I’m in Asheville, NC right now, one of the most beautiful places in America, and thus one of my favorite. I come here every year to get away for a few days on a personal prayer/planning/reading retreat. I highly recommend Ridgecrest Conference Center, the Southern Baptists’ national campground/conference center (well, along with Glorieta, New Mexico).

At any rate, Asheville is both one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, and one of the most liberal. It’s an artsy place, with lots of free spirits, granola-eating, tree-hugger types; you get the picture. And because of this, Air America has a station here. And flipping through the dial as I went to grab some dinner, I found some guy named Tom Hartman, an Oregon liberal. There were two topics he touched on during my half-hour or so drive around Asheville. The first, which I caught only the tail-end of, involved the “living wage”, and he opined that no nation that was not committed to making sure every one of its breadwinners was making a “living wage” forfeited the right to be called “moral”. Well, OK, let’s begin by saying that we should, generally speaking, want every person to make a decent living. Sure, that’s a noble goal, and one that I’m 100% behind. But as with most liberal “solutions”, the pie-in-the-sky approach fails to take reality into account on several levels. It doesn’t understand human nature. It doesn’t account for the fact that a percentage of people are lazy, unmotivated, make horrible life choices, etc. It doesn’t account for the simple facts of running a business in a competitive society. It doesn’t account for the Law of Unintended Consequences. It is ignorant of basic economic theory. And so on.

But that’s not my main beef; my main beef was with the second of this “progressive” genius’ ideas: mandatory voting. And he ran a Paul Weyrich (ooooohhh, the epitome of evil! Almost as bad as…Dick Cheney…egads!) clip where Weyrich talked about the fact that it’s not such a noble goal for every person to vote in elections. “See”, he effectively said, “the evil conservatives want to suppress the vote”, and castigated the Weyrich-types to the third region of the nether world.

Two arguments against “mandatory voting” (he’d assess a fine against those not willing to show up on Election Day): one, not everybody should vote. At least not under current, and likely, future conditions, those conditions being the basic ignorance of the American populace regarding how government is supposed to function, constitutionally. If it were up to me, I’d make it a good bit tougher for people to vote: they’d have to pass a basic civics exam in order to belly up to the booth. Given the lousy job our nation’s schools are doing, by and large, there’d be a whole lot of people who wouldn’t pass, but that’d be a good thing: if you don’t know how the government is supposed to work, by what logic ought you to have a say in it?

Two, this liberal “solution” addresses the symptom, not the disease (as do most liberal “solutions”). People not voting isn’t the problem; people not caring is. This is why “Motor Voter”, another liberal charade, didn’t work: making it easier to do something people have no interest in doing in the first place doesn’t solve the problem. Very few people took advantage of the easier registration opportunities, and of those who did, few actually voted. Why? Because we have a basic problem of apathy in this country. To bolster his argument, Mr. Hartman cited the 2006 Vermont Senate primary, arguably the most-watched one in the country, where Joe Lieberman was beaten by Ned Irrelevant for the Dem nomination, only to see Joe trounce Ned, running as an independent. At any rate, Hartman said that only 43% of eligible Democrats voted in the primary. OK…what do we make of that? Only 43% gave a rip. And therein, Mr. Hartman, lies the problem: if people don’t care enough to make the minimal sacrifice of time and effort to get their lazy butts to the polls, why should we demand that they vote? I don’t want lazy, unconcerned, uninformed people having a say in the course of this nation until they become engaged, informed citizens.

Of course, this logic would doom Democrats to a permanent political underclass, given that their general modus operandi is to promise the moon to the “underprivileged”, which would accomplish the raising of taxes on workers, the tanking of the economy, and no discernible difference in the standard of living for those supposedly on the receiving end. Remember, LBJ declared a “war on poverty” over four decades ago, and the percentage of people living in poverty today, despite handing out barrels full of money and goodies to the underclass, is effectively the same now as it was then. I think I’ve run off on a tangent here…

At any rate, the bottom line is that it was fun to hear a nice (and he was that, I’ll give him credit) liberal expound on a couple of his well-meaning, but ultimately unworkable, ideas. It confirmed to me once again why I’m a conservative, grounded not in fantasy about the world in which we live, but as best I can be, reality.

7 responses »

  1. Trenton Stokes says:

    Good thoughts once again. Hope you have a restful and productive time in Asheville.

  2. Roger Pearse says:

    “he opined that no nation that was not committed to making sure every one of its breadwinners was making a “living wage” forfeited the right to be called “moral”.” Erm, pardon? Too many negatives in there, I think.

  3. Byron says:

    Yeah, Rog, you’ve got a pernt, there…allow me to restate: “any nation not committed to ensuring that every breadwinner was making a ‘living wage’ forfeited the right to be called ‘moral'”. Better?

  4. Graham says:

    Interesting that you say about only 43% giving a rip. And I think that is an important thing- people don’t care.

    Too often, politicians and columnists will assume that there is a magic “Policy X” which is the reason that people stay at home on election day. I’m a member of the Conservative party, and we have lost 3 general elections in a row, and from time to time, someone in a newspaper will argue that we have lost as there are millions of people who come election day say to themselves “I would vote, if only the Conservatives were to… but as they don’t I’m going to stay at home”, when in fact, people simply couldn’t care less.

    But another factor is that sometimes people feel their vote won’t count- that they are living in “safe seats” where one party will win election after election, and they’d simply be wasting their time voting. I mean, I’ll vote at the next election. I live in Southampton Test. Safe Labour seat. I’ll deliver leaflets etc. But I need only walk 20 minutes from my home and I’m in the neighbouring seat of Southampton North & Romsey. And the Liberal Democrats have a lead of 204 votes over us there. So, I know where going door-to-door delivering leaflets is going to be the most worthwhile. And I can guess which is going to have the highest turnout- in general, the more marginal the seat, the higher the turnout, as there’s a greater chance of something happening.

    We actually have mandatory registration. I have to be on the electoral register- if I’m not, I could end up in court.

    But gimmicks to encourage people to vote simply have little effect. Allowing anyone to have a postal vote- well, that has led the to the postal-vote rigging scandals. Weekend voting, where people are (surprise!) allowed to cast their vote the weekend before- all that happens is that some people who would have voted on the election day choose to vote early.

  5. jpe says:

    It confirmed to me once again why I’m a conservative, grounded not in fantasy about the world in which we live, but as best I can be, reality.

    Actually, it only confirms that you don’t agree with Tom Hartman. It’s an error to jump from that to “I don’t agree with liberalism.” And that’s a necessary condition of liberalism: understanding logic and reasonable argumentation.

  6. Byron says:

    Fair enough, jpe (and long time no comment; welcome back!), but I do find that it’s often characteristic of liberalism that symptoms are dealt with, while root causes are ignored. Perhaps you could cite examples of where conservatives do the same, I don’t know. Throwing money at the poor, for instance (minimum wage legislation, welfare, etc.), seems to suggest that the problem with the poor is that they don’t have enough money, whereas that’s hardly ever the case; financial poverty almost always stems from other poverties, and the lack of money is a symptom of a deeper problem. Needle-exchange programs don’t get past a “treat the symptoms” approach. In some cases, I grant, conservatives don’t have better answers to help people—but the answer in such a case seems to me to be that government can’t solve some problems. The voting issue is one of these, and they are legion, I believe; about the best we can sometimes expect from government is to get out of the way and not create more damage by its “fixes” than the problems purported to be fixed.

  7. Byron says:

    And Graham, what you say makes sense. Turnout here would seem to generally be higher depending on both the stakes and the closeness of the contest. Still, the stakes, at least to hear the national media tell it here, were quite high in the Vermont primary (Lieberman the war supporter, Lamont the get-out candidate), and still only 43% of registered (doesn’t even count those who didn’t bother to register!) Democrats bothered to show up. And I say, so be it. A vote from someone who is ill-informed and/or careless is worse than no vote at all.

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