Limiting the franchise: a proposal

When I raised the same topic a few months ago in a more tentative fashion, I pointed out that the mission statement of this website is to look at our society from the point of view of the “traditionalist, politically incorrect Right.” By definition, the traditionalist Right does not subscribe to modern indiscriminate notions of equality. A Right that simply accepts, without question, the universal suffrage of all persons, including women, wards of the state, felons, persons with sub-normal intelligence, and 18 year olds, is not a serious Right. Furthermore, many destructive trends have been unleashed in the modern world by extreme notions of equality that are incompatible with a healthy and truly free social order.

Here then is a proposal suggested recently by an intellectual acquaintance, the basic principle and outline of which make a great deal of sense to me. I am not embracing the specific details, since a variety of means to obtain the same ends are possible. But to me the basic idea seems compelling.

The franchise, my friend said, should be limited to married men with children who are net tax payers.

This means that the vote, and the ability to serve in political office, would be limited to men who are responsible contributors to society. Men who are not married, or who do not have children born in wedlock, or who are not net tax payers, do not have a sufficient material stake in the society as an ongoing enterprise to be counted on to play a responsible role in its direction. Therefore they should not have a direct voice—as voters and office holders—in its direction. Women, generally speaking, are too much guided by emotion and personal considerations to have a direct voice—as voters and office holders—in the direction of society. Look at the ridiculous things political parties today must do to appeal to women. The entire three day minority dog-and-pony show at the 2000 Republican Convention was basically for the purpose of convincing “soccer moms” that the GOP is “nice” to minorities. No serious politics is possible under such conditions. Married women are naturally represented in politics by their husbands, and can exert political influence through the influence they have with their husbands, but the husband is ultimately the one who votes for both of them. Unmarried women as a whole inevitably look to the state to be their provider, and therefore they should not have a direct voice in the government. Also, unmarried women under this proposal are barred from voting for the same reason that unmarried men are, which is that they do not have a sufficient material stake in the society to be counted on to play a responsible role in its direction.

Let us also note the positive changes in behavior and morals that such a change in our laws would encourage. There would be a stronger incentive for men to marry and have children, since they would not possess political rights in the absence of having their own family and being self-supporting. The change in the franchise would also help restore men to their proper role as the head of the family and as responsible citizens and leaders of society. Today’s belief, that women need to be leaders and heroes in order to fulfil themselves, is false. Women do not need those things, they do not suffer from their lack, and society does not suffer from the absence of women firefighters and generals. But males, and society as a whole, most certainly do suffer from the denigration of boys and men that is the leading note of today’s feminist culture as enforced in the schools, in the universities, in the popular culture, and in sex relations.

In the early Republic, wherever universal male suffrage was not the rule, the main qualification for voting was ownership of property. Each state and even each locality set a minimum amount of property that a man must own in order to be able to vote. This made complete sense, for the same reasons argued above, namely, that only a man with property could be considered as having the qualities and outlook that would make him a responsible steward of the society. The current proposal aims at the same end, but through qualifications other than property.

The proposal does not infringe on the human rights, the property rights, and the civil rights of anyone. It only relates to people’s political rights, meaning the right to vote in political elections and the right to serve in political office. It would not prevent women and unmarried men from playing a public role in society, such as writing and speaking on politics and other matters; it would only prevent them from voting and holding public office.

During our previous discussion of the franchise, I considered, in a historic sense, what the rational reasons were for restricting political rights exclusively to men in the past, and I considered, in a philosophical sense, what the rules governing the franchise ought to be in a well ordered society. I also said that limiting the franchise seemed so far in the future that I had no notion of making such a thing happen. However, when I heard the above proposal a few weeks ago, during an after-lunch walk in Central Park, it all came together and made such complete sense to me that for the first time I went beyond thinking about the idea theoretically and I embraced it as a practical goal, though, of course, its possible realization lies as far in the future as the end of modern liberalism itself. Nevertheless, just as I aim at the end of modern liberalism, I aim at the end of the universal franchise and the universal right to public office. The precise qualifications for the franchise and public office will be the subject of discussion and I am not at the moment committed to any of them. I am convinced, however, that the universal franchise and the universal right to public office are bad for society, in the same way that I am convinced that the rule of non-discrimination is bad for society, and that open immigration is bad for society, and that moral relativism is bad for society. A society that hands its political direction, without distinction, to every adult person living within its borders has delivered itself to a principle of disorder that makes wise and effective government impossible.

- end of initial entry -

Chris L. writes:

I would add the restriction that any man divorced more than once should lose the franchise.

LA replies:

How does this fit with the basic purpose of the proposal?

Chris replies:

A man who has been divorced more than once shows himself to be unlikely to be able to make wise decisions and learn from mistakes. They tend to have tendencies where they repeat the same mistakes over and over again. It follows along with the Christian concept that a man who cannot run his own household is not one for a leadership position.

Tim W. writes:

Even in our present equality-oriented society, there are still some standards. People need diplomas, reasonable test scores, or other qualifications to hold many jobs. Yet we take it as a given that literally anyone should be able to vote. It should frighten people that there are politicians who want to enfranchise felons and who oppose requiring a simple ID or basic literacy requirement to vote. But most people, even Republicans who have a ton to lose, think the only qualification for voting is the ability to fog up a mirror.

Stewart W. writes:

One aspect of your friend’s proposal upon which you did not elaborate, and which is similar to that which I have discussed in my own modest circles, is “net taxpayers.” I have suggested that the franchise be forfeit for everyone who draws a steady check from any layer of government, the theory of course being that one should never be in a position to vote oneself a raise.

Although I recognize that the proposal is somewhat simplistic, it has the virtue of being easily articulated and enforceable. No teachers, welfare recipients, government workers, military personnel, social security recipients, or paid lawmakers would be able to vote. If you are a public servant, then part of your public service will be to leave the decisions regarding your performance and pay to your bosses. For all of the other categories, the way to regain your vote is to remove yourself from the public trough. This idea has certainly caught the attention of several of my friends and relatives, and although it is not as comprehensive as your proposal, it is perhaps an easier sell to begin the conversation.

Anthony K. writes:

My wife and I were speaking of this matter just last week. She was asking me what I thought of the presidential candidates and mentioned that she had no problem leaving all the voting decisions up to me, and how most people would view such deference. The gross liberal caricature of such a woman would be that she is either a) cowed into submission by her husband or b) unwilling or uninterested in “thinking for herself” to such an extent she is happy to let someone else do it for her.

A personal note will help me illustrate the idiocy of such a caricature. My wife is a birth assistant for a midwife, she is a leader in a grass roots organization which assists nursing mother. She is a steadfast defender of traditional methods of birthing and raising children which are under assault by a society which tells mothers they should leave such matters up to professionals and hired help. She had our child at home because she knew that as a healthy woman she had no need to submit herself to the protocols a medical industry often more interested in avoiding lawsuit than best serving mothers and children.

If I were to tell her tomorrow that we needed more money and she needed to get a job, put our child on formula and register him at a day care she would tell me that I had my priorities wrong. She would tell me her job is to ensure that our child is raised properly, which she can’t ensure by turning him over to strangers for a sizable portion of the day. She would tell me her job is to care for the matters of the home that I can’t attend to while working all day. She would say that God and nature intended mothers to nurse and care for their children so that they will be well in soul and body, and that I should remember that we are to seek first the kingdom of Heaven, rather than the next tax bracket.

In short, when it comes to the sphere of being a wife and mother, I know of no more assertive woman than my wife. She understands that we are not interchangeable parts, but that husband and wife each have unique duties for which God and nature have suited them. She believes her most important job is to be a mother and wife, and that this role leaves her no time to be engaged in political matters to the extent that would be required to make sound, independent decisions with her vote. She says that women should marry men whose judgment they can trust in political matters and leave such matters to the men. A good man, in her argument, naturally has his family’s needs foremost in his thoughts, and such consideration ensures that his wife’s interests are represented in political life.

The consuming demands of motherhood and domestic stewardship are, I believe, more important reasons to exclude women from the franchise.

P.S. You might be interested in Ivan Illich’s Gender, which shows how radically we have split from all traditional cultures by treating the activities of men and women as interchangeable. Christopher Lasch’s Women and the Common Life, which is a posthumous collection of essays assembled by Lasch’s daughter, is also highly recommended.

Michael K. writes:

Have we returned to the Greek city-state.?

“Women, generally speaking, are too much guided by emotion and personal considerations to have a direct voice—as voters and office holders—in the direction of society.”

Let us imagine a woman and a man owning and running a family business. The man dies and the wife continues on, employing a small group of workers, managing the business, and also continuing raising the children. Does your friend believe such an individual should now lose the franchise? How is this citizen now represented? Certainly not by her dead husband as stated: “Married women are naturally represented in politics by their husbands, and can exert political influence through the influence they have with their husbands, but the husband is ultimately the one who votes for both of them.”

The question is, do we want “citizens” to vote, or is an oligarchy a better form of representation? This is not to imply that all citizens will make equally reasoned voting choices, however. In any case, your friend’s anachronistic thinking will come off to many as looking rather absurd, given what can actually be expected or achieved within our current state of affairs. Expect much condemnation from knee jerk readers who will call your friend a variety of unsavory names!

LA replies:

First, to return to a more restricted franchise does not mean an oligarchy. Oligarchy means rule by the few. A society in which all married men have an equal vote is not an oligarchy, but a democracy.

Second, I do not expect such a change to be made within our current society. I am thinking in terms of a post-liberal, traditionalist society, and such a change in the franchise would be part of such a society.

Terry Morris writes:

I agree with the basic outline here, and have long agreed with it. One of the most egregious violations of common sense written into the U.S. Constitution, in my opinion, is the 26th amendment. I think it is unbecoming a free and enlightened people, tending rather to show to what extent we have become unenlightened and how little we truly value our freedoms.

Extending the vote to 18 year olds, who in virtually every case have exhibited no quantifiable self-governing independent qualities, have independently acquired no real property of any appreciable value (I speak of property here, not in terms of land ownership necessarily) and therefore nothing of real value which it is their interest to protect, is to me the height of irresponsibility.

I think that before any serious discussion could be had on restricting a woman’s right to vote, it would first have to be acknowledged that 18 year olds are not qualified to vote.

Jeff in England writes:

I can’t believe you waste your time on this nonsense. Here we are being invaded by millions of immigrants and your readers (well one of them) are worried about taking away the vote from women or something like that. Very real, very relevant. No wonder traditional conservatism is where it is.

LA replies:

To attack a proposed position on the grounds that it is a “waste of time” or a “distraction” is a non-argument. It is used constantly in politics to dismiss whatever position it may be with which one disagrees. It is a more polite way of saying, “Get a life.” There is virtually no position I have taken as a writer which one person or another has not told me was a waste of time. Had I heeded their criticisms, I would not have written any of the things I’ve written.

If people disagree with a position, they ought to say why they disagree with it. If they’re simply uninterested in the topic, then they don’t have to participate in the discussion.

LA continues:

The thing is, people tend to talk about the things they want to talk about, and complaints to the contrary do not change that. Think of the number of times you’ve seen some debate on tv and one person is saying, “This issue my opponent is raising is a distraction from the issues that really matter to our country, health care, education, blah blah.” Have such complaints ever made the objected-to issue go away? No. So the complaint that an issue is a waste of time is … a waste of time.

Laura W. writes:

I think your proposal is an excellent one for all the reasons you state. I am less convinced of your idea for prohibiting women from political office. I think there are cases in municipal government where women make a valuable contribution and where they dispel an atmosphere of chumminess. An exception at the local level for both married and unmarried women would be wise even if women couldn’t vote themselves.

Generally, this issue, more than any other at VFR, seems too green to even touch. To the outsider, your suggestion will seem preposterous. The suffragettes have reached the status of unquestioned secular sainthood. Your idea may be so distracting it limits the newcomer from considering other issues. It’s highly ironic given the low voter turn-out at elections today.

Laura W. writes:

Michael K. raises the case of a widow who owns a business and yet is disenfranchised. He is presuming that such a woman has no influence over other men: her father, her sons, her employees and her commercial contacts. There are many instances throughout history of women being active in business matters and yet without any political role. In 17th century Dutch Republic, women often participated in what was a true golden age of trade, banking and maritime business. They had no political role whatsoever. The two things were not in contradiction. The major point is this: women will have an influence on political affairs whether they have the franchise or not as long as their domestic relations are relatively stable.

LA replies:
A horrible scenario. But the outlines of it were in D’Souza’s book last January in which he said that conservative Christians should ally with “traditionalist Muslims.”

Gintas writes:

Jeff in England says writing about the franchise is a waste of time. I gather he’s been reading your site for a while, how much more does he need to read about immigration to get out and do something about immigrants? If he’s not motivated by now, even ten million other posts about it won’t do a thing. What’s the problem? It’s not as if you’ve gone off the deep end and are writing about Area 51. Or maybe writing about restricting voting is considered going off the deep end.

I have a secret: my wife handed me her ballot this month, and I voted for her.

Laura W. writes:

Limiting the franchise would have an immense effect in communicating invisible reality to people who are unable to grasp it, particularly to children. A child would learn from a very early age that the masculine and feminine are distinct and that these are more than simply biological realities.

Maybe I’m just a Pollyanna, but I think the damage of feminism will lead to a new clarity in the human mind. I’m hopeful not just that things will right themselves, but that some advance in thought will occur. Ultimately, the spiritual dimensions of masculinity and femininity will be clarified. Obviously, these weren’t sufficiently clear or feminism would never have made any headway.

I mean spiritual, not in its religious meaning, but in the sense that personality is spiritual and our emotions and thoughts are spiritual. Masculinity and femininity are not ethereal things: ideas we simply hold in our minds and give symbolic recognition of. Nor are they simply physical. They are also spiritual entities that require, as you said, their own concrete fields of action. There’s no way to get around it. When these dimensions no longer have expression in the real world, in their own and distinct spheres, they cease to exist. And, then culture itself becomes strange. Things that seem to have nothing to do with the masculine and feminine go bad. Men and women still marry and still have children. Women still cook and men still watch football. But, they cease being male and female in a larger sense and they cease procreating in a larger, spiritual sense.

The franchise is just one way of recognizing a spiritual truth. There are other equally important ways, especially through customs of courtship, marriage and home. None of these things are about just what they appear to be about.

Janet R. writes:

In a post liberal traditionalist society, can you have legalised divorce? I would contend that many of our ills today such as feminism and single mothers result from the legalisation of divorce. Once women have no security in marriage they need to be able to financially fend for themselves and their children should their husbands leave them.

I cannot now educate my own daughters for the traditional roles of wife and mother as I have no certainty that a) they will even find a husband and b) that if they do find a husband he will not leave them some day.

Even long standing marriages are at risk. Many Viagra fueled men in their 60’s and 70’s are abandoning their wives for younger women.

As for single mothers; Catherine Deneuve was once asked why she had never married . She replied” “Why marry when there is divorce?”

Brett A. writes:

I liked your article “Limiting the Franchise.” Then five minutes later I came upon this article which I thought was very interesting, especially when viewed from the perspective I gained from your article. It provides real world examples of the pitfalls of universal suffrage for those who are not responsible contributors to their society.

LA writes:

Rick Darby at Reflecting Light reflects on my franchise proposal and finds it wanting. I’ll try to reply to his arguments when I get a chance.

LA writes:

Predictably, Mary Jackson at New English Review has weighed in on this topic:

It is difficult to know where to begin with this nonsense, but here are two questions:

1. Jews tend to vote for left wing/democratic parties. Should they be disenfranchised?

2. Whatever happened to the idea of “No Taxation Without Representation”? It was the colonials who came up with that one after all.

Soon, no doubt, Auster will post comments from a motley crew of Stepford wives waxing lyrical about about the power of surrender. Auster’s world is looking more and more like an Islamic state.

Laura W. writes:

I love that comment about Stepford Wives.

Felicie writes:

How far back do you want to roll history? I am sure a convincing argument could be made for the return of slavery or polygamy. But I wouldn’t want to return to that world.

While I understand the idea of political investment and rationality as prerequisites for responsible voting, why stop at men with property? Why not men with very large property? They would have even more investment in the future of society. Why not limit franchise to aristocracy? Or why not to men with the IQ of 150 and higher?

I think you have, in this instance, misunderstood the idea of traditionalism. Traditionalist thinking is not about a blind retreat to the way things were done before. It is about reinterpreting history and traditions through the prism of increased understanding (as opposed to the prism of wishful thinking, which is the essence of progressivism). Just as an individual understanding of the world expand with time, so does society’s. As Christians, we apply the principle of the equality of human dignity. Our understanding of what it implies grows continualy and becomes more nuanced. This is why Western culture has increasingly focused on the individual. The idea of meritocracy is an expression of this trend. This is why we no longer have slavery or indentured labor. This is why we have admitted women into higher education and given them franchise. Turning back time would deny women equal dignity and ultimately impoverish our culture.

I am not deaf to Laura W’s idea of the separate spiritual realms of the feminine and the masculine. I think I do understand what she is saying and even agree with it. I disagree that the solution the problem of modernity would be going back to the 19th century. Doing so would ultimately be un-Christian, I believe.

Laurium wrote to Mary Jackson:

Miss Jackson, you have so many good arguments to make when you choose to make them. This would seem like a perfect opportunity to put Mr. Auster in his place.

You could have argued the issue by pointing out that women are not mere “emotionalists”—swayed by feelings more than thought.

Yet your first rhetorical weapon is taboo-maintenance: a fuzzy argumentum ad Hitlerum with that bit about disenfranchising the Jews.

George Wallace tried the same taboo-maintenance device (although not by appealing to Hitler) when discussing the Negro franchise and integrated education, by asking his audience whether they wanted Negroes to “marry their daughters.” It is ultimately unpersuasive, Mary, and usually betrays an inability to rationally address real political questions.

First, you unintentionally support Mr. Auster’s points of argument by failing to cite any examples of how the female franchise makes America (or any nation) a better and more secure country. The absence of any reasoned response (and by a woman!) inevitably reinforces Mr. Auster’s arguments. Even the Suffragists of 1900 realized they had to make positive (although purely conjectural) arguments in favor of the female franchise. Surely there must be a hundred, a thousand, things you could point to as benefits of the female franchise.

Secondly, you support Mr. Auster’s arguments by resorting to the very emotionalism that Mr. Auster uses as a reason to deny women the vote. He says that women are ill-equipped to deal rationally with political questions. And the logical force of your response is “Larry is a poopy-head!”

Please, Miss Jackson, say something positive for all voting women, something logically persuasive regarding the female franchise. Don’t leave your post unmanned.

Francis W. Porretto writes:

You might find the ideas expressed in this essay, and the associated comments, to be of interest.

LA replies:

Mr. Porretto’s article lays out a set of stringent voting requirements that he expects would drastically reduce the number of voters. His main criteria for the privilege of voting (he rejects the idea of a right to vote) are basic constitutional knowledge and no dependence on the government in the form of subventions or personal income.

Laura W. writes:

Felicie raises some excellent points. However, slavery and polygamy have nothing to do with the discussion and are in stark contrast to the issue of the franchise. The three most important rights that guarantee security of women are state-supported monogamy, property rights and access to education at its highest levels. Nowhere was there the slightest suggestion that state-supported monogamy should be abandoned. In fact, the opposite is true. Part of the underlying justification for Lawrence’s proposed change, which is merely a compelling intellectual exercise, is that it would strengthen the foundations of the family as it is.

Key to his proposal is the idea of the family as a corporate body that acts in concert instead of an association of autonomous individuals. Every corporation has a single person as its public representative. Is a CEO or the president of a law firm necessarily smarter than his employees or the other lawyers? No. But, he is the designated representative. If the family is to be viewed politically as a corporate body, how should we designate one representative? It makes sense to me to make it the man for the reasons Lawrence stated. However, in making it the man, we are not saying the woman is necessarily less intelligent or necessarily has worse political judgment. We’re choosing to go with a general hedge men have in political judgment and to honor the public authority of men, upon which so much of women’s security depends. It is not a perfect standard. Many men will have worse judgment than their wives. But, if we are to have any collective goals at all, we must embrace the imperfect.

Felicie asks, “But where will we stop?” Next we may have a real aristocracy. I say we stop at denying representation to each and every family, regardless of wealth and status. That is where you can draw the line without violating our democratic ideals or violating our Christian ideals. Central to Christianity is what C.S. Lewis called the laws of Selectiveness and of Vicariousness. Selectiveness means that we are not all the same, but are selected for different functions. Vicariousness is the law of absolute interdependence. We cannot escape our need for each other and we must honor and recognize this need in our political institutions and customs. I have a hard time understanding why women consider it beneath their dignity to trust in and depend on men particularly since men so clearly have no choice but to trust in and depend on them from the first moment they open their eyes on this earth. Behind this is the belief that the political sphere is superior to all other spheres of life. This is a materialistic view, not a Christian one. Most people who do not view the family as a corporate body, which is a non-materialistic concept to begin with, will find this proposal utterly repugnant.

LA writes:

Laura writes: “I say we stop at denying representation to each and every family, regardless of wealth and status.”

How then is a family headed by a widow represented?

Also, regarding Mary Jackson’s question about “no taxation without representation,” my response to this is that she is misusing the concept of no taxation without representation. When the American colonists said that to Britain, they weren’t demanding an expansion of the franchise. They weren’t demanding that individuals without the vote be given the vote. They weren’t talking about individuals or classes of individuals at all. They were talking about the American colonies as communities in their political relation to Britain. Since the founding of the colonies, they had never been taxed by Britain. Basically the colonies ran their internal affairs through their colonial legislatures, while their external affairs, including trade, were controlled by Great Britain. Any taxes in America were levied by the colonial legislatures. Then suddenly in the 1760s Britain began to levy taxes on the colonies. Since the colonies had no representation in the British parliament, this meant they could be taxed without their having any say in the matter at all. Further, King George in the Declaratory Acts declared an absolute right to pass any laws whatsoever over the colonies. This was threatening in the extreme to the colonies, portending that the colonies would be brought under the direct power of the British crown in the same way that Ireland was, with no rights at all. This unprecedented assertion of power over the colonies by King and parliament led to the American Revolution.

So, the correct meaning of “no taxation without representation” in the context of American history is that government cannot tax a community in the total absence of any representation by that community in the government that makes the laws. Its meaning is NOT that an individual cannot be taxed if he is not personally an elector. It’s meaning is NOT that every single individual in a community must have the vote. That has never been its meaning. The point of the saying is that there be representation, not that representation be distributed absolutely equally among all individuals in a community.

Having dispensed with Mary Jackson’s point, however, I would like to raise the question: what in fact is the justification for taxing an individual who cannot vote for the legislature which passes that tax? Yes, resident aliens are taxed without the vote, but they can become citizens and then can vote. Minors are taxed without the vote, but they reach voting age and then can vote. Unmarried men under my proposal would be taxed without the vote, but they can get married and then vote. But women can never get the vote under my proposal. What is the justification for this?

My answer is the same as Laura’s: that in the normal course of things most women get married, thereby becoming part of a family, a corporate body which is recognized as such by the state, and which is politically represented in the state through the vote of the husband.

Terry Morris writes:

Mary Jackson wants to hold strictly to the principle “no taxation without representation.” I’m fine with that. An unwed working woman who has no right to vote should not be taxed—no representation and no potential for direct representation, no taxation. I’ll trade that any day of the week and twice on Sunday for the alternative which seems to be that all women must have the right to direct representation whether they are net taxpayers or not, married or not, have children or not, and etc.

I think this relates in some way to the way Senators used to be chosen as compared to the way they are chosen now. Formerly they were chosen indirectly by the people, that is, the people elected their state legislature, and the legislature elected the U.S. Senators. Now the Senators are chosen by direct vote of the people. Formerly women were represented by the votes of their husbands. Now they are represented by direct vote of themselves. I think in both cases the better system is the former.

LA replies:
Does Mr. Morris think that under my proposal unmarried men, who cannot vote, should not be taxed?

Joseph C. writes:

I was away for a few days and just now saw your recent posts regarding the franchise. I have long thought voting was too accessible, and that Western nations have made voting too accessible. Between having tax recipients vote themselves a share of the treasury, voting by convenience an effective entitlement, and vast swaths of ignorant voters—those euphemistically called “undecideds” because they do not bother to focus on the races until the last weeks—being treated as royalty, we have effectively catered to the lowest common denominator.

Of all the proposed criteria for voting that were discussed, I think Mr. Porretto’s were the best—i.e. a rudimentary understanding of civics. For what it is worth, I would also add (i) no same day (or same month registration), so that voters would have to be registered for at least 30 days before Election Day; (ii) photographic ID required, not utility bills, bank statements, etc.; and (iii) no switching of parties to cross over and vote in primary elections. And as for the racial argument, I do not liken photo ID to a poll tax. I think most minorities that are legal voters are all too proud to show their ID and let the world know they are ready to vote.

As for Ms. Jackson’s ignorant comment about taxation without representation, I do not buy it. I submit to you that as long as recipients of public funds are able to vote, our problem is the reverse—representation without taxation.

Laura W. writes:

“How then is a family headed by a widow represented?”

I think I already addressed this issue in my point about women being daughters, sisters, friends, employers, etc. See earlier response to Michael.

Terry Morris writes:

What would be the benefits/non-benefits, in your opinion and the opinions of your contributors, of holding women to the same standards that your proposal demands of men, i.e., they must be married, net taxpayers and whatnot.

Laura W. writes:

The most persuasive argument against Lawrence’s proposal for the franchise, in my opinion, is this: that it would put women in a child-like relation to the state. This, in turn, would make them act and think in a more child-like way and see themselves as passive participants in politics and culture, undercutting their maternal authority in the home, their happiness, and their relations with men. This would be a very negative outcome and certainly has been the result of political powerlessness on the part of women in the past. It is not, however, in keeping with the American tradition. That tradition, as Tocqueville so eloquently stated, is one of self-confident and independent-minded women. On what does the strength of American political institutions rest? asked Tocqueville. “On the superiority of its women,” he said. By superiority, he meant not superiority in relation to men, but in relation to women in other places and times. Women will always have their native will and intelligence to protect them. They, and only they, can deprive themselves of this political good.

[Deleted Name] writes:

I am really enjoying the discussion about disenfranchising women. Hear, hear, I say.

One problem with universal suffrage is that when everyone can vote, everything becomes political. Politics seeps into everything because everyone is somehow involved in politics and they look to the ballot box as a convenient way to solve society’s problems. Having fewer eligible voters would encourage a robust community life. Consider how important it was, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for women of means to be involved in charitable works that were mostly local, private initiatives. Certainly, many women still love to volunteer with charities, but a lot of those who would have been active participants in the olden days now just vote for Democrats and consider their duty to society done.

Feminists scoff at sayings like “Nature has already given woman so much power that the law cannot afford to give her more” (Samuel Johnson?) but I really think it is true.

I use my ballot as a way of giving my husband the opportunity to vote twice.

Are you married, by the way? It seems not. So you are willing to be disenfranchised for the common good, eh?

LA replies:

That’s right.

Justin T. writes:

A few points on your discussion about your entry concerning “limiting the franchise” of our republic:

1. It is extremely important that we look at this rationally, realistically, and pragmatically, basically meaning that government should not be organized around idealistic or theocratic concepts. What government you, or anybody else thinks, is most in line with religious principles, is absolutely irrelevant. It is not the role of government to socially engineer society along secular or, especially, religious lines. The single most important function of government is to defend the nation and protect the natural rights of individuals and their families. The second most important function of government is to protect private property and enforce contracts. These are both key to the proper functioning of any kind of society or market economy.

2. I see no reason why women should not be allowed to vote. Should they not be allowed to work, either? If women are purged from the workforce, our economic capabilities decline automatically by at least 50 percent. Anybody who says that women should be eliminated from the workforce is basically calling for the destruction of the United States. People who think this way should be ignored and relegated to the fringes, where they belong. Albert Speer understood this when he took control of German war production in 1942 and allowed women to take a more active part in the workforce, much to the dismay of many highly ideological party leaders. Because he did so, along with many other reforms, he managed to quadruple production by 1944, prolonging the war. Imagine where Germany would have been had they done this a decade earlier? Terrifying thought, is it not?

3. As inferred in the previous statement about women, the organization of the world outside a nation’s borders is just as important as the organization of the society inside them. Any form of governmental organization that will weaken our ability to project power in our defense or economically compete with other countries should be immediately rejected. Alexander Hamilton was right when he said, “It had been said that respectability in the eyes of foreign nations was not the object at which we aimed; that the proper object of republican Government was domestic tranquility and happiness. This was an ideal distinction. No Government could give us tranquility and happiness at home, which did not possess sufficient stability and strength to make us respectable abroad.” Let’s face it: all of your cherished religious beliefs and views about women will not matter after your brains have been splattered across your living room floor as you rushed to protect your wife from being raped by foreign invaders who are occupying your country because your policies rendered it too weak to compete with others.

4. While limiting the franchise to those who own property is certainly preferable to the system that we have today, there are serious problems with this. What is to prevent large property owners from utilizing the government’s coercive power to maximize their property holdings via eminent domain laws, thereby slowly, but surely, eliminating large portions of the electorate and turning the country into an oligarchy?

5. As for Mary Jackson’s “no taxation without representation” argument, I do not understand why it is wrong for a person to pay taxes if he is being protected by the government or utilizing any other kind of governmental services. A better quote would be “no service without representation,” ie, the government cannot call upon you to serve if you are not represented in government. I believe that the best system of government is one where the members of the government and the electorate are those who have served their nation and everybody else who has not are excluded. Of course, this would cut the electorate down significantly (those who have served make up about three percent of the United States) and would include both men and women.

I have more thoughts, but I think that’s a good start. More than anything else we need to be realistic here. For those who want a Christian theocracy, I suggest they go join the Reconstructionist la-la-land centered on R.J. Rushdoony and his Institutes of Biblical Law.

LA replies:

I’m sure there are many good arguments to be used against the proposal to limit the franchise. In a 700 word comment, Justin has not made a single one.

Justin writes: “I see no reason why women should not be allowed to vote. Should they not be allowed to work, either?”

This is as logical as saying, “I see no reason why women should not be allowed to vote. Should they not be allowed to live, either?”

Justin rejects all the ideas that have been put forth to limit the franchise. He says the old idea operative in early America of limiting it to people with a certain amount of property would lead to an oligarchy. He says limiting the franchise to men would somehow lead to a prohibition on women working which in turn would lead to a collapse of the economy which in turn would lead to the conquest of America by foreign invaders and the mass rape of American women.

So, having seen the total conquest and destruction of America that would result from allowing only half the population to vote, he then turns around and presents his own proposal: that the franchise be limited to those who have served in the military—three percent of the population!

Ed L. writes:

In highlighting Laura W.’s comments, you’re apparently trying to impress us with her as an example of a woman who agrees with your draconian franchise proposal. As far as I’m concerned, she ironically resembles a liberal in that she’s unwilling to recognize and defend her own side in an argument.

I’ll be honest with you. At this time last week, I was seriously considering making you a monetary donation, based on the time and effort that you obviously put into the site. When I saw your franchise piece, however, I wondered how you could have been so bone-headed, posting something that you surely knew would antagonize and alienate many readers. Being unmarried, there’s no way in the world I’d ever take kindly to your franchise idea under any circumstances. To the extent that traditionalism is conterminous with the ideas that you promoted, I want nothing further to do with it.

LA replies:

Gosh, what happened to Haley Barbour’s (or was it Ronald Reagan’s?) principle that a man who agrees with me 80 percent of the time is my friend and ally?

Also, there is no dogma here. There is no ideology which is defined by some particular idea that people are required to agree with. You saw how several readers disagreed with the proposal. Also, I recognize that this is not something that is going to happen in our present society, and I will not be pushing it in our present society, unlike other issues that impinge immediately on our national survival. For such a thing as I am discussing to come about, society would first have had to change profoundly. There would have to be a general understanding that the equality of individuals, while it has its place in society, should not be the One Ring that Rules All Others. In other words, if there were ever a major restriction in the franchise, it would not happen as a result of someone like me arguing for it; it would happen because the society as a whole, including women, came to believe that it was a good idea. So I don’t think people have any reason to feel threatened by this discussion.

In any case, I can’t see how Ed’s disagreement with me on this one issue, which I’ve written about just a couple of times compared to other issues which I’ve written about thousands of times, is so objectionable to him that he would thereby lose all interest in VFR or traditionalist thought.

Maureen C. writes:

Regarding Laura W: Depriving females of the right to vote can be a concrete example of a spiritual truth for all the little babies to emulate? Ha, ha. How thweet. There is no possible rational response to this kind of saccharine, estrogen babbling. It’s the perrrrrfect complement to all the macho guns going off.

LA replies:

Laura’s “spiritual” argument was not one of the initial reasons for the franchise proposal, but when she made the argument I thought it made sense. She is arguing from the basis of a transcendent vision of man and society, in which, instead of human equality being the absolute ruling value that wipes out all other values, which is what we have now, the non-egalitarian idea of differentiation of function is allowed a place in society and is expressed through its institutions just as it is expressed in our original Constitution, with different parts of the government having different functions. From this point of view, the idea that men and women have different natures, and therefore naturally exercise different functions in society, and that this differentiation would be expressed, inter alia, through men functioning as the political representative of the family, makes sense to me. There is even a beauty to it, in the same way that a traditional skyscraper, with setbacks and different parts differentiated from each other, is beautiful and human, while a postwar glass box is bland and inhuman.

Now, maybe the world has so gone beyond such a traditionalist, Bonaldian concept of human nature and society that it can never go back, and therefore the critics of the proposal are correct and the supporters of it such as Laura and me are wrong. But there is nothing silly about Laura’s idea, any more than Plato’s Republic or Bonald’s On Divorce is silly. Anti-modern yes, but silly no.

Terry Morris writes:

Ed wrote:

“I’ll be honest with you. At this time last week, I was seriously considering making you a monetary donation, based on the time and effort that you obviously put into the site. When I saw your franchise piece, however, I wondered how you could have been so bone-headed, posting something that you surely knew would antagonize and alienate many readers. Being unmarried, there’s no way in the world I’d ever take kindly to your franchise idea under any circumstances. To the extent that traditionalism is conterminous with the ideas that you promoted, I want nothing further to do with it.”

Darn you LA! Due to your insolence you’ve lost traditionalism yet another potential convert, and yourself a potential—seriously considered-based on your time and effort—monetary award. Good thing for Ed that he had reservations enough to withhold his seriously considered contribution for … such a time as this? LOL

I wonder if there’s any way in the world that Ed would ever take kindly to the idea of getting himself married? Or is it that Ed long ago decided that insofar as marriage is conterminous with traditional conservatism, he wanted nothing further to do with it? ;-)

Laura W. writes:

Even if it were impossible to go backward and even though it is true, as I said before, that the franchise proposal is not worth bringing into any kind of public arena now, this issue is still important to discuss. Perhaps we can better understand our predecessors. Were they always motivated by contempt for women in denying them political privileges? To believe such a thing is to stand at such a fantastic remove from one’s heritage that one should confine oneself to thinking only of the present moment.

Laura W. replies to Maureen, Ed, and Justin:

Maureen would like to bow out of the discussion because I am a silly woman. She might instead further the discussion by actually responding to my points. She might, for instance, say that she believes society should work toward an androgynous ideal or that she believes any attempts to define masculinity and femininity beyond mere biological facts are worthless and dangerous. These are valid points and are held by a large majority of people today. Calling a traditional woman names, however, is the most ineffective strategy of feminists and is unworthy of Maureen.

Ed says I have not argued rationally at all and am really a liberal. I think the only comments that included no argument were my initial statement that I generally agreed with the proposal and my comment about being accused of being a Stepford Wife, which was too low to address. His comment that Lawrence is only posting my thoughts because I am a woman are, like Maureen’s, a cheap evasion. He simply cannot even contemplate a world where women don’t have the vote even though for much of history such a condition existed. Therefore, he simply cannot grapple with the overwhelming facts of history and wants to sweep them from his mind. He will even deny a contribution to a worthy cause because it has forced him to reckon with an uncomfortable fact. He wants his intellectual horizons nice and neat.

Justin would like to live in a state where ideals and any theological concepts are absent from the political order. Travel to the ends of the earth, Justin. Go back endlessly in time and you will not find such a place. Even an atheistic state orders its institutions on the basis of its conception of man’s place in the universe. Justin’s point that what we are really striving for is a theocracy is off-the-wall. I suppose he considers 19th century America to have been a dangerous theocracy.

No, that’s not his real point. His real point is that he wants to live in a nation where people never openly discuss non-material conceptions of existence, where people are actually discouraged from discussing such things when considering public issues because it upsets the cozy, comfy world of materialists. He can inhibit such open discussion, but these ideas of life’s meaning, or absence of meaning, will still be apparent in everything we do.

Harry Horse writes:

“I’ll be honest with you. At this time last week, I was seriously considering making you a monetary donation, based on the time and effort that you obviously put into the site. When I saw your franchise piece, however, I wondered how you could have been so bone-headed, posting something that you surely knew would antagonize and alienate many readers. Being unmarried, there’s no way in the world I’d ever take kindly to your franchise idea under any circumstances. To the extent that traditionalism is conterminous with the ideas that you promoted, I want nothing further to do with it.”

This comment alone was worth a paypal donation to your blog. I hope Ed enjoys the irony, and hopefully there are more people like me! Thanks for the hard work, and for ferreting out the poseurs.

LA replies:

No, Ed was not someone pretending to be conservative. He often had problems with me from a liberal point of view, but he kept hanging in there. So it seems that this time I just went too far for him.

Gintas writes:

Here is a sarcastic rendering of much of the response to your thoughts on the franchise:

“Gee, you’re Jewish, don’t you know the 11 Commandments, especially the 2nd one? It’s about the franchise? Like, for WOMEN?? Sheesh, go get a life already!”

The belief in the franchise is like unto a superstition. The fear is palpable. Keep shining the lights in the dark corners of liberalism, keep rattling those cages.

Maureen writes:

I take it back—I agree with Laura W that she should not have the right to vote. And while we are taking away votes, let’s take away the right to vote from John Kerry, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, and Al Sharpton.

Ed L. replies:

It really makes me wonder about human nature how people like you and Laura W. (and others surely) can sign onto a proposition that conflicts so directly with your own self-interest. I can’t figure out what possessed you to post such an ignominious outburst of drivel. It is too radical to be explained away as any kind of casual trial balloon. It rejects fundamental tenets of political rights and equality; it repugnantly resembles sharia. You, Laura, and I would be dhimmis under such a system of social order.

How in the world can you possibly say that you wouldn’t feel threatened under a proposal in which you’d be stripped of voting rights? If you feel that way, Venezuela might be a country more to your liking. How is this any less insane than Britons saying that they don’t feel threatened by the ceaseless tide of Third World immigration that is ravaging and dissolving their historic native country?

I’m not rejecting VFR in toto by any means. I just felt that the franchise piece threatens to give traditionalism a bad name.

LA replies:

Ed’s comment exemplifies the overwrought passion for equality that makes Americans in general and liberals in particular incapable of understanding any political order outside of contemporary American liberalism. As Ed sees it, a man in late 18th century America who didn’t vote because he lacked sufficient property, or a woman in 19th century America who did not vote because she was a woman (a 19th century American woman, the freest and most respected class of woman in the history of the world), was in a condition that was the equivalent of dhimmitude. This mad overstatement is a typical symptom of liberalism, which tells people that any social order which does not have OUR type of equality can only be monstrous oppression. Liberals simply cannot conceive of a moral social order other than our extreme modern version of equality. Thus even the earlier stages of our own country—including the Founding itself—are transmuted into alien darkness awaiting to be delivered into the light by OUR “true” understanding of equality. Nothing good about the past can be said, because as soon as it is said, a liberal reminds you, “But there was segregation then! Women couldn’t vote then!” We thus become profoundly alienated from our own past

Consider a further consequence of this mindset. If any order that is unlike our own extremely liberal order is anti-human tyranny, then we are prohibited from engaging in politics, meaning we are prohibited from discussing critically our own polity: “Is it a good polity? Is it the best polity? Could there be a better polity? What would a better polity look like?” An inevitable result of the modern belief in equality is the Closing of the American Mind.

Kevin V. writes:

After having read the thread on limiting the franchise and having considered the matter more, I would like to suggest an alternative to your idea that only married men with children be allowed the vote. This alternative is designed to get us to the same point—the franchise being exercised by only those who have a stake in the present and future community—but without necessarily implicating a sex-based right: the Household Franchise.

Under this system, a franchise right would devolve upon every registered household, defined as (1) a married couple who (2) have one or more children, living or dead, and who (3) hold property for household uses either in fee or pursuant to a qualifying mortgage loan [with that term further defined). This Household Franchise could be exercised by any member of that Household: the husband, the wife, or it could even be delivered at the booth by an older child. But, one Household, one vote.

Laura W. writes:

Kevin’s idea is an admirable one, but does he think the vote wouldn’t be a subject of argument between spouses? In the cases of political disagreement, it’s just one more thing to cause division. Yes, there would be some division when just the husband votes, but not over who will actually do the voting, which is a more serious issue in the case of differing political views. It’s like the egalitarian idea that we won’t decide by common standard who does which household chores or takes care of the children. We’ll just let everyone figure it out on an improv basis. Marriage becomes a series of tedious negotiations. Many couples would decide, well you take the vote this year and I’ll take the vote next. I’m not sure that’s an improvement on our present system. Actually, you might end up with more women voters than men as it could be the custom to defer to women and just give them the vote as a form of marital chivalry. I don’t think you’ll find so many men in office then. Matriarchy could become a political reality.

Kevin appears to think it presumptuous of men to have political privilege. Has he thought that women might be gaining something substantial in return? Consider this: in 18th century Holland, in a period and place where women did not have the franchise or the right to hold office, the illegitimacy rate was about four percent. Four percent! In the United States, it is nearly forty percent today. Even women who are married and affluent are hurt by this trend. Their children live in a world profoundly disordered by family breakdown. This breakdown is strongly tied to how we collectively define masculinity and femininity. I might add that, judging from the fantastic evidence left by Dutch portraitists as well as accounts of historians, women were quite content in 18th century Holland. Contentment is not a word that automatically springs to mind when considering the average American woman today.

Belanne writes:

What a fascinating discussion.

While I am not particularly fond of the feminist movement, I do take my right to vote very seriously. The idea that giving it up would be for the good of the country is interesting.

There are several points of this discussion as well as your original posting on the topic that I agree with. However, I’m not sure that the best solution to the dilemmas imposed by feminism is to rescind the right of women to vote.

Yes, women do see the world from the perspective of the child bearer. That’s the difference between acknowledging the existence of dirty diapers and the reality of “I’m going to be the one changing those diapers.” I’m thinking that the one most damaging aspect of feminism to our society was the legalization of abortion and easy access to the earlier form of abortion known as the pill. The idea that children could be eliminated without guilt or damage to the mother opened the doors to a plethora of ills. The shift in perception of responsibility for the creation of children, rather than freeing women to pursue their own lives, unhindered by the fear of being “chained” to a baby, in reality, enslaved us both to our worst impulses.

Prior to the access to easy birth control and that shift of morality, it was widely held that the “right thing to do” was to marry the girl because, as the father, you owed that to the child. It was recognized that men were part of the production process. I believe that part of the “feminization” of men, as it was referred to in your earlier post, is the loss of that area of responsibility and the loss of the requirement to exercise self control in that area.

Then there is the problem of convincing men to step up to that level of responsibility again. Having spent considerable time working as a volunteer for a youth program, I see a pervasive attitude of “someone else will do it for us” among the parents. My personal conclusion is that the nanny state mentality has so impaired many of our citizens, that they no longer understand the relationship between freedom and responsibility. And yet, your friend would have me give up my vote to feminized, nanny state raised men? Such a proposal seems to defy common sense.

LA replies:

On Belanne’s last point, she is making a faulty assumption that people often make when reading me. They assume that I am proposing some reform that would be added on to our present society as it now exists, with all other things being the same except for that one reform. Obviously the kind of radical change I am suggesting is intended for—and could only be achieved by—a society that had already left “feminized, nanny-state raised men” behind, or at least was in the process of doing so.

Belanne continues:

You trust women to bear your children. You trust women to raise your children. You trust women (by and large) to have the teaching of our young minds in the public schools. You trust women to be your lifelong confidantes and friends when you marry them, but you won’t trust them with a vote? That seems inconsistent.

I will freely acknowledge that women shouldn’t have to vote while they are raising a family. Raising children is so all-consuming, mentally and emotionally for the mother that her ability to gather and process information from the political sphere is severely hampered.

I agree that there is a level of maturity imparted by having and raising children. (My apologies to Mr. Darby.)

Once past that stage of life, I believe that women should be able to vote. If the trials and errors of raising a family don’t imbue one with an understanding that consequences follow actions, nothing will. (Certainly menopause should be a remedy to the emotional aspect of a woman’s ability to make decisions.)

Knowing that there are some couples who are unable to have children, I don’t think requiring adoption in order to be qualified to vote is a good idea. I also know several men who are unable to find wives even though they are hard working, honest men.

I think it would be far more effective to concentrate on teaching our children the things they really need to know to maintain and improve upon our society, than to disenfranchise 2/3 to 3/4 of the country’s population out of hand.

I would also prefer some sort of test to determine a potential voter’s level of understanding of our founding documents and how they relate to our current issues. I think that would be a far more beneficial method of determining who “should” have a vote.

In your first post, there were some references by Laura W. to Oprah and the NFL. I think it’s worth noting that we, as a people, are not in charge of what the mainstream media chooses to portray on television. True, we have some influence, through boycotting of sponsors, refusal to view, and government regulation, but ultimately, they must govern themselves. It seems to me that the insidious and pervasive influence of liberalism in the media must be addressed and corrected if we are to make any headway at all in restoring the values and principles upon which this country was founded. I believe that restoring those values and principles is at the heart of this discussion, with the proposal to “limit the franchise” being merely a tool towards effecting that end.

[This thread continues here.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 15, 2007 10:35 PM | Send

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