Friction can be a drag

In the interests of free speech…just make it interesting

Should everyone have the vote?

with 7 comments

Apologies that this is a plagiarised article but it sums up quite well the problems that universal suffrage can cause…

“Despite dire warnings from all types of politicians that we really ought to give a damn, it rather looks as if most people entitled to vote in Britain’s first referendum for 36 years will not bother to do so.
Yes, I’m talking about today’s poll on the Alternative Vote. Wake up at the back there! But here’s an idea that might really stir up some interest – and improve our nation’s governance.
Why don’t we restrict votes to people who actually pay something into the system? No, I am not suggesting a return to property-based eligibility; although that system worked quite well when Parliament administered not just Britain but most of the world. Today, income would be a much better test, setting the bar as low as possible; perhaps including everyone who pays at least £100 of income tax each year.
That minimal requirement would include everyone who gets out of bed in the morning to go to work and could easily be extended to include, on grounds of fairness, several other groups. For example, all pensioners – because of the fiscal contributions to society they are likely to have paid earlier – and mothers – because of their contribution to defusing the ‘demographic time-bomb’ of an ageing population.
This modest proposal would, however, exclude large numbers of people who have no ‘skin in the game’ and who may even comprise the majority of voters in some metropolitan areas today. Their contribution is not just negative in financial terms – they take out more than they put in – but likely to be damaging to the decisions taken by democracies.
For example, it is sometimes said – and uncertainly attributed to Alexander Tytler – that: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.
“From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy.”
Hard to believe? The credit crisis afflicting democracies around the world demonstrates the truth of this observation. So does the fact that our less  democratic competitors in the emerging markets suffer no such crisis.
We have been voting ourselves better benefits than we have earned for decades and – sooner than later – that has got to stop. Restoring the link between contributing to society and voting about how it is run would be a sensible first step.
If all that sounds rather dry, then – with apologies to regular readers – here’s anecdote from Max King, global asset allocation strategist at Investec, which sets out to explain the macroeconomics of tax and benefits in terms we can all understand.
Suppose that once a month, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all of them comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes and claim State benefits, it would go something like this;
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
And the tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every month and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until, one day, the owner caused them a little problem. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your weekly beer by £20.” Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free but what about the other six men; the paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33 but if they subtracted that from everybody’s share then not only would the first four men still be drinking for free but the fifth and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So the bar owner suggested a different system. The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing.
The sixth man paid £2 instead of £3 .
The seventh paid £5 instead of £7.
The eighth paid £9 instead of £12.
The ninth paid £14 instead of £18.
And the tenth man now paid £49 instead of £59. 
Each of the last six was better off than before with the first four continuing to drink for free.
But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings. “I only got £1 out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got £10!”
“Yes, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a £1 too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I only got £2? The rich get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”
So, the nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. Funnily enough, the next month the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him.
But when it came to pay for their drinks, they discovered something important – they didn’t have enough money between all of them to pay for even half the bill.
That’s how non-contributory democracy led to the credit crisis in a nutshell. Or a joke, on the basis that you don’t need to be solemn to make a serious point. It’s time to restore the link between paying something into society and voting on decisions about how it is run.”


Written by jackshaftoe

May 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Posted in free speech

7 Responses

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  1. good article – but you’ll probably find that most people that don’t contribute also usually don’t bother voting.


    May 5, 2011 at 3:38 pm

  2. Check out the Socio-Economic Status and Voting Turnout in USA and India chart on
    Suggests that in India the rich have a 10% LOWER turnout than the poor. And the post-graduates have a 16% have a lower turnout than the illiterate.
    Very strange – it may be an anomaly, as I think you may be right.
    But still a significant turnout among the poor, so the point raised may still be relevant.
    PS Nice to see the strongest turnout of any group are the Sikhs…brap brap Full English!


    May 5, 2011 at 7:12 pm

  3. that sort of makes sense actually.

    In a developing nation with a huge number of people under the poverty line they are longing for change and actively get involved (or paid) to vote and make a change. To try and have a better life. moreso than the rich as they are happy with their huge mansions and bank balances, not much will affect them no matter who is in power, they will buy themselves a better life. Also worth noting that there is no welfare state and therefore if you want to survive you need to do it yourself.
    Whereas in the US, as a ratio, not so many under the poverty line and happy to be on welfare and no great will to change things, hence lower turnout amongst the poor and greater in the rich.


    May 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  4. I agree – but can you deal with the original point!
    I’m suggesting something radical – we take the vote AWAY from the poor.


    May 7, 2011 at 7:47 am

  5. Basically no. the person answers this in the article when saying parents would still get a vote, or pensioners.

    It is the people with money who tend to exploit democracy, not the people without it.

    Our pensions, child care, and health care are the real budget busters.

    A real scenario would show the top payer actually owns the pup and so is paying himself, hides the pub profits, and gets tax credits for the losses which he uses elsewhere. Meanwhile he takes the profit offshore and then blames the people who pay nothing at the pub but refuses to hire them to work in his pub because there is a robot waiter.

    After being beaten up, the rich man then goes to the local council, pays a bribe, gets a zoning law changed and then sells the pub to a developer for a massive profit which is written off against losses and hides the income offshore and moves to a low tax environment.

    Items only by having everyone vote that you can say to the rich, if you want to do business in our country you have to pay taxes here.


    May 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    • It is useful to note that the top 10% off income earners pay 50% of income tax in the uk. So the proportions in the analogy are fair.


      May 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm

  6. Love the analogy, but don’t agree that not allowing the poor to vote would make a difference. The recipients of welfare just don’t vote in large enough numbers. The giant public sector does vote, but they would still be eligible under the skin in the game rules even though the taxes they pay are re-appropriated from the private sector and they aren’t actually creating wealth, all they create is more government and more spending and the need for more confiscatory tax policy. So I don’t think the idea would make a dent. Too many people are living on the arm who would still qualify to vote and these people do vote and for those who will keep them employed and therefore perpetuate the problem.


    July 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm

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