We view the right of all adults to vote as one of the foundational principles of democracy. It was not, and should not now be. The right to vote should always be conditional on an individual’s contribution to the costs of government. A person directly receiving more from the government than they contribute should forfeit the right to vote for that period.
We view history through the lens of our own experience. We hear that in times past only ‘citizens’ could vote, or only landholders, or only men, or only whites. It is easy to say that this was because of racism, of sexism, of a need to maintain a class structure without considering that there may have been more thought and consideration of the consequences put into to the decision to limit voting to certain groups of people. The intent of these restrictions throughout history has been consistent; to ensure that the same people who paid for governance had a controlling influence over its direction.
Shareholders vote at a companies AGM, not stakeholders. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Don’t give the monkey the keys to the banana plantation.
The reasoning for each of these is obvious. And yet we hold that the right to vote – to have a say in the distribution of collected public funds – should be held by not only those who contribute but by those who receive. And we have now arrived, in many democracies, at a point where those who are net recipients outnumber those who are net contributors. Given this, is it any wonder that politicians find it increasingly difficult to maintain spending restraint? That many democratic governments are now in debt so deeply that they will never be able to pay their bills other than through default or devaluation?
Much that is wrong in democracies is due to the fact that we have universal suffrage, rather than universally available suffrage. No one should be denied the right to vote for who they are; neither should they be granted the responsibility of voting without being a net contributor to public funding.
Historic limitations on voting were simplifications to make the above principle workable. They fell apart when they no longer held true. Somewhere along the track, we lost sight of the core principle of democratic governance that had led to these restrictions and focussed on the restrictions themselves. It’s time we restored our system back to a sustainable basis.