Saturday, July 20, 2013

Starship Troopers: I've said it before and I'll say it now, democracy simply doesn't work

If you've seen the movie but not read the book, I strongly recommend you drop everything and go read Starship Troopers right now. It's an easy read; I managed it in two afternoons and I'm a dummy. In some ways it's simply an extended reflection by Heinlein on the nature of government. The book is over fifty years old so I'm not going to bother warning about spoilers. In the Troopers society, only military veterans are permitted to vote. Only veterans are considered to be full citizens of the Terran federation. Everyone else is a civilian who is free to pursue any course in life they wish but they are not permitted to vote. As in all of Heinlein's books, one of the characters is a stand-in for Heinlein himself and in this case it's the main character Juan Rico's high school teacher of History and Moral Philosophy. The teacher explains that the reasoning behind only allowing veterans the vote is simple. Is it because they are of a higher moral fiber than civilians? No; anyone who has ever served will tell you that putting on a uniform does not necessarily change a man's moral character or else there would never be war crimes, courts martial, or dishonorable discharges. Is it because they are more intelligent than civilians? No; if anything that's an even more risible suggestion than the first one. The reason why only veterans are allowed to vote is because they have demonstrated through their actions that they are capable of placing the greater good before their personal welfare.

This was and still is considered blasphemy against our civic religion in which the biannual voting ritual has taken on transcendental significance. Even Catholics who really ought to know better subscribe to the mania for getting as many warm bodies into the polling booths as possible, even if it's probably material cooperation with evil to vote for anyone in a given election cycle (this is usually expressed as "Vote Republican or the babies get it.") Universal suffrage is the goal, where every free and equal superman has equal political representation, where the collection of individual wills becomes one mighty unified Will.

One of the problems with this model is that the unwashed masses don't always vote the way they "should," that is they don't always choose liberalism. Remember how many do-overs the EU had every time they put treaties to a national vote? Remember how much anger and outrage there was when we Californians passed Proposition 8 which outlawed same-sex "marriage?" But liberalism can't assert moral superiority over its enemies because that would violate absolute equality. To be coherent on its own terms, all of the free and equal new men, liberated from the arbitrary chains of tradition and history, must freely choose liberalism. Therefore, those who explicitly reject liberalism must - existentially they must - be subhuman Nazis. It's one of the great ironies of our age that the Nazi is considered the great transcendent evil and the total opposite of the new liberal man. Of course it's not just the illiberal man whom liberalism dehumanizes; the waste bins at Planned Parenthood are filled with the hacked up body parts of other untermenschen. What is euthanasia besides the liquidating of liberal supermen unable to exercise their will? The liberal feels about reactionaries voting the same way the reactionary feels about felons or dead people voting.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has said that to abstain from voting is tantamount to betraying one's country, I could buy myself a bottle of Jack Daniels. Last November, many Catholics I know suggested that failing to vote for Mitt Romney would mean the blood of every aborted child under President Obama would be on the non-voters hands. My one vote was materially meaningless in the national election for president. It was impossible that my one vote was going to affect the outcome of the election nationally or even in my home state of California ("I can imagine it happening without involving a contradiction" does not mean the same thing as "It is actually possible in reality.") I think everyone implicitly knows that their vote is statistically meaningless in terms of deciding the national election for president, though I think many balk at its implications. A vote is more than the material act of pulling a lever. By voting you are giving your consent and your stamp of approval to the system of liberalism. I think more and more Catholics will refuse to do that as liberalism becomes increasingly sclerotic and overtly anti-Catholic. The thing you must understand about modern elections is that they are not essentially about choosing our rulers. It's about taking liberalism as a given and building social consensus around it. Elections are the lex orandi to liberalism's lex credendi.

This is in part why liberals are so fanatical about expanding the franchise as widely as possible. Women's suffrage, for example, is now considered a matter of basic justice instead of a prudential decision about how best to govern society. This is why the Founding Fathers restriction of the franchise to property owning white males is now considered tremendously unjust. Our ancestors weren't crazy or stupid though. They had a reason for restricting the franchise: they felt that those who had a stake in society would make better judgments about governance. Seeing the illiterate Rachel Jeantel on the stand during the Zimmerman trial reinforced my belief that universal suffrage is silly. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I've often thought that restricting the franchise to the male married-and-never-divorced heads of households with at least one legitimate child would immensely improve our politics (I'd have to give up my franchise under such a scheme.)

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