January 08, 2004

Punishment And Citizenship

This item from Michele got me to thinking. It served as a catalyst to bring together a couple of different issues concerning the right to vote that were brought up recently. In this case, it was about restoring the right to vote to convicted felons. I'm of the opinion that once one is fully released (not on parole or probation), then one should be a full citizen again (debt paid, all rights restored). But (there's always a 'but'), in my world sentencing would be quite a bit harsher:

  • No parole. No early release. You serve every single day of your sentence.
  • Crimes would have sentences commensurate with their impact. E.x. There wouldn't be the need for a debate over civil commitment, since child molesters would be in for life.
  • No multiple bites at the apple. Anyone convicted of a second crime involving violence gets life. Period.
Of course, at the same time we would need to get rid of a bunch of nonsense federal felonies and anything else that doesn't relate to harm caused by one person against another. We have too many damn felonies these days for pissant little things like dumping grass clippings in the wrong place (this would seem suited for the civil court system) or owning a piece of metal that is 1-inch too short (sawed-off shotgun).

Anyhow, I'm hoping the combination carrot/stick approach of full rights restored after harsh punishment would deter future offenses, but if not, then the two strikes and you're out rule would clean up any idiots that fall through the cracks.

On the other hand, there has been a lot of (justified) furor concerning the "S Factor" article (the one that held that the only reason George W Bush could be elected was that people were so stupid). The author suggested that some kind of literacy test should be required to vote. One commenter at some site (which I can't recall right now) suggested that the right to vote should only apply to those who were landowners (as the founders originally intended).

I've been considering this for a while, and I think it might not be such a bad idea to establish some kind of "productivity" test for voting. The original idea of allowing only landowners to vote was to foster the idea of civic involvement among voters. But I think ownership of land is not necessarily the best test, given that there are people who are productive in society that don't own land or a home.

Another alternative would be that you had to be a taxpayer to vote (Neal Boortz even suggested once that you get a number of votes, proportional to the amount of taxes you paid; perhaps one vote for every $5000 in taxes). However, on further thought that bugs me too, in that it could deny the vote to spouses who choose to stay home and raise children. These people are doing something productive and deserve a say in the vote. So, that brings me around to the idea of the criterion being that anyone who is currently accepting an unearned benefit from government (welfare, food stamps, etc) would lose their franchise temporarily until they were off the government benefit (I'll probably get labelled as a hard-hearted mean-spirited grinch for suggesting any such thing, so I can probably just go ahead and say that I'd prefer to see the government out of the business of handing out our money).

Despite the cries of discrimination that this may bring, I think this helps in two important ways. First, it encourages people to be productive and work, rather than relying on the government for everything. Second, it prevents the dangerous ability of people to vote themselves more largess from the government when they aren't contributing to it (of course, I suppose this is the exact goal of certain groups in trying to get more and more people hooked on Uncle Sugar).

Posted by Aubrey at January 8, 2004 02:57 PM | TrackBack
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