this easier. If you're a conscientious objector, you don't have to go to war. That's not because we've enshrined the ideal of civil disobedience, but because we've enshrined the specific form of civil disobedience known as pacifism. Or bus boycotts, etc. We have not yet said that anyone who does not wish to contribute to social welfare programs may opt out.

>While we are at it we might as well force Scrooge to sleep with hookers.

Yes, we could do this! We're not going to (at least not anytime soon), but if our society wished to we could make some sort of constitutional amendment (I'm not even sue that would be necessary) and force everyone to sleep with hookers!

Our society has made the judgment however, bless'em, that forcing you to contribute via taxes to its social welfare programs is less intrusive on you than the Landsberg directive, and more legitimate. But to be clear, thats only because that;s what our society thinks now. That could change. But give Obama some time.

Izgad said...

“I don't think that's true. Iran is a pretty modern industrial state, and they've put out child soldiers. Nazi Germany was probably the most advanced military machine (efficiency wise) for its time, and they fielded child soldiers in the end there.”

Funny that you mention Iran, I was planning on bringing up their usage of child soldiers during their war with Iraq. They would use film tricks to create images of the Imam Hussein, killed in battle against Sunni forces, and inspire the kids to go seek martyrdom. I do not get the sense that putting child soldiers onto the field was a failure for Iran. Nazi Germany did not start sending out the Hitler Youth into combat until the end of the war when everything was lost anyone. It should be pointed out that one of the advantages that Nazi Germany had at the beginning of the war was that they were fielding soldiers who had already spent several years in the Hitler Youth receiving military training. Man for man the German soldier was superior to the English or French soldier with a few months of military training. (William Shier talks about this.)

Ironically enough it would require a more advanced state in order to take advantage of child soldiers. This is something that would require forethought and planning. Yes left to their own devices kids are not going to be very useful. The question becomes what happens when you take twelve year olds who have been receiving military training and brainwashing since they were six. I am willing to bet on these kids being able to beat year eighteen year old public school trained kids.

Izgad said...

“Our society has made the judgment however, bless'em, that forcing you to contribute via taxes to its social welfare programs is less intrusive on you than the Landsberg directive, and more legitimate. But to be clear, that is only because that is what our society thinks now. That could change. But give Obama some time.”

I am assuming we are dealing with a free society committed to the proposition that everyone is free to pursue their own good in their own way as long as they do not interfere with the liberties of others in some meaningful way. We have a balancing act here. How do we draw a distinction between having a state that can tell you not to rob or murder your neighbor and draft you into the army and one that can force you to follow a specific religion or code of morality. Traditionally this has been done by drawing a distinction between direct physical harm and all other sorts of harm. (Your soul burning in hellfire does not count as physical harm.) I don’t get the sense that you wish to allow for a state that can force people to follow a religion. That being said you do wish to have a state that can force people to give charity. As a libertarian my challenge to you is how do you draw a distinction between your coercive charity and a coercive state religion. By the fact that you are willing to acknowledge that the state can force people to have sex with prostitutes I would say that you are throwing the game away and admitting that the state can engage in religious coercion.

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