One way to apply the concept is by contribution, which is a way of deciding who is qualified to vote. It involves looking up tax records in order to favor the largest contributors of funds. The ‘wisdom’ of the ruling (read wealthy) class has been passed down as an idea from Plato to Thomas Hobbes to Leo Strauss and holds fast to this very day, for we continue to elect the wealthy, somehow believing that their wealth signifies suitability to lead. The vast majority of American presidents have been extremely wealthy − if not born into privilege like Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy, then self-made men like Nixon, Johnson, Carter and Clinton. In 2002, Forbes listed nine billionaire politicians, including Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy; New York mayor Mike Bloomberg; Rafik Al-Hariri of Lebanon; and Roman Abramovich, a governor in Russia.
The rationale for using this method is that the most wealthy, accomplished and popular are promoted and the rest of us benefit from the wisdom of successful citizens. Maybe. But it’s also just another way of letting the highest bidders buy elections and then leech back the taxes they paid. (Sound familiar yet?) So this idea must be scrapped quickly.
A democracy exists when those who are free and are not well-off, being in the majority, are in sovereign control of government, an oligarchy when control lies with the rich and well-born, these being few.
Another way to decide if citizens can vote or, if so, how large a vote they should get is to give some kind of aptitude test. The idea here is to get people to educate themselves and to place politicians under a much more thorough scrutiny. But with this approach, we find that the details become problematic. How do we determine who is the smartest? Does everyone take the same test? What are the problem-solving skills, languages, cultural heritages or knowledge that qualify a voter? Which names, places, facts, events or statistics should be on the test? Is it more important for a voter or leader to know historical facts or be up on the current issues that are affecting people? What happens when people with immense intelligence but limited educational resources score poorly on such tests? And more importantly, who devises the test?
Or how about occupation? Ought we to give firefighters, policemen, teachers, soldiers, CEOs, professors, doctors, farmers, etc., a larger vote because of the work they do and their contribution to our health and safety? Perhaps, but then again, how exactly can we do this even-handedly? Though plumbers and trash collectors may not have the skill of surgeons, whom do you think we would live longer without? So what is the degree of difficulty or the effect on society we should go by? Should we shrink the votes for ex-convicts, according to the sentence (even for the smallest offences, like parking tickets)?
One way to encourage people to vote would be by sizing according to past participation – increasing their vote each time they go through the process. This might get people off their butts and to the voting stations more often, but who’s to say that they’re going to actually care more about who it is they’re voting for? And it also might just as easily have the reverse effect, whereby those who haven’t compounded their vote size enough over time might just turn their backs on the whole process.
If we want to discourage spoilers, then we can size votes according to past discretion. If they continue to stray too far from the norm, should we exclude them from the process by diminishing the size of their vote?
Even if we could agree on these questions, which we can’t, the problem these ideas share is that they all just move us farther in the wrong direction. Not all kinds of vote sizing are effective at eliminating corruption, and the responsibility-based ones like those above are actually geared to increase corruption, as they represent further refinements of meshing together power with wealth. Regardless of how tempting they look as a way of cultivating a purer and more deserving group of people, these kinds of vote sizing lead the way not to democracy, but plutocracy; and because they additionally silence the people affected, beg to be corrupted. So we have to rule them out as viable systems and look for something more able to achieve our goals.
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