Disenfranchising Bill and Pam, Cont’d

by John Derbyshire

Just some brief follow-up points on my “Disenfranchising Bill and Pam” post yesterday.

— Of course nothing of the kind is going to happen. It’s conceivable that voting rights might be lost under some foreign occupation, or suspended after some military coup, but so long as we have our constitutional order, the scope of the franchise can only widen, never narrow. That seems to be as close to a universal principle of political science as you can get. Mentally surveying the history of constitutional republics world-wide, I can’t think of a single counterexample (i.e. of a case where some right to representation, once gained, has been lost through orderly constitutional change). Mulling over the possibility of denying the vote to government employees is therefore just a rarefied kind of Gedankenexperiment, like proposals for spelling reform — really, just an elevated style of grumbling.

Granted all that:

— Yes, I’d exclude the military. In fact, if you took the link to my 2003 column, the relevant passage is headed “Disenfranchise nonmilitary government employees.”

— Sure, outlawing public-sector labor unions is just as good an idea, much more constitutionally acceptable, and much more politically feasible, though the battle would be fierce. That was the previous section in my 2003 piece.

— “If you’re going to disenfranchise government workers, why not go the whole hog and disenfranchise anyone who is a net recipient of transfer payments in any form — people on welfare, the low-taxed, employees of big government contractors, etc.?” I can’t think of a reason; but in a Gedankenexperiment you can do what you like. You rarely have to go the whole hog, and political reform is usually best carried out incrementally. Let’s, in Derbtopia, get gummint workers off the rolls first.

Heinlein rocks; but the vets-only franchise of Starship Troopers doesn’t look as good to me now as it did when I defended it in a high school debate circa 1963. In times of prolonged peace, for example, the military is mainly a nuisance and not very popular. When there is really nothing much to fight about for really long spells, they can be a major nuisance — ask a citizen of practically any Latin American nation.

The Corner

The one and only.