# The Tom Perkins system

He has opened his mouth again. Tom Perkins, the privileged, overpaid rich guy who thinks the wealthy in America are as oppressed as the Jews under the Third Reich, has an ideal democratic system.

The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?

Wait, why base votes on money? There’s an assumption there that what we value in citizens is their income.

Here’s the PZ Myers system: You don’t get the vote if you don’t graduate from high school. You get an extra vote for every year of graduate and post-graduate work at an accredited institution. Professors get an extra vote for every year post-tenure. (I am JOKING. This would be a horrible system.)

The Heinlein system: You don’t get the vote if you don’t serve at least four years in the military. You get an extra vote for every military rank above private that you achieve.

The compensation system: You get one vote for every day served in prison while innocent. You get 5 votes every time the police beat you while peacefully protesting. Every year that you work full time but get paid below the poverty level, you get an extra vote.

The albedo system: Instruments are used at the polling places to measure the albedo of your forehead, and all votes are scaled by that value. Might as well institutionalize it, right? And make it sciencey!

The nerd system: We develop an index that takes into account the number of Magic:The Gathering cards you own, the level of your D&D character, the bulk tonnage of your comic book collection, and your high score at Call of Duty/Harvest Moon, and use that to determine how many votes you get.

The astrological system: Point values are assigned to the zodiac signs. Pisces, of course, get the highest number of votes. Just because we’re the best.

The physiological system: Your erythrocyte count, sampled at the polling station, is multiplied by 1 for type O, 2 for type A or B, and 3 for type AB blood. Finally, cell surface glycoproteins get representation!

The young male system: Everyone gets into a pissing contest each year. You get a number of votes equal to the number of feet your stream reaches.

I’m sure there are other arbitrary vote weighting schemes you can come up with…and then we can vote on which is the best using some other vote weighting scheme!

1. jamessweet says

I confess a certain half-hearted sympathy for those who would like to restrict voting based on some sort of qualifying metric. For instance, people here might be more amenable to a system where everybody starts with 100 votes, but you lose 1 vote for every hour of Fox News that you watch… More seriously, there is a certain superficial appeal to the idea of restricting voting to those who actually have some sort of fucking clue.

But any such system can be immediately dismissed by simply recognizing the following: Any system which restricts voting rights according to some modifiable criteria, regardless of how meritorious the distinction may seem, will be vulnerable to manipulation by those in power in order to consolidate their power, while further excluding those who are not. Even the exclusion for felons is manipulated thusly.

Hell, if there were some way to limit people’s chronological age legislatively, I can pretty much guarantee you that there would be a disproportionate number of poor and/or black 17-year-olds who never seemed to get any older…

2. blf says

“Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”

― Terry Pratchett, Mort

3. says

I think voting should be determined by number of LOLcats saved to one’s harddrive.

4. Alverant says

So under the Perkins system would it be 1 vote per dollar of tax you actually paid or 1 vote per dollar of tax you should have paid before deductions and all the other tricks corps and the 1% use to avoid paying any taxes at all. Oh and if you wind up with a refund does that mean you have negative votes?

Oh, I don’t know if it’s in Starship Troopers or the expanded universe, but you can get citizenship and voting rights by being a cop, fire fighter, basically job that involves you risking your life to protect your fellow humans. The idea was that you’d look beyond your own needs and wishes and vote for what’s best for society itself and the only way to do that was become part of the government.

5. says

Ah, a variation of the “you shouldn’t be able to vote if you have no skin in the game (don’t pay taxes)” crap that seems to be gaining traction amongst richer conservatives. Because the poor keep voting for parties that will let them sit at home and get free money. Except, that is, the conservative poor who keep voting against their own interests, but these rich assholes apparently don’t think they exist.

6. typecaster says

The Heinlein system: You don’t get the vote if you don’t serve at least four years in the military. You get an extra vote for every military rank above private that you achieve.

I should comment on this, just because some readers may not have read Starship Troopers, and may think that Heinlein actually advocated this. He didn’t, of course. In that book, citizenship was earned by Federal service, one type of which was military. There were other sorts of service, but the book’s point-of-view character wasn’t involved with those. Also, citizens had just one vote – even that movie with the same name as the book didn’t imply that rank got you extra votes.

7. neuralobserver says

“You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?”–Perkins

8. says

Personally, I like the peripatetic system. You get a pedometer from the polling booth in the morning. You return in the evening to cast your ballot. You get one vote for each mile walked.

“Eat my dust, suckers!”

9. doublereed says

I think Perkins is onto something here. Think about it, wealth can be inherited from father-to-son. Why bother with all this democracy business when we could simply have power follow the same path of inheritance. It would make it so much simpler if we had hereditary rule.

I mean, do we really want to deal with this corrupt and complex democratic system? If anything this would be doing us plebians a favor!

10. Alverant says

James, the bold part of your post cannot be repeated enough.

11. brucegee1962 says

Does Tom Perkins honestly not think that his system has been tried before? In, say, every country in the world prior to 1775? And still in many countries today?

If he really has a hankering to live in a country where wealth can buy political power directly instead of (more or less) indirectly as we have here, there are a wide panoply of countries he’s welcome to choose between to relocate to. Please. The sooner the better.

12. moarscienceplz says

Tom Perkins should get extra votes because he has helped preserve many thousands of acres of fertile Santa Clara valley farmland under thick layers of asphalt and concrete.

13. eoleen says

PZ wrote:
“The Heinlein system: You don’t get the vote if you don’t serve at least four years in the military. You get an extra vote for every military rank above private that you achieve.”
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Not quite, PZ. What Robert Heinlein proposed was “The franchise goes to those who have successfully completed a term of national service.”
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What this says is that the military don’t get the vote – only those who have been honorably discharged. And it also says, and this is very important, that it is not just the military, but includes all those who volunteer (for he postulated a completely volunteer national service), for NATIONAL SERVICE, which includes the military, but also includes those who volunteer for any nasty, dirty, hazardous job that needs doing, and at serious risk of life and limb and health, whether or not it includes those who have volunteered to be shot at.
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The idea is that only those who have placed the welfare of the society – the whole of society – above their own welfare, or the welfare of only those closest to them.
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There is another “word of wisdom” that I would like to share with you. It is the following:
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A “VETERAN”, whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve, is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America”, for an amount of “up to and including my life”.
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That is HONOR, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

14. eoleen says

When I started my reply I was the first.
I guess I took too long.
I am glad to see that I am not the only one who has read Starship Troopers.

15. moarscienceplz says

a system where everybody starts with 100 votes, but you lose 1 vote for every hour of Fox News that you watch

Or you could have a system where you get 1 vote for every IQ point you have – but that would be virtually the same system. ;-)

16. dianne says

We develop an index that takes into account the number of Magic:The Gathering cards you own, the level of your D&D character, the bulk tonnage of your comic book collection, and your high score at Call of Duty/Harvest Moon, and use that to determine how many votes you get.

I can get behind this idea, but do you have to use such…mainstream…gaming systems?

17. says

Uh-oh. I have roused the wrath of the Heinlein pedants.

Let’s be clear: even the minimal system described in one of his books is odious and evil. You all know this, right? You’re just explaining the details to clarify, without actually implying endorsement?

18. moarscienceplz says

@eoleen #13

Yeah, sounds good in theory, but in reality you’d get a lot of rich kids getting credit for things similar to George W. Bush’s National Guard “service” during the Vietnam war.

19. dianne says

The Perkins system has this going for it: Quite a lot of very wealthy people don’t in fact pay a dollar in taxes. They manage to get out of paying taxes altogether. So this system would encourage them to at least pay a little of their share.

20. tfkreference says

I like the astrological system, plus extra votes for graduate degrees (even more for science and the most for geology), and hassle-free voting if you’re also a white male – wait, I already have that.

Forget the other stuff; how about hassle-free voting for everyone?

21. infraredeyes says

Hmmm…

As a tax-paying resident alien (twice over, because I own a business and pay both corporate and personal taxes), I think the idea of letting all taxpayers vote has some merit. But I’m pretty sure my situation is not the one that Mr Perkins is addressing.

Instead, he is proposing an updated version of the old property qualification to vote. This was system under which only owners of real estate could vote, because the voting roll was based on the list of people who paid property taxes. It was a highly effective way to keep, y’know, those people from voting. The identity of those people could vary. In Northern Ireland, the method was used right up to the 1970s to prevent large numbers of catholics from voting, as they found it difficult to buy property in many places, and tended to live in rental accommodation.

22. For the Heinlien pedants:

Yes, I’ve read Starship Troopers, and yes, you’re right that service in the book doesn’t just mean military. It’s still a cop-out though. He sets up this oh-so-lovely, stable society but, when when the question of why the system works so well comes up, his only answer, put into the mouth of the History & Moral Philosophy teacher, is “We don’t know: it just does.” That’s not only a failure to make a good any case for his proposition, it’s a lousy exercise in world-building.

I am tired of military people claiming that their membership in the military is “honor”. It’s an honorable job (if it is) and you get honored for it (if you do), but other than that the “honor” of the military is egotism.

I greatly prefer the kind of honor that you generate by yourself as a result of trying to do what you understand to be the most right thing according to your best understanding of reality. At the moment, my code of honor is incompatible with a career in the military, sorry.

The exact allocation of the vote isn’t what worries me–although obviously, efforts to disenfranchise one’s fellow humans are evidence that one is seriously fucked up.

What worries me is the idea that a sufficient majority can vote for marriage inequality, or creationist curricula, or stopping and frisking anyone with dark skin, or demanding proof of citizenship from anyone who looks hispanic. Whether that’s by referendum, or indirectly by voting for people who then go on to make such laws.

These conversations would be much less terrifying if there were some body of law that was more or less untouchable to legislators, except under extreme circumstances, that prevented them from passing laws that discriminate between men and women, white and black, straight and gay, or that oppress any segment of society, either directly or by granting special privileges to some other segment of society.

Something like the Constitutional Republic of conservative mythology, but with a different Constitution than they imagine, or indeed than the one that was actually adopted in 1789.

25. typecaster says

PZ – Yes, no one here was advocating that such a system be adopted. For that matter, HEINLEIN wasn’t advocating that this system be adopted. As SF authors are frequently wont to do, he took a premise and wrote a book around it – in this case, the premise was “what if citizenship had to be earned?” In other essays, he talked about other criteria that might be used, with about as much seriousness as your list here.
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He also wrote a book where the Moon was used as a penal colony. That book did not constitute advocating that the Moon be used for such purposes.
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I’m sorry if pointing out that ideas are being incorrectly attributed to someone casts us as pedants. Would it have done so if it involved another author?

26. julial says

At least with the baksheesh system of politics you know who you paid and who to go to when you don’t get what you paid for. And it’s not so formal as one where money is paid and votes are counted.

27. doublereed says

Ooo ooo! I just realized another benefit to Perkins new system. Not only do you have hereditary rule, but what about corporations paying taxes??? It would surely be discrimination not let these people vote?

Finally, corporatism to its logical conclusion: corporations get to vote, and people don’t.

28. stwriley says

I’ll add one Harlen Ellison thought up and used (not without a heavy dose of irony) in some of his short stories: the Gladiatorial system.

The idea is that most day-to-day government is run by bureaucrats and important domestic policy is decided by popular referendums over which politicians have no control. Their function is foreign affairs and they must literally fight for their office. That’s because all international conflict is decided by international leaders fighting it out mano-a-mano in the arena with the consequences of loss (to the nations, not the leaders) worked out ahead of time by the bureaucratic negotiators. I have to say I don’t much like the first part of that system, but the second is kind of appealing.

I do also want to note that you made our old misogynist friend Heinlein sound a bit worse than he actually was. In Starship Trooper the vote for all veterans is the same (i.e., no extras for rank, just one person, one vote) and most do not serve in the military per say. He makes it fairly clear that most citizens (those with the franchise) serve in non-military state service arms for the public (but never for specific private) good. He uses as examples being sent to labor on the terraforming of Venus or digging tunnels on Luna. The idea is that you only get to exercise the franchise if you’ve contributed to and sacrificed for (or at least been willing to sacrifice for) the common good. It’s still not a state I’d want to live in, but you can see how Heinlein can justify that kind of system in theory. He even makes a point that no one who wishes to serve can be turned away unless the psychiatrists think they can’t understand the oath of service; as he puts it “if you came in here in a wheelchair and blind in both eyes” they’d still find a way for you to serve.

29. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

Here’s my system: The tax rate doubles every time you say something that reveals you to be a privileged, clueless, insensitive assclown. How’s that?

30. says

“You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes.”

Perkins truly is ignorant of how wall street works. Most of the income the rich receive (they don’t “earn” it) comes from dividends on preferred or qualified stock. Some (read: most, due to financial finagling) of which is non-taxable.

http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch08.html

By Perkins’ argument, many of the rich wouldn’t be allowed to vote.

31. Moggie says

Does the Tom Perkins system mean that George Soros outvotes Tom Perkins? If so, let’s just deny Perkins the vote and reduce Soros’s votes by an equivalent amount.

32. unclefrogy says

as to the argument that the poor vote themselves money so they do not have to work BS
The last time I looked it was those at the top who are not contributing their fair share who are getting the “free ride”
is nice when the 1% are seen to advocate in a very clear way just how undemocratic they actually are.
why don’t we just elect a king or emperor and be done with it!

uncle frogy

33. GiantPanda says

Isn’t this how it works already? Only with campaign contributions instead of taxes?

34. spiffo says

Million Dollars = Million Votes is sort of how it works now.

35. llamaherder says

This reminds me of the time my mom tried to convince me that our system only allowing white male landowners to vote when the US started was a good thing.

36. dickspringer says

My message is in response to Eoleen’s comment on veterans and honor. I am a veteran, I served during the Korean War. We all put our lives on the line, but for most of us the risk was minimal. As human beings we ran the gamut, as you should expect. Some were both courageous and honorable, some were lowlifes, and most were in between. I think the present honoring of vets simply for being vets is much overdone. Of course, the obverse as done by a few on the left, treating all vets as war criminals, is truly reprehensible.

That’s not only a failure to make a good any case for his proposition, it’s a lousy exercise in world-building.

I often find it refreshing to inject an element of uncertainty like that: we have all sorts of post-hoc justifications for the way our own society works, but there’s a heavy component of bullshit. We don’t really know why it works, although sometimes we think we do. And we can’t always be sure that it works–we just have no idea how much better it could be, because this is all we know.

In fiction, when the expository character tells you “why the system works,” you’re usually expected to assume that they’re a reliable witness, and believe their explanation. On a subject as complex as the functioning of society, no explanation can be reliable that doesn’t fill a library with the pros, cons, special cases, etc., so I’m actually happier when the author waves his hands a little. When they try to explain it, I usually find I’m being preached to.

38. dickspringer says

I failed to mention in my previous comment that my last sentence referred to the treatment by some of Vietnam vets.

39. coffeehound says

@19,

So this system would encourage them to at least pay a little of their share.

Call me a cynical bastard, but somehow I see them forgoing their vote, keeping the money and using part of the proceeds to rent a Senator.

None of these systems solves the fundamental problem with the system. The people we elect to office tend to be the most moronic, unsophisticated and non-objective bunch of hypocrites you could image.

I guess if the voting count was skewed towards certain groups the politicians would only have to follow suit. But the idea that the rich corporate echelon should get more votes would only lead to a congress even more filled with suck-holes for the corporations. Egads! Is it even possible it could be worse?

Good point, and I’m maybe being a tad harsh. Though, defenders of Heinlein on the grounds that “it’s just fiction” tend to ignore the fact that he wrote S.T. very much as a polemic against “peaceniks.”

Back on the main topic:

Restricting the vote might not be a great idea, but would some kind of formal way of examining those running for office, for at least a basic working knowledge of economics, social-history, and the like be a good idea?

42. says

The P.Z Myers system was championed by British-Australian author Neville Chute (author of “On the Beach) in his sci-fi novel “In the Wet”. It’s a weird tale in which the English royal family eventually leave the horrors of socialist England for the paradisiacal meritocracy of Australia, where the value of a vote is based on the voter’s level of education.

I couldn’t work out that contradiction either.

43. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

I’d propose that you get one vote for each gray or white hair on your head.

44. David Wilford says

In a way, elected politicians are the brokers between voters wanting something for their vote and campaign contributors wanting something for their money. Learning how to successfully play both ends against the middle is what wins elections.

45. brucegorton says

Personally I would be tempted to say that people who try to disenfranchise others shouldn’t have the right to vote – but its an election year in South Africa and I plan on doing my civic duty.

46. says

I keep hearing rich people (including in some personal conversations) say that “only people with a stake should get a say”.

The thing is – rich people are basically the only ones who DON’T have a stake. Yes, they have money, but everybody has SOME financial stake in the country.

But if shit its the fan, rich people have the option of simply leaving. They have the money to go to a different part of the country, or of the world, and if they stay, they can afford to build structures that can deal with the elements, and they can ship in drinkable water.

They even have modular generic disaster survival bunkers they can get in any size and configuration for any kind of disaster.

Rich people have a financial stake, but they can take that and go anywhere in the world.

The 99% have a financial stake too, but unlike the wealthy, our lives are ALSO on the table.

47. zenlike says

New rule: if at one time you owned a 100 million dollar+ yacht, you have officially lost the right to whine.

Also what Alterstory said.

48. says

The obvious counterexample to the Heinlein system: Gordon Klingenschmitt.

49. Chie Satonaka says

What’s especially pathetic about his assertion is his complete dismissal of the fact that the wealthy already do have more of a voice in our government. They already do have the power to greatly influence elections — fuck, they determine who the hell we get to choose to vote for in the first place.

50. naturalcynic says

Hey Tom… You can’t vote when you’re Soylent Green.
Just funnin’ you back

51. dianne says

If someone proposes a Heinlein style militaryocracy, how about this amendment: If you serve in the military and commit any human rights abuse or if there is a pattern that suggests that you committed such an abuse but hid the evidence then you lose your right to vote permanently. Same if you are the CO of a soldier who committed an act of abuse.

52. Gregory Greenwood says

The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?

Jamessweet identified how dangerous any multiple vote system like this is @ 1;

Any system which restricts voting rights according to some modifiable criteria, regardless of how meritorious the distinction may seem, will be vulnerable to manipulation by those in power in order to consolidate their power, while further excluding those who are not.

Even our current democratic system provides all too many opportunities for the rich and privileged to squeeze out marginalised groups, often by convincing the majority to do the dirty work for them, usually voting against their own interests in the process. A multiple vote system based on wealth such as that Perkins suggests would just make it that much easier for the 1% to control everyone else.

And as doublereed observes @ 28, Perkins’ system seems primed to offer corporations voting rights, which would suit conservocrats right down to the ground since it would make silencing the voting voice of ordinary people even easier.

But even if the system was based upon a set of criteria intended to avoid the concentration of power in the hands of the 1%, it would take very little time indeed for them to subvert that system to their ends. Take PZ’s humourous idea of votes linked to one’s level of postgraduate education – how long would it be before people started redefining what the term ‘postgraduate’ meant to allow the wealthy to purchase qualifications from diploma mills such that they could amass a vast number votes? I could also see a situation arising where postgraduate education was deliberately restructured to make it so expensive that only the super rich could afford to pursue it in any case, thereby delivering a ‘double whammy’ of effectively dienfranchising ordinary people while also restricting access to the edicational tools they might use to better both their life prospects and their minds.

It is the same old story – the current system is a mess, but pretty much all the alternatives that the powerful in our society would actually countenance would be many times worse.

53. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

Going to go ahead and propose the lifetime number of beers system

54. ck says

Alternate system: No popular votes for government, but rather the entirety of the government is selected by lottery from all men and women between the ages of 18 to 65 who are resident of the state. At least that’d make the government a representative sample of the country, and probably couldn’t work any worse than the current system.

55. dianne says

No popular votes for government, but rather the entirety of the government is selected by lottery from all men and women between the ages of 18 to 65 who are resident of the state.

Why stop at age 65? Also, I can not support any system in which there is the slightest little chance that I will end up being part of the government. Can I have an exemption for Asperger’s?

56. steve1 says

I like the word sciencey. I am not sure what it means exactly but I think it smells like chloroform.
I want to nominate it for word of the year. I think it could have the same legs as truthiness which won the 2005 word of the year.

57. Nentuaby says

You know, Starship Troopers dwells *at length* about how, though it was no longer purely military, National Service was originally created by Veterans for the unapologetic purpose of privileging themselves. It also explicitly says that although it wasn’t solely military, if you did sign up for National Service, were assigned by the system to serving it out as a soldier, and took conscientious objector status, you would be assigned to the most brutally punitive duty they could find for you. The given example is testing environment suits on Pluto.

58. says

The real question, of course, is how long will it be before right-wing pundits run to Perkin’s defense. Again. National Review? American Thinker?

I bet before the sun sets tomorrow.

59. says

Up until my 16th birthday, joining the military was often not a voluntary choice.

And soldiers in my family were as likely to be serving Germany as the United States.

60. Gregory Greenwood says

What worries me is the idea that a sufficient majority can vote for marriage inequality, or creationist curricula, or stopping and frisking anyone with dark skin, or demanding proof of citizenship from anyone who looks hispanic. Whether that’s by referendum, or indirectly by voting for people who then go on to make such laws.

The risk of a tyranny of the majority is a persistent prolem with democratic systems.

These conversations would be much less terrifying if there were some body of law that was more or less untouchable to legislators, except under extreme circumstances, that prevented them from passing laws that discriminate between men and women, white and black, straight and gay, or that oppress any segment of society, either directly or by granting special privileges to some other segment of society.

But there’s the rub – there would have to be exceptions to take into account unforseen circumstances, and even if the window to suspend these protections was as narrow as possible, requiring a serious crisis, it seems inevitable that we would suddenly start seeing rather a lot of potentially problematic issues being promoted to the status of ‘serious crisis’, and no few entirely fabricated ones. Just look at the McCarthy era ‘reds under the bed’ paranoia that was used to target political opponents of the administration, or the recent assaults on civil liberties undertaken under the umbrella of a notional ‘terrorist threat’ that has been consistently exaggerated to stampede the populous into supporting oppressive laws and special government powers that, while supposedly to be used only to counter terrorist threats, have increasingly been employed for entirely unrelated purposes.

While undeniably better than nothing, bitter experience seems to teach us that constitutional protections are often ineffective at curtailing the actions of a government, a consortium of corporations, or a social elite that is determined to abuse its power and/or wealth, especially when they have a corner on the media to the extent that they are able to convince the public at large to vote, or otherwise act, against their own interests and support the very measures that will take away their civil liberties one freedom at a time.

61. Becca Stareyes says

(Continuing the tangent of Heinlein…)

One of the problems with Starship Troopers as a novel is introducing the idea of ‘franchise only for veterans’*, and doesn’t engage in the implications. The protagonist begins as your standard high school student not quite sure what he wants out of life, and decides that having the vote in the future would be good and it’s not like he has other plans. Most of the rest of the book covers his military career as war breaks out. In terms of ‘what impact this has on the novel’, it might as well be the GI Bill (except character’s father was rich): character has outside motivation to join the military, then military stuff happens.

* Which made me wonder about things like ‘my mother worked for the IRS for years and her best friend taught public K-12 school, what about her franchise? Heck, even PZ is affiliated with a state school, subsidized partially by the state of Minnesota to educate Minnesotan students’. One could make the case they are as civic minded as any veteran: they aren’t risking their lives, but they are or could be giving up opportunities for personal gain for the good of society. (Especially K-12 teachers; they have a high-stress, long-hours and low-pay job.)

Which is probably why universal franchise is a good idea. I’m looking to teach, so I see those positions as Important Civic Duties. Rich man Perkins seems to think that monetary investment into the state mean those people are more civic-minded than people in poverty. Better to just say every adult citizen has a single vote which cannot be removed or increased, rather than have people convinced that People Like Me should dominate government by fiat.

62. robro says

Rev BDC — Yeah, I was thinking, where’s the Beer System or perhaps it’s the Booze System: you get a vote for every drink you have, and you actually get to use those votes if you’re able to walk into the booth and vote for something. Or something as equally inane as the Perkins’s system.

63. kevinalexander says

Any system which restricts voting rights according to some modifiable criteria, regardless of how meritorious the distinction may seem, will be vulnerable to manipulation by those in power in order to consolidate their power, while further excluding those who are not.

There is one that escapes this.
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No popular votes for government, but rather the entirety of the government is selected by lottery from all men and women between the ages of 18 to 65 who are resident of the state.

Almost but not quite.
Lotto Democracy would work like this: Crank up the Lotto Machine, spin a nine digit number, match it to Social Security lists and inform someone that he or she is the new US Congressperson. What could be more representative than an actual sample of the population?
Keep the three branches of government. The House is chosen by lot, the Executive is hired by the House from a pool of professional civil servants The Judiciary is hired the same way.
Bills could be proposed by either the Executive or the Judiciary but they would have to get them passed by the ordinary people who make up the House. Not quite ordinary people but ones who have listened to the debates and understand the issues.

64. sugarfrosted says

In PZ Myers’ system does it count that I took two years of grad work as an undergrad? If so, I’m totally in support of it. (I’m totally srs! I sware)

65. proudofcoincidence says

I think this would be great. Maybe people would realize they don’t really choose candidates anyway. We have had a few political families monopolizing the presidency my whole life. Do you think the people are behind that or power brokers? Your vote is pointless and worthless. Money wins elections. Maybe a step like this would wake people up to that. Instead of voting for a Clinton or Bush again there should be riots in streets. Maybe taking away your silly little vote will motivate you.

66. says

Is there anyone, other than perhaps the irrevocably mentally incapacitated, that doesn’t pay some taxes in a modern industrialised society? At some place along the way anything you purchase will involve a sales tax, import tariff, licensing fee, or similar sum that goes into the revenue stream of a government.

67. David Marjanović says

The compensation system: You get one vote for every day served in prison while innocent. You get 5 votes every time the police beat you while peacefully protesting. Every year that you work full time but get paid below the poverty level, you get an extra vote.

You know, I actually like that one. Isn’t it only fair?

More seriously, there is a certain superficial appeal to the idea of restricting voting to those who actually have some sort of fucking clue.

Exactly. That’s why I’m so much for giving everyne some sort of fucking clue – education.

Ah, a variation of the “you shouldn’t be able to vote if you have no skin in the game (don’t pay taxes)” crap that seems to be gaining traction amongst richer conservatives.

Fun thing is, lots of countries have had census suffrage. Ancient Athens did from Solon to Themistocles. Ancient Rome did. The USA did from 1787 to 1830. Bavaria and Württemberg did in the early 19th century, Prussia did in the late 19th century till 1918. Revolutionary France did till the Jacobins took over. Austria did from 1873 to 1907.

It’s not a new idea, it’s been tried in plenty of places, and it’s been abandoned everywhere. Hmmmmm. How come???

(Source: these two German Wikipedia articles. The English Wikipedia only has one pathetic paragraph on the whole phenomenon.)

A “VETERAN”, whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve, is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America”, for an amount of “up to and including my life”.

How… naive to write a blank check.

That is HONOR, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

Honor is for Klingons.

I think the present honoring of vets simply for being vets is much overdone.

Even worse, however, is the fact that all this honoring is only done in theory. So many veterans are unemployed, uninsured, even homeless in the USA – it just boggles my mind how a country where eoleen’s attitude is so common can allow that. They’re honorably discharged and dumped on the street, in traffic!

I’d propose that you get one vote for each gray or white hair on your head.

(Fun fact: there’s no such thing as a gray hair.)

I could also see a situation arising where postgraduate education was deliberately restructured to make it so expensive that only the super rich could afford to pursue it in any case

That’s called “USA”, where middle-class graduates currently begin their adult lives with tens to hundreds of kilobucks of debt.

Can I have an exemption for Asperger’s?

Quite the opposite. So many neurotypical people have been in power, and look what they’ve done!

Maybe taking away your silly little vote will motivate you.

Ah, the Leninist doctrine of “heightening the contradictions”, based on the laughably wrong premise that there’s a bottom to how bad it can get. Allow me to giggle.

68. stevem says

“You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?”–Perkins

I, too, must also ask, “Isn’t that, effectively, the current system?” And though it was already stated by the part I didn’t quote, when he says “pay”, I ask, “payed what, to who?” Is it only “pay in taxes”? People (including corporations) pay for a million votes by paying \$1E6 to campaign funds of the rep whose votes they are buying.

@56:

Alternate system: No popular votes for government, but rather the entirety of the government is selected by lottery from all men and women between the ages of 18 to 65 who are resident of the state.

I’d vote for that as well. St. George Washington would also advocate such a system. He revered Cincinatus, “He who wants to serve the least, deserves it most.” <paraphrase> I.E. “reps” should be chosen at random from the represented. Anyone, who *wants* the job; deserves it least.

Re Perkins:

This <redacted> wants to completely go over the edge with the founders’ clauses in the Constitution to ‘protect the minority from the majority’. By declaring the only way to protect the 1% from the 99% is to make them buy their votes (the 99% have no money, so problem solved).

re IQ:

I too, would like votes be cast only those who understand the issue, but I know how that has been abused in the past: i.e. “poll tests”. Say no more.

69. rabbitscribe says

tum·brel [tuhm-bruhl]

noun

1. one of the carts used during the French revolution to convey victims to the guillotine.

2. a farmer’s cart, especially one for hauling manure, that can be tilted to discharge its load.

3. Obsolete . a two-wheeled covered cart accompanying artillery for carrying tools, ammunition, etc.

Also, tum·bril.

——————————————————————————–

Origin:
1275–1325; Middle English tumberell ducking stool < Medieval Latin tumberellus < Old French tumberel dump-cart, equivalent to tombe ( r ) to fall (see tumble) + -rel -rel

70. Wylann says

This system could work, with the following caveats:
* No more lobbying. Of course, this part would never work, because the people that would buy huge amounts of votes would just tell the politicians that anyway. But no more giving the money directly to the politicians.

* All money from voting goes into the general fund, just like taxes.

* People can sponsor other votes. This could be done anyway, but one should be allowed to buy a ‘vote voucher’ and hand them out. You could ask for specific votes, but there’s no way to guarantee it.

We could find ways to subvert this kind of system with crowdsourcing and similar activities, but I doubt we the people could compete with the big money interests.

It is nice of Perkins to show just how far he is from the teachings of that supposed holy book of his, though.

71. leftwingfox says

First he fears that the starving dogs are going to rip him to shreds, then he straps a steak to his goolies and taunts them.

72. Alverant says

The only Heinlein books I read were ST and that one where a rich old guy gets his brain transplanted into his young female secretary (I remember it was in my jr high library and it had the word “fuck” in it.) I started reading another one but lost interest when they started talking about the size of the main character’s penis and how he and his lover casually got married for the special privileges.

I’m not endorsing any of his voting theories, but I think the one about earning the right to vote by doing some public service is interesting. I think a big problem with democracy is people vote for what is in their best interest and not society’s. We see it in the GOP where they are willing to give tax breaks to their rich friends and de-fang important regulations for the same. They are giving to the few at the expense of the many and that must stop. But as it’s been pointed out, any attempts to limit who gets to vote will only result in the system being abused to disenfranchise people.

73. vaiyt says

The Tom Perkins system: I am sure that restricting voting by wealth is totally a novel and amazing idea and hasn’t been tried before with predictable results!

74. Alverant #74

I realise you said “interesting,” not “good,” but to follow on from your train of thought…

Earning the right to vote in some way wouldn’t magically transform the person into someone who’d use their vote more ethically. It would merely mean they’d somehow earned the right to vote unethically. (My opinion: such a system would lead to even more people voting self-interestedly, and an attitude of earned-privilege; “I earned it, Matey. You want a piece; go earn it yourself.”)

75. David Wilford says

I think the game that George R.R. Martin came up with for determining winners and losers is worthy of mention on the anniversary of the Valentine’s Day Massacre.

76. Wylann says

I wonder if this system were inverted somehow (people with less income or real wealth get more votes), what would happen? Would the rich people suddenly become disincentivized to make more and more money? (they like to claim that welfare has that effect).

77. David Marjanović says

I’m with comments 75 and 76.

78. Air says

The University constituency system survived in Great Britain into the 50’s – you got to vote at home and vote for another MP that represented your university. Of course, Cambridge got one seat and 5 redbrick colleges got one among them so the privilege was several levels thick. A step in the right direction, PZ?

79. Louis says

I see blf has advocated the ONE, TRUE, CORRECT system back up in #2. One minor correction. *I’m* the man, *I* have the vote. Now, lemme see, how can I use this to get beer?

Louis

P.S. Okay Tom Perkins, you shall get your wish. With one proviso, we extend it to “local currency units” and make it global. Oh look, here come the Zimbabweans and the Indians. You gonna be outvoted, son!

80. justanotherguy says

The rich already get more representation than everyone else, due to lobbying. I think the rule, “No taxation without representation”, needs to be flipped to, “More taxation for over-representation.”

81. mabell says

Compensation system addendum: 10 votes for being pulled over for Driving While Black. 5 votes for stop and frisk. 2 votes for boarding a plane under the watchful eye of the TSA.

Young male system: You have to pee the candidates name in the snow. Ty wins in a landslide.

All systems: -20 votes for every member of Duck Dynasty you can name.

82. Alverant says

Daz #76
Thanks for recognizing it. You are right, “earning” the right to vote won’t transform a person into a “good voter” (however we’re defining it). But I think those seeking such a right would be the kind of person who is already inclined a certain way. OTOH someone would seek the right to vote so they can try to push their agenda in a manner similar to how christian dominions are joining the military.

If I were creating a fictional nation with some alternate form of democracy, I would probably explore the consequences of having to “earn” the right to vote. Like I said, it’s an interesting idea worth exploring in a thought experiment but not in real life.

83. Captain Kendrick says

I think Perkins is suffering from the malady known as The Donald Trump Syndrome. This typically occurs in privileged, wealthy people who no longer gain personal satisfaction from their wealth, because they have acquired everything they want or need. So in order to to fulfill their emptiness, they say and do outrageous things to get attention and fame.

Aw, screw that explanation. To the guillotine with him!!!!!

Isn’t there already a post on FTB about the mental tendencies of trolls?

85. imthegenieicandoanything says

Besmirching Heinlein*, especially ironically, brings out some of the funniest comments! I doubt his erstwhile “defenders” would put 10% of such passion into defending the reputations of their own mothers.

Get a life.

*I’m a fan, however dated, softly fascistic and ridiculous he (and Bradbury as well!) often reads.

86. says

What about companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, and Yahoo! that avoided paying any taxes at all? Seems to me that they shouldn’t be allowed to influence the political process at all.

Maybe your vote should count for less the more tax write-offs you have. Not that the grasping capitalists don’t already have disproportionate power because of their wealth.

Somewhere, a lonely tumbril is crying for him.

87. Geral says

Instead of citizens we can become shareholders… only in ‘Merica. The capitalists of the country are becoming quite bold for their disdain of the common person. Feels like we’re back in the early part of the 20th century.

88. lorn says

My system: I get 300,000,000 votes. You can buy votes from me. Of course people I like get lower prices and people I don’t like will have to pay more for any vote/s they want.

89. mothra says

Heinlein had another system whereby you walk into a voting booth. The booth generates a random mathematical problem. You solve the problem, you get to vote, you fail and a flashing light atop the booth tells everyone you cannot do high school math. Not advocating, just adding for compleatness. From Expanded Universe.

90. numerobis says

From the CNN story that the New Republic story that PZ linked to linked to:

When challenged to say, in 60 seconds, how he would change the world, Perkins made a playfully controversial response. He suggested that, in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson’s voting land owners and Margaret Thatcher’s idea of only allowing taxpayers to vote, “The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?” To which the audience responded with laughter. Perkins later said offstage that what he meant was that, with 50% of registered U.S. voters not paying taxes, “we got ourselves into a mess.”

So Perkins was saying it to get a chuckle, not seriously advocating the concept. He seems to be trolling — and loving the attention. A friend calls it “verbal click-bait”, somewhat accurately since I did in fact click through on this, and lo, I thought about Tom Perkins for a couple minutes.

91. mickll says

How about a system where you lose votes and pay a stupidity fine every time you wrongly compare your comfortable circumstances to people who are/were actually oppressed?

92. Kimpatsu says

Point values are assigned to the zodiac signs. Pisces, of course, get the highest number of votes.
But I’m Gemini, so I get twice as many votes as you, right?

93. dccarbene says

I have a vague memory of a Heinlein essay about voting systems. I think he was mostly trying to get people past the assumption that there is only one way to award the franchise. He offered a number of possible rationales, most of them fanciful, I think, but the one that stuck with me is his suggestion that only mothers would get to vote, having demonstrated the ultimate commitment possible to the future.

I think this is just what the MRA people could get right behind. Coming from such an arch libertarian and all…

94. says

These are the San Francisco Values Bill O’Reilly is always complaining about.
You’d think he’d like them.

SF is an elitist city for wealthy people, Tom Perkins lives and fits right in there.
They demolished the African-American neighborhoods and drove ppl to the East Bay decades ago to put in “improvements (stuff for the rich).
Now they’re evicting the middle class to cater to the rich…

And it’s spilling over into Oakland. Evictions have started there too, gotta move out the middle-class riff-raff to make room for the 6 and 7 figure tech people who work in silicon valley but don’t want to work there.

Tech giants have their own fleets of buses (and now a Google Ferry) to take workers back and forth.

Tom Perkins is the face of San Francisco.

95. says

er, work in silicon valley but dont want to LIVE there.

Is what I meant to say.

96. fmitchell says

BTW, Perkins claimed that he was trying to be provocative, but he was concerned that all this taxation would eliminate the 1%, and thereafter the 5% and the 10%.

So I propose the prerequisite for being able to vote should be knowing how percentages work.

97. ck says

dianne wrote:

Why stop at age 65?

Two reasons: some neurodegenerative disorders sometimes get severe once past that age, and I would want those at retirement age to be able to have a retirement to do with as they please. After 65, you could perhaps volunteer to be included in the lottery each time it’s run. Before 65, you’re included in the lottery regardless of if you want to or not.

Also, I can not support any system in which there is the slightest little chance that I will end up being part of the government. Can I have an exemption for Asperger’s?

Sorry, those who want least to be in control are the most valuable to have in control. Unless your Asperger’s would cause such anxiety that you would be completely unable to function or cause health problems, I’d have to reject such an exemption. Exceptions to my imaginary lottery system may apply, but only if it would prevent the person from fulfilling the role in any capacity or cause some harm to the person.

kevinalexander wrote:

Almost but not quite. [etc]

I’d agree with all of that. I hadn’t intended on it extending to each and every civil servant job, but rather just things like congress, parliament, senate and/or similar governmental bodies. Jobs that require specialized skills obviously can’t be appointed at random.

98. says

Perkins is basing his “joke” on a false premise, that 50% of registered voters are not paying taxes:

[…] millions of Americans may be exempt from income taxes, but they still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes. It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something – the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify. Indeed, many are retirees who can’t earn an income because they’re no longer in the workforce.

For Tom Perkins, these people should arguably lose the ability to participate in the American democratic process. At a minimum, he argues, they should have less political influence than the wealthy.

Or more to the point, Perkins believes a system that allows these people to avoid income taxes is “a mess” in need of a remedy. In other words, while arguing that the rich are facing too great a burden, this multi-millionaire also believes the poor deserve to pay higher taxes.

There are, to be sure, a surprising number of Republicans echoing this message – they’re against tax hikes, unless they’re imposed on low-income families – but we don’t usually hear the disjointed class message made as explicitly as Perkins presented it last night. We may be living in a new Gilded Age, but for this venture capitalist, it’s time to go even easier on the rich, while asking more from the poor.

I’ve grown weary of hearing the canard that 50% (or 47%) of the people don’t pay taxes. This has been debunked so many times that right-wing billionaire’s heads should be spinning from all the slap-downs.

99. says

Meanwhile, yes, the rich do own and run the political system to a great degree.

Link to a related comment in the Lounge.

Link to an article by Matt Taibbi that reveals, among other things, that a vice chairman of JPMorgan, Michael Patterson, was the guy who first began convincing our not-so-bright legislators to put a gigantic loophole into the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, a.k.a. the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a loophole that allows mega banks to own and to control the flow of commodities.

[…] Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs own oil tankers, run airports and control huge quantities of coal, natural gas, heating oil, electric power and precious metals. They likewise can now be found exerting direct control over the supply of a whole galaxy of raw materials crucial to world industry and to society in general, including everything from food products to metals like zinc, copper, tin, nickel and, most infamously thanks to a recent high-profile scandal, aluminum. […]

100. firstapproximation says

But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?

Awful. One time, to parody the extreme love the right wing has for corporations I made a similar suggestion. These people are beyond ridicule at this point.

Perkins’ suggestion does bring up a good point, though not the one he intended. If the idea of a nation being run on such anti-democratic principles is so reprehensible, why is it acceptable for a business to be run like this? Why can’t workers have a democratic say in how their business is run, similar to how citizens have a say in how their country is run? Labor unions at least kinda did that, but they’re an endangered species in the US thanks to assholes like Perkins.

101. robro says

timgueguen @#68

Is there anyone…that doesn’t pay some taxes in a modern industrialised society?

Hard to imagine someone who isn’t, depending on what you mean by taxes. If you buy a postage stamp, you could say you’re paying a tax.

102. robro says

It’s interesting how emboldened such people seem to be these days. Perkins, Phil Robertson, Mike Huckabee, Todd Akin, Taranto, the two Ricky’s (Santorum & Perry), Ron & Randy, Paul Ryan, Bobby J, the Mitt, Michelle, Sarah, and the mouths on now or formerly on Fox…damn, it’s already a long list and I’m sure there are so many more. On the negative side, we have to listen to their inanities too much. On the positive side, they aren’t hiding in a back room and you don’t have to guess about them. (The Koch Bros are another story.)

As with any long-running TV programming, perhaps the general public will eventually get tired of it and switch to a different channel. Then it will end.

103. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

(Fun fact: there’s no such thing as a gray hair.)

Sure there is, just as there’s red hair and black coffee. Even if the colors of those wouldn’t be called “gray”, “red”, or “black” if they were on other objects.

104. Muz says

Neo-Liberalism/Free-Market-ism is at its core anti-democratic. But I don’t think many of its supporters realise this or see themselves as such.
It’s almost refreshing to see one finally admit it

105. mildlymagnificent says

Keep the three branches of government. The House is chosen by lot, the Executive is hired by the House from a pool of professional civil servants The Judiciary is hired the same way.

Apart from the Lotto idea for a house of parliament/congress, that is actually how government is run in many countries. Australians and many others recoil in horror at the idea of an elected judge or police commissioner or legal officer. We also detest “political interference” when elected representatives try to get employed public servants to do their will rather than their official job as described. We’d call that corruption or malfeasance or some other unacceptable, maybe illegal, idea.

Of course, there are plenty of voters who want governments to “do something” when the ordinary course of public administration or the courts or the police get things wrong, but there are formal procedures for that. We’d never allow judges or prosecutors or lowly local council officials to be elected or otherwise beholden to anyone or anything except proper oversight of their job performance.

106. unclefrogy says

the proposed lottery like the often proposed term limits is not a way to insure a more democraticly responsive system. They are both a way to increase the power of the governmental bureaucracies and the lobbyist they work hand in hand with.
if those ideas were to be implemented together the only people who could ever under stand the issues before the government would be the ones who would be in charge of framing the discussion and the concepts involved the “old boys in the back room” or should I say the country clubs

uncle frogy

107. amdiffer says

How about caregiver votes, a vote for every time you wiped a nose, helped a child make a valentine, or drove a senior citizen to the store? Our day will come.

108. firstapproximation says

The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes.

Then the poor would get to vote since, as Lynna mentions @100, they DO pay taxes. When you add up all taxes (federal, state, local, etc.) the bottom 20% paid a total tax rate of 17.4%. The top 1% paid 29%. Rather than being happy that their total tax rate was only 11.6% more than the bottom 20% (who need that money a lot more), rich assholes like Perkins are complaining. Their greed knows no bounds.

109. Alverant (@74):

The only Heinlein books I read were ST and that one where a rich old guy gets his brain transplanted into his young female secretary (I remember it was in my jr high library and it had the word “fuck” in it.)

Aargh! The former his most controversial (and deliberately so, IMHO) book, and the latter (you’re talking about I Will Fear No Evil, BTW) his very worst (written, edited, and published, it turns out, when he was deathly ill); hardly a representative sample. People who want to pin him as a militaristic fascist forget that he wrote ST at almost exactly the same time he was writing Stranger in a Strange Land: In 1969, the crustiest soldier and the hippie putting a flower in his gun barrel might each have had a Heinlein paperback in their back pocket.

The thing about bringing Heinlein into a conversation is that he wasn’t a political scientist, and never claimed to be (in his fiction, anyway) anything other than a teller of stories. His models of government and voting systems were just what if? exercises; ST was only one such. In one book he portrayed a Solar-System-wide parliamentary monarchy (apparently modeled after the British system); in several others, the UN has morphed into a true global bureaucratic/technocratic government. In Citizen of the Galaxy, the Trader society has a commerce-based political system that seems (to my relatively ignorant eye) to be modeled after Romany travelers. And, of course, the infamous Lazarus Long doesn’t trust any government bigger than his own extended family.

Some of these he seems to treat more favorably than others, but they’re all fiction; none is “what Heinlein believed.” In his actual political life, he veered from socialism (not just armchair socialism, either; he was a committed activist in the movement) to McCarthyite anticommunism to Goldwateresque libertarianism, and much of his private life was… shall we say, orthogonal to conservative.

The “Heinlein pedants” (maybe I’ve unwittingly nominated myself as one, eh?) were right, as far as it goes, to point out that PZ’s summary oversimplified the ST model, but the larger point is that this…

…I think the one about earning the right to vote by doing some public service is interesting.

…is problematic. I thought it was interesting, too, ’til I started wondering what counted as public service, and who gets to decide. ST awards the franchise to veterans of federal service, but what about public service at the state or local level? (Do state and local governments even exist in the world of ST?) As someone else mentioned, what about public school or public university teachers and staffs? What about workers in areas of public good who aren’t actually employed by the public (e.g., utility workers, builders of roads and bridges, etc.)?

I’m a Democratic Party leader at the local level, and I certainly consider that a public service — I do the work at great cost to myself and my personal life, out of a sense of duty to my society — yet I doubt I’d get a vote in ST-land.

No, the more you think about it, the more it seems that no system of apportioning the franchise that is unequal, or that is based on any criteria other than simple personhood, is without serious problems.

Which is, I think, what PZ was getting at all along, all quibbles about his Heinlein gloss aside.

110. williamquinn says

The best comment, for my money, was

>brucegee1962
>Does Tom Perkins honestly not think that his system has been tried before?

Which really gets to the heart of the matter. It’s as if the whole conversation is going on in a state of historical ignorance and cultural amnesia. Like, for example, back in the 1640s Parliament raised an army, fought the King of England, defeated him, and chopped his head off. Many members of the army wanted to have a republic and end the monarchy forever, going directly to universal manhood suffrage. But Ireton and other leaders of the rebellion stood up before the Putney Debates and denounced the idea, saying that this extension of the franchise would destroy property rights. (I think this is one of the key issues that kept Cromwell from putting together a lasting constitution) Many years later Great Britain did finally extend the franchise, but just as proposed by Perkins, property owners got more votes than regular folk when this first happened.

And now we have to listen to all this as if none of this had ever happened, as if Perkins has just thought of this himself. Does Perkins even realize this is a step back toward a feudal system?

111. vaiyt says

Does Perkins even realize this is a step back toward a feudal system?

He does. He also thinks it’s fair and just that he ends up lording over the peasantry.

112. vaiyt says

The thing about bringing Heinlein into a conversation is that he wasn’t a political scientist, and never claimed to be (in his fiction, anyway) anything other than a teller of stories. His models of government and voting systems were just what if? exercises; ST was only one such.

Now you go and tell that to the Heinleinites of armchair political science. I’ll get a mop for what’s left of you.

113. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

Does Perkins know that even the poorest of the poor pay taxes? Sales taxes? If they have a car, gas tax? Taxes on phones? There are shitloads of taxes — and almost all of them (other than income tax) hit the poorest far harder than they hit the richest.

Asshole.

114. randay says

A couple of other possibilities:

1 – An inverse ratio where the number of votes a person gets is based on real time they can prove that they worked and their wages. Those with the most hours and least pay get the most votes and then there is sliding scale reducing the number of votes calculating higher earnings/real(proven)work.

2 – Everyone gets one vote, but a candidate has votes subtracted by the amount of money they have raised and money from PACs that support them and the number of attack ads a candidate used. Some backward countries even have limits on how much a candidate can spend or have public financed election spending.

115. randay says

@102 firstapproximation, your idea has merit, it is similar to J-P Proudhon’s “Mutualism”. If we look deeper, why are limited-responsibility corporations even allowed to exist? Before that, investors could join a project, but they were entirely responsible for their part if it failed. That even happened at the end of the last century with Lloyd’s of London whose investors were called “names”. Some bad investments and insurance policies caused some of them to lose everything.So what did they do? They sued of course to get their money back.

116. vaiyt says

It’s sad. My country is trying to follow your now defunct example and have campaigns with public financing in order to curb corruption; while you start following OUR example.

117. ledasmom says

The Marlin Perkins system: You get an extra vote for every zebra you have pulled down and disemboweled with your own teeth and claws.

118. eoleen says

PZ, I guess you hit a very large hornet’s nest…

119. says

If you wait two to four hours to vote, you get two votes. If you wait four to six hours, you get three votes. If you wait longer than that, you get to replace the Republican congressman of your choosing.

120. stevem says

re @117:

Does Perkins know that even the poorest of the poor pay taxes? Sales taxes? If they have a car, gas tax? Taxes on phones? There are shitloads of taxes — and almost all of them (other than income tax) hit the poorest far harder than they hit the richest.

Asshole. <redacted>

Whatever happened to “progressive taxation”? The plan that the tax rate would be proportional to income. Where the more you made, the more you owed. This was supposed to compensate for “flat” taxes (like sales tax, etc) that were labelled “regressive taxation”. Today it seems the ‘progressive’ tax has inverted; the more you make the less you owe (thanks, “W”) Maybe Perkins has a solution to this; “Make the rich PAY for their votes, they ain’t paying taxes and they can vote for free, so make’m PAY for their votes.”
But I’m just playing “strawman” here, Perkins isn’t saying THAT, no way, not at all.

121. says

The 1%-ers like Tom Perkins have what Robert Reich calls a “‘We’ problem — as in ‘Why should we pay for them?'” Except that for Perkins, his “we” is a very small tribe indeed. Almost everyone falls into the “them” category for him.

[…] It underlies the debate over extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food stamps to the poor.

It’s found in the resistance of some young and healthy people to being required to buy health insurance in order to help pay for people with preexisting health problems.

It can be heard among the residents of upscale neighborhoods who don’t want their tax dollars going to the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods nearby.

The pronouns “we” and “they” are the most important of all political words. They demarcate who’s within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who’s not. Someone within that sphere who’s needy is one of “us” — an extension of our family, friends, community, tribe – and deserving of help. But needy people outside that sphere are “them,” presumed undeserving unless proved otherwise.

The central political question faced by any nation or group is where the borders of this sphere of mutual responsibility are drawn.[…]

[…] so many wealthy America’s are also exiting. They’ve never been richer. Surely they can afford a larger “we.” But most of today’s rich adamantly refuse to pay anything close to the tax rate America’s wealthy accepted forty years ago.

Perhaps it’s because, as inequality has widened and class divisions have hardened, America’s wealthy no longer have any idea how the other half lives.

Being rich in today’s America means not having to come across anyone who isn’t. Exclusive prep schools, elite colleges, private jets, gated communities, tony resorts, symphony halls and opera houses, and vacation homes in the Hamptons and other exclusive vacation sites all insulate them from the rabble.

America’s wealthy increasingly inhabit a different country from the one “they” inhabit, and America’s less fortunate seem as foreign as do the needy inhabitants of another country.

The first step in widening the sphere of “we” is to break down the barriers — not just of race, but also, increasingly, of class, and of geographical segregation by income — that are pushing “we Americans” further and further apart.

122. Ysidro says

Does this mean Tom Perkins will actually pay taxes?

You know, as a means of raising funds for the government, this could work!

Alas, it’ll just mean the people paying in will give it back to themselves. But it’s better than the now system, where they DON’T pay in and still give it back to themselves!

123. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

Does Perkins even realize this is a step back toward a feudal system?

Feudalism is somewhat nicer a system than these bastards want; in a feudal system the ‘lord’ has to swear protective allegiance to the vassals. He (and it was almost always ‘he’ of course) had to provide safety and security, alms and whatever. These stains on humanity want the whole war-lord thing; ownership, total and untrammelled.

124. Timothy McGaha says

The PZ Myers system reminds me of something Mark Twain once wrote, an essay titled “The Curious Republic of Gondour.” It’s an interesting idea … though not necessarily a good one.

http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/gondour.html

125. infraredeyes#21

As a tax-paying resident alien (twice over, because I own a business and pay both corporate and personal taxes), I think the idea of letting all taxpayers vote has some merit

I tend to lean towards extending the franchise to anyone who’s over the age of majority and can demonstrate having lived in-country for at least a year, myself. Of course, I also think that the citizenship test should consist of about three questions:
Do you want to be a U.S. Citizen?
You understand that that means you’re under the jurisdiction of U.S. law and all that entails, right?
Assuming the answers to questions 2 and 3 are affirmative, the respondent should then get citizenship papers in the name listed under question 1, and the process is over.

firstapproximation #102

If the idea of a nation being run on such anti-democratic principles is so reprehensible, why is it acceptable for a business to be run like this? Why can’t workers have a democratic say in how their business is run, similar to how citizens have a say in how their country is run?

I’ve been arguing this one for years. Indeed, there’s no actual excuse for the existence of people who have a say in the running of the business but don’t work for it (barring regulation, which is a separate case); that is to say shareholders. The ultimate expression of economic democracy is, of course, the worker cooperative.
Muz #106

Neo-Liberalism/Free-Market-ism is at its core anti-democratic. But I don’t think many of its supporters realise this or see themselves as such.
It’s almost refreshing to see one finally admit it

I’ve known a fair number of libertarians who are pretty upfront about it. The usual phrasing is “I’d rather have freedom than democracy”.
Lynna#125

The 1%-ers like Tom Perkins have what Robert Reich calls a “‘We’ problem — as in ‘Why should we pay for them?’”

They also have a very serious perception problem regarding just who is ‘paying’ for whom in this situation.

126. md says

No proportional taxation without proportional representation.

127. unity says

Speaking as an outsider (British) I rather suspect that some parts of the US might benefit from a voting system in which the number of votes an individual gets is based on the simple formula of dividing the number of unbroken teeth by the number of tattoos and rounding down to the nearest whole number. ;-{

128. David Marjanović says

Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs own oil tankers, run airports and control huge quantities of coal, natural gas, heating oil, electric power and precious metals.

What in the fuck.

This is Scrooge McDuck, John D. Rockerduck and Flintheart Glomgold we’re talking about here.

129. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

No proportional taxation without proportional representation.

*snicker* gee, why do you sound like you don’t know what you are sloganing about?

130. David Marjanović says

(Fun fact: there’s no such thing as a gray hair.)

Sure there is, just as there’s red hair and black coffee.

No, I wrote there’s no such thing as a gray hair, and that’s what I mean. Gray hair is a mixture of white hairs and black/brown/blond ones; no individual hair is ever gray.

Of course, I also think that the citizenship test should consist of about three questions:

Instead, the US currently offers the Heinlein option! Lots of foreigners join the US military and will be rewarded with citizenship if they survive to their honorable discharge.

131. ChasCPeterson says

plus, I can assure you that my coffee is, truly, black.

132. WhiteHatLurker says

I am disappointed in the description of Heinlein’s work in the post. He also wrote about the US Christian theocracy – I don’t think he endorsed, it was just a story.

Or was it? I sometimes wonder where Nehemiah Scudder wanders in our southern neighbour, given the Tea Party et al. It might be too late to win 2012, but there’s always the next election.

133. stwriley says

A couple of quick notes on ideas being floated above:

For all those who have mentioned a lottery system of selecting officeholders, this is an idea that has been tried before, most famously in Classical Athens. Selection of most offices was by lot after the reforms of Cleisthenes (except for a few high offices like strategos) and spread deliberately throughout the citizen population. No citizen could hold a particular office more than once (except for a seat on the Boule, which could be held twice and strategos which had no limit) and all officeholders were subjected to review after their term was up.

Of course, there was a fundamental difference between the Athenian system and our own: they were a direct rather than a representative democracy. Whether this kind of system would work for representation and not just officeholders is still an open question.

134. David Marjanović says

plus, I can assure you that my coffee is, truly, black.

“You take a pound of coffee, moisten it with water and heat it. Then you do the horseshoe test. If it sinks, that was too little coffee!”

– a one-off character somewhere here

135. kevinalexander says

Choosing officeholders by lot of course wouldn’t work. I’m suggesting that the members would work more as a jury. They would spend the first two years not debating or voting but learning the Constitution, law, economics etc.
Then for the next four years say yeah or nay to what the Executive plans. The wheels of government would be in the hands of professionals.