In my column last week, I established that I feel as though the American system of franchise and suffrage is broken. Now I ask, how can it be improved?
Simply put, we should reevaluate the way in which we limit the franchise. Rather than age, the qualification should be voluntary service, a period of not-too arduous sacrifice that demonstrates a willingness and desire to sacrifice in order to contribute to the common good.
Ignoring the obvious routes of civil and military service, perhaps there could be other methods whereby prospective voters or office-holders could win the franchise. Say, living on food stamps and public assistance for a year while your wages are paid in taxes to the government. Or, perhaps, we could revive the Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Progress Administration and Tennessee Valley Authority to put people to work for low pay and long hours, the return being the ability to vote and hold office.
What's the reason for this system? Personally, I've never understood how having a pulse at 18 qualifies people to make sovereign decisions about their country. And the franchise is sovereign power; the most authority any American can wield is the authority of the vote.
Yet we give that authority away, with no regard to qualification, to anyone who cares to vote and is over 18-years-old. Anyone can hold public office, provided they meet basic age and residence requirements (the president, for example, has to be 35 or older, natural-born to the United States and have at least 14 years in residence within the country). How does that qualify one to hold office?
How would the system I propose qualify one to hold office, or vote, either? Simply put: Sacrifice lends value and demonstrates altruism. If people are required to give something up, whether it be their income, their personal liberties, their labor, even their life, the resultant hard won honors are closely guarded and jealously kept. Further, the people who are willing to make these sacrifices to their personal comfort or security have proven that they are willing to put their own well-being below the well-being of the collective. If government is designed to protect the rights and well-being of all citizens, those in the government and those who install the government must be able to sacrifice their own well-being for the betterment of all.
Simply, it's my belief that this system, or one similar, would be to the benefit of any country. Certainly, some or even many people would lose the franchise but, as I've established, those who aren't willing to sacrifice for something probably shouldn't have it. As Robert Heinlein once wrote, "Nothing given has value." But valuable things can be earned, for the better governance of all people.