Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In Defense of Universal Suffrage

Perhaps the most unlikable thing about the United States is the near-constant whisper that certain people should be denied a voice. Whether it be Gerrymandering, or calls for change through revolution, the idea that voting is wasted on some or a simple waste of time never goes away. It should.

Because when people come to the conclusion that they are so correct that other people shouldn't have a say, things start going off the rails. It's precisely when we start thinking "talking to these people is worthless, I should force them to go along with me," that we should stop and re-think. Most people are terrible political salespeople because they don't bother to understand that they're attempting to sell something to an audience - and that means knowing what your audience wants, knowing how you getting what you want helps them get what they want and knowing how to convey the win-win to them. It also means understanding that you can't convince everyone and the hard sell at the wrong time is worse than useless.

When allow ourselves to feel that institutions like democracy, and one person - one vote are only useful when we're winning, we abdicate the responsibility that we all have to prove our cases, rather than impose them upon others. It's easy to feel that we would be the very model of a benevolent dictator, and that once people lived under our guidance, even if it takes a while, they would understand that it's better this way. But it's very likely that this is untrue, if only for the reason that many of us have difficulty understanding the difference between what we think is best and what might actually be best.

Democracy was not designed to go hand-in-hand with enlightenment. A sufficiently enlightened people could choose which among them would make a suitably benevolent dictator, and likely have the result work out quite well for them. In fact, the sufficiently enlightened could make any government work for them. Democracy is designed as a way of letting the enlightened, the unenlightened and the partially enlightened exist in a strange blend of harmony and tension while pushing them to interact with one another. While it is imperfect, it does as it should, which is more than we can say for many other things.

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