The other day at work during lunch, we got into talking about taxes and voting. Wanting to stir up some conversation and see where it would go, I suggested that if you were to have a progression tax system, the fairest way to structure the voting system would be to make the number of votes a person was entitled to directly proportional to the amount of taxes that individual paid. Not surprisingly, no one in the room liked the idea.
One of my coworkers asked me if that system had ever been used before. Knowing that he wouldn’t like my answer, I tried to get him to be more specific. Does he mean used in a government or is he talking about any institution? In trying to pinpoint the actual question being asked, I was accused of trying to skirt it—that I was being a “politician” about it. Ugh. So I answered the question.
I followed it up by saying that it’s the way businesses (i.e. shareholders) run things. That’s the way markets in general work (minus the unnecessary step of trading money for “votes”). If I buy one unit of Product A once a month, I’m less powerful than the person who buys 10,000 units of Product A in that same time period.
Unfortunately, no one really bought this. The best answer anyone could give was “Well, that’s different” and “You can’t really compare the two.”
Why not? The government, in its theoretical form at least, is simply a collection of goods and services that we pay for through taxation. When I go to the food store and pay $10 for apples, I get more apples than the guy that only pays $2. They don’t care what my salary is compared to anyone else. If you want to be “fair” with government services and taxes, what’s the difference?
Of course, I find the idea of taxation to be abhorrent. I was only trying to demonstrate the way our taxing and voting systems work together just don’t make logical sense.
But what really got me intrigued (or frustrated) was how everyone clung to the sacredness of the democracy—one person, one vote. When told that “my” system would mean that the rich and elite would simply use their money to control everything, I responded by saying that they already do with lobbying and that elections are determined by huge sums of money being passed around. What was the response to that?
“You’re just being too cynical.”
Am I? First of all, that doesn’t refute my statement. And ignoring it doesn’t make it become untrue. And secondly, even if I were being cynical, my claim isn’t based on stirring up emotional fervor since you’re the one who believes that your single vote among 10 million other votes in a given election gives you a say in the government. Your voice is really heard when it makes up 0.0001% of the vote, isn’t it? I’m an engineer and was having this conversation with other engineers within my department. Don’t we pride ourselves on being the rational, “show me just the facts” kind of people?
“Never underestimate the power of a single vote.”
That’s the next line I was hit with. What does that even mean? It’s a silly little one-liner void of any actual substance. It’s propaganda because the single vote is actually powerless. In any election of substantial size, your vote is literally statistically insignificant.
If you took a bucketful of sand off the beach and someone scolded you for destroying the ocean’s ecosystem, would you scurry back to dump the sand or would you laugh at that person’s lunacy? So why do people react with such shock and disgust when they hear someone announce “I didn’t vote”?
As I found out, I didn’t even need to say that the democratic system itself was a bad way to structure society to get people to close their eyes, cover their ears, and repeat “I’m not listening, I’m not listening.” All I had to do was suggest a change in the voting system—a system that is rigged against their favor. Don’t people realize that the rules for voting are made by the people already in power? Don’t people realize these people get to change who gets to vote on what and for whom by changing imaginary geographical lines?
I guess people don’t see that. And that’s why they’ll become enraged when you question the power that their occult (oops, sorry…vote) possesses.