How about some reader mail?
‘I read with interest Dan Denning’s comment (18th June), ‘The world would be better governed if you had to pass some sort of intelligence/capital asset test in order to vote, or if you had to demonstrate the capacity to exercise authority over others
‘Seeing as he’s not Australian, I suppose Dan can be forgiven for not knowing about the battle of the Eureka Stockade. It’s as close as Australia ever got to a revolution or civil war, in December 1854 when 22 miners and 6 soldiers died fighting over, ‘the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey, that taxation without representation is tyranny.’
‘The result was universal suffrage for all white males in 1857 with the passing of the Electoral Act 1856 in Victoria. Prior to that, the only people who could vote were those that owned property or employed other people (i.e., the rich, the powerful, the landed gentry, the noble class) – exactly the people Dan refers to as those who would, ‘pass some sort of intelligence/capital asset test in order to vote, or if you had to demonstrate the capacity to exercise authority over others responsibly.’
‘Dangerous stuff, Dan.
‘The stuff of revolutions.
‘But then, isn’t a revolution a situation where you turn 360 degrees and come back to your starting point?
Excellent points. We were aware of the Eureka Rebellion, actually, and have a soft spot for it in our hard heart. It has fascinated us that Australia never really had a full-on political rebellion against authority, whether it is the Crown or the government.
As an American, we reckon this explains a lot of the most interesting discussions we’ve had with Australians. Australians and Americans, historically speaking, have very different relationships with authority. America has a tradition of viewing government of any sort as threat to personal liberty. It is animal to be caged, closely guarded, and treated with the utmost suspicion.
The Australian relationship with authority – or trust in the benevolence of government – is probably less dogmatic. We say that, although you can only ever make gross generalisations when you’re talking about a whole country. Every individual is different.
Still, there are cultural traditions which reveal the general attitude toward institutions. Hence, the pride with which most Australians we’ve met speak about compulsory voting. Many folks we’ve spoken to view it as badge of national honour.
‘Does it guarantee you get better government,’ we’ve asked?
‘Does it mean, by definition, all the people with no knowledge of political issues will be given equal voice?’
‘Then if all it does is guarantee that all the least informed morons in society have their voice heard and doesn’t improve the quality of electoral result, then how exactly is it a benefit at all?’
At that point we usually get something like, ‘I just think it’s a good thing. Everyone should have to do it. And besides, all you have to do is show up. You don’t even have to vote.’
Then what’s the point?
Our point yesterday was that voting itself has becoming an illusion of the powerless exercising restraint over the powerful. You don’t really have any choice about what kind of laws you should or should not have to obey. All you have a choice of is lawmakers.
Most of them are fighting for the right to restrict your choices anyway. Some are doing it from the Right. Some from the Left. But all are doing it with the presumption that they have authority over you, the taxpayer who’s forced to prove his consent to this arrangement by dragging himself to the polls and validating his overlord.
Our problem with voting is that it no longer allows you to restrict the power and influence of government in your life. It gives the illusion of representation and inclusion. But in reality, we all end up doing exactly what we’re told or we go to jail. Who knows, in ten years, writing that might get us on a list for termination by a Reaper drone hovering over major cities, monitoring civil disobedience. Voting is no longer the hallmark of a free and liberal society. We are replacing one set of leaders with another. But the institution of government itself has become a self-interested, self-preserving, dangerous power.
In a free and liberal society, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time or energy defending yourself from the predations of government. The rule of law exists to protect your person and your property. Beyond that, you have constitutionally restricted the government from intruding in your private and public life. You’re free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in the manner that you see fit, as long as it doesn’t involve chewing anyone’s face off.
Yep, that’s probably a pipe dream at this point in the history of the Welfare/Warfare state. But we certainly refuse to contribute to the charade that our vote makes any difference to the quality of the world we live in. The only thing that makes a difference is human action and the decisions you make with your time, money, and affections. More on that tomorrow!
for The Daily Reckoning Australia
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