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Just Another Example

Post 61

Sol

I like that idea, but the first problem I though of is, isn't the turnout to vote pretty low already? Of course, I know that full turnout isn't what you are going for, but unless you come up with a way to exclude all the numpties on principle, perhaps the best thing to do is hide them amongst the sane but apathetic.

I'd go for: make voting compulsary (with a fine for non attendance). And then add your test - with a fine for a score of less than...

I can't decide whether the fine for non attendance should be less than the fine for being politically ignorant. Perhaps we should just start with a complusary test (with an attached fine) for everybody. After that people might feel more inclined to vote and would at least be doing it with some kind of improved understanding.


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Post 62

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

>>I'd go for: make voting compulsary (with a fine for non attendance).

Surely in the US, there's an even bigger factor influencing turnout. As an African-Anerican friend said to me:
"Every twelve years or so, we have a referendum to see if African-Americans should still be allowed to vote."

Disenfranchisement is a major problem in American politics - not just in relation to the minorities, but also the poor. Thus the comfortable-stupid-opinianated can prevail.

The idea of some kind of educational test *sounds* attractive...but think of how it might work in practice. Such measures were long part of the Jim Crow tests designed to disenfranchise. It sounds obvious that education should be a qualification, until you remember how educational resources are distributed. And even if you take a basic test such as literacy...do you *really* want to exclude, eg, those with dyslexia?

The truth is that American politics doesn't need all these untried, untested innovations. The real need is more prosaic: Campaigning; Grass roots engagement; Registration drives. All very hard work. Are you up to it?

Agitate! Educate! Organise!


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Post 63

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

But if you're worried about the state of democracy in today's America - just look at how fragile it was in 1933:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20070723.shtml
smiley - yikes


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Post 64

Ferrettbadger. The Renegade Master

"Maybe they should put a quiz at the end of each ballot, with random questions about what each candidate stands for. If you score below a certain level, your vote is discarded. That'd certainly help eliminate the opinionated-yet-completely-ignorant vote that seems to drive these things. And just the idea that there's a test at the end would stop a certain segment of the population from showing up at the polls that we could really do without."

smiley - laugh How gets to set up the test though? Did make me chuckle though Blathers!!!!


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Post 65

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

Sol: Very fine suggestions, all. I'd suggest, though, that instead of fining the people who don't vote or who fail the test, we instead make it a tax credit for those whose votes are successfully counted. In this way we use the carrot, and not the stick.

Ed: The 2004 election was an absolute triumph as far as grass roots campaigning and voter turnout... but we still got 62 million people voting for the chimp. Educate? You know as well as I do that a large part of the population has no interest in being educated. It always sounds very good in theory, but doesn't work so well in practice.

Ferret: I was considering that very question yesterday, after having posted this, and came up with the guys who run that website that I was checking in with on a regular basis all through the 2004 campaign... and I wish I could remember the site. Anyway, these guys were breaking down practically every claim by either candidate and verifying whether there was any accidental truth to any of it. It seems to me that questions about the TRUTH behind the various candidate claims would be the best way to separate the drones from the people who were actually paying attention. For instance, anyone who believed the Swift Boat Vets' story should have been instantly disqualified, since that hoax had been exposed well before election time.

Anyone know which site I'm talking about?


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Post 66

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

So your alternative proposal is what, Blath? Re-invent democracy? I await your propsals with interest. Meantime...we have to accept that the losers simply failed to make their case. They didn't work hard enough. The didn't get sufficient dissenters motivated to vote.

As for questions on party policies at the end of the ballot paper...I can illustrate the problem with this with a couple of examples:

Democrats, '92: "We stand for healthcare reform"
Republicans, '04: "We stand for peace, democracy and stability in Iraq."

(Anyone, any year: "We stand for God, Mom and apple pie.")

Sorry - but as I find myself increasingly becoming a (small d) democrat. Democracy is the best we've got, and it's down to us to make it work. Democracy should mean government of the people, by *all* the people. We've simply no business writing people off as dumb. In any population sector, from top to bottom, you'll find the dumb and the bright just about equally distributed. Has it not occured to you that those who vote against national/personal interests, or who don't vote at all are subject to various political/ societal influences? Overcoming those is going to be damned hard work - but it's how democracy is delivered. So get your freakin' ass in gear and go do it.

>>Educate? You know as well as I do that a large part of the population has no interest in being educated.

Now that really *is* a dumb statement.


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Post 67

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

You're making a fundamental error in assuming I'm railing against "dumb," when what I'm really against is "lazy." For instance, I said there is a certain part of the population for whom no education will do any good... they're not the people who are incapable of understanding... they're the ones who will never even bother to listen in the first place.

If I wanted only intelligent people to vote, I'd have just instituted an IQ test and had done with it. But intelligent people can be just as guilty of not paying attention as anyone else. So I want a test that checks to see if you've been paying attention. If you learned all you know about the candidates in 30-second increments, you haven't been paying attention.


Just Another Example

Post 68

Sol

I certainly need an incentive to research my political parties. It's not about dumb, I agree, it's about lazy.

Still, I was trying to think of a criteria for the questions that would make the results reliable and (ugh) fair, and it is tricky. You can't get the parties themselves to submit their questions, for the reasons Edward has pointed out, and a third party would always get accused of bias.

Also, if it's based on up to the minute exposes of wrong things candidates said, then you might find that party X has 25 minor innacuracies vs part Y's 3 barefaced lies, but which looks woirse to the voter about to vote? And if you miss any, then it's the bias argument again.

I was thinking some form of measurable index across the board: promised spending on X, actual spending on X sort of thing, but I'm sure before I've even finished typing this y'all can think of the 42 reasons why that is flawed.

So. How about: you aren't allowed to vote unless you turn up with a chitty stating that you have attended a designated muber of designated political events. Debates with candidates there, some kind of orientation course, some kind of enforeced part political broadcast viewing session. 'Attended', mark you, _not_ 'passed'. Still, something might rub off.

Mind you, I'm not much of a democrat these days. I'm not at all convinced it's the best we've got.


Just Another Example

Post 69

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

Well now...can I suggest you both read 'The Prince' by Nicolo Machiavelli? The definitive book on political strategy?

Yes, of course a fair proportion of the population will be lazy. That's the ruling elite's intention. Focus your political efforts on making part of the population comfortable and you'll build a ready powr bloc with no reason to question the status quo. With the rest of them...those for whom the government is working counter to their interests...disenfranchise them, distract them, set one part against the other.

Now - presumably we agree that there is a majority of US citizens who are not served by your government. These are the ones you need to reach. And that's going to take effort. No easy solutions.smiley - sorry


Just Another Example

Post 70

Sol

Well. I have read 'the Prince'. I have, in fact, written a disertation on Machiavelli. Although this was an undergraduate dissertation written by a 21 year old *cough* years ago, there are a few points that are interesting about it.

I rather subscribe to the view that 'the Prince' was a sort of extended cover letter to the Medici's saying 'give me a job'. He wrote a rather lengthier and more pondered book about a untopian republican state, and the reason why he was having to plead for a job was that he had been entrenched in the previous government of Florence - a republican one - that the Medici's has got rid of. A sort of Peypesian position though: probably quite important in his own department, but not a name on everybody's lips. Cardinal Richelieu he was not.

Anyway. This means that you really should take what is says with a very large pinch of salt. It's the small clever boy running after the big bully and trying to swagger for his benefit. Overegging the authoritarian and ruthless pudding is what the Prince represents. Have you read his Discourses on Livy, Edward? I recommend that:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1866

However, everything he says about Venice shows only a superficial understanding of the place _and_ likewise his views about warfare. He's against the then current practice of hiring mercenaries and in favour of a national army, and spends quite a bit of time complaining about how inneffective the mercenaries are.

In fact, they were rather good.

So he's not an infaliable guide to how to conduct any type of political system really.

But one thing I always liked about Machiavelli is the fact that he was considerably more interested in the practical side of government than in meaningless platitudes like 'a Prince should be kind and compasionate' and 'government should be by the people and for the people' and 'well it's a shame about Iraq but at least they'll be better off now they've got democracy, right?'.

He was interested in making it _work_. Whatever varient of 'it' the governement actually was. There's nothing wrong with thinking about how to improve the system practically, and I fail to see why redesigning the whole voting arrangements of a country, or really if you remember that Blatherskite and I come from different places, two countries at least, counts as 'taking the easy option'. smiley - sorry

Incidently, I think I forgot to say how much I liked the tax credit incentive idea over the fines system.


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Post 71

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

In that case, I apologise for being patronising.

My point, though, is that the situation in which many people are too 'lazy' to vote sensibly is a matter of time-honoured political engineering. It's more complicated that a matter of individual characteristics. Hence my Machiavelli reference. He understood that politics was about the systems by which power is retained.

The solution? Well - it's no use bitching and griping about how nobody votes the way they should. And it's no use saying "No fair! Voters should have to take an exam." Because - well - who's going to vote for that?

The way ahead? Well...one route is armed insurrection obviously, but that tends to have its down sides. The only other route I can think of is to get involved in democratic politics.


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Post 72

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

I don't think you see your own contradiction, Ed. You explain a political machine which keeps people too fat, dumb, and happy to pay attention, and then propose a solution which is doomed to fail, because they won't pay attention. "Educate" and "grass roots campaign" all sound very nice, in a stereotypical wussy liberal kind of way, but what will that actually accomplish? Political rally? Good luck. The only ones who show up are the ones who already care. The rest are watching the monster truck rally in HD.

I'm more interested in practical solutions that might actually work. Are you happy with the status quo? Fine, let your vote express that. But it's not too much to ask that you set aside some time and actually listen to what the other side has to say first.

Me... I share the opinion that democracy is the worst form of government, except for everything that has been tried before. If you read the writings of the Founding Fathers, you'll see a lot of contempt for it. It's a popularity contest, and in the age of television, how you look and how you sound carry more importance than what you say.

And sometimes, the ideals that are popular are not very good ones. If Dubya being re-elected by a majority popular vote isn't enough to disillusion you about democracy, after having demonstrated himself as an unmitigated disaster, then review the number of fascist dictators throughout history who have gained their position through popular election. The thing they have in common with Dubya is that they were successful in bringing out the worst in people. Mob rule.


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Post 73

azahar

<> (Blathers)

Is there any other viable option?

az


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Post 74

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

I think that's my position also.

Yes, there are contardictions in democracy - but it's the best shot we've got. On that basis I'm willing to go out on a limb and preach in its favour. But its up to us to steer it in the direction we want. Disengagement is not an option.


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Post 75

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

I imagine an argument very like that one was once presented in a cave somewhere in defense of the pointed stick. "It might not be a perfect weapon, but it's the best one we've got." Luckily, it didn't stop the people as a whole from exploring other methods.

If you think democracy is bad now, give it another generation or two. It's a proven fact that stupid people breed faster.


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Post 76

Edward the Bonobo - Gone.

But I'm still not sure what weapon you're proposing as an alternative. On the assumption that part of the population is stupid (a contentious statement which is maybe worth exploring further)...well, to paraphrase a famous man, "The stupid you will always have with you."

What *really* scares me about American politics is that bright people like your good self have been conned into disengaging with the democratic process, into believing that there's nothing that can be done, into forgetting what grassroots activism means. It sounds like you're volunteering to be included amongst the stupid.

Jaysus - I do wish young Americans would rediscover radicalism!


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