Voting other folks' money

It's been a while-34 years-since the last major change to the American voting process: in 1976 Nevada put a "none-of-the-above" line on its ballot, a change which has had zero impact on ballot layout in the other 49 states.

Here's my proposal which probably would do even worse, but is worth pondering: the weighted ballot.

My idea is based on the historical understanding of human nature which is the underlying theme of such quotes as Benjamin Franklin's "When the people find that they can vote themselves [other peoples'] money, that will be the end of the Republic."

Such voting succeeds when the redistribution recipients are more than 50 percent of the electorate, which they appear to be in 2010. This problematic aspect of "democracy"-or majority politics-isn't a new one.

Some researchers trace the notion back to 18th-century Scottish writer Alexander Tytler. Tyler supposedly used the phrase, "... A majority which discovers it can vote itself largesse from the public treasury... ",; some cite a similar 19th-century Alexis de Toqueville quote. Even 20th century U.S. Ag Sec. Ezra Taft Benson has been credited, right up there alongside 5th century B.C. Greek philosopher Plato.

In American history, the ancient principle of vote-selling was decried by the LaFollette Republicans, who were so offended by 19th century Chicago ward-heeler politics that they established Progressivism, originally a concept of government by experts (themselves, of course) brighter than your average stupid and venal voter-ah, but then it was employed by modern Vermont Progressive politicians in the design of Act 60, a school tax proposal which encourages a majority of home-owners, via an income-sensitivity tax-increase exemption, to approve increases in educational spending they, personally, won't be required to pay.

It takes a non-Progressive to make this Platonic point: voting yourself OPM (other peoples' money) is less honorable than voting to pay your own "fair share" (a little Progressive lingo, there) of the costs of the collective enterprise being proposed.

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