Theories of democracy and political science, Robert Heinlein, minimizing bias from self-interest, scientist suspicion, GIANT BUGS…okay, it doesn’t quite get to the bugs. But what’s not to like about texagg 04’s reflections and exposition sparked by the post on Ruth Marcus’s plug for compulsory voting? Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again:
When a right or a freedom becomes compelled, it is no longer a right or a freedom. I would be hard pressed to even call it an obligation, which implies you are expected to do it, but are still free no to, to the disappointment of whoever. No, compelling a right destroys it as a right; and I could even envision it as becoming an easier step from that point to actually destroying the right itself.
For the commentary regarding Heinlein, after reading into the expose he gives on why his “society” only allowed *discharged* soldiers to be citizens and therefore bear the franchise, it had nothing to do with “earning” citizenship nor was it similar to the old land-owner requirement of whoever is “invested” in a society will vote more astutely for it’s good.
His expose definitely indicates that Heinlein saw the flaw in voting would ALWAYS manifest itself in those who would vote primarily out of self-interest – to the point of voting to surrender responsibility for material succor… that is to say, a welfare recipient would tend to vote for a politician that maintained welfare, an grossly in-debt college student would tend to vote for a politician promising to relieve that debt from the public largesse, etc. Eventually, that flaw leads voting societies to non-sustainability.
He even posited that the Utopian dreams of “Scientist-led” or “Technocrat-led” societies would collapse just as surely, because those decision-makers would eventually succumb to their own personal hubris and vote out of self-interest as no other checks would exist in that society. He merely extended the prediction that when those societies collapsed, they would be even uglier and scarier than the others, since Scientists and Technology wielders have the knowledge to really make life suck for the disagreers / non-conformers.
So Heinlein’s assertion in “Starship Troopers” to cure (or at least forestall collapse the longest) would be a society that denied the franchise to those likely to end up voting only out of self-interest. That’s the key he felt needed to be stifled. What test then did he set up? In his society it was the Soldiers*. After being put through EXTREMELY rigorous training that didn’t inculcate a Group-Think, but did weed out those whose Individualism was born from material-self-centeredness, he believed those who made it would be Individualists who simultaneously knew what conduct was necessary for the greater good without destroying the individual while allowing the individual his freedoms. After that trial, in which Citizenship isn’t earned, in which a Citizen isn’t made, rather…Citizens are found out of the masses.
But he doesn’t stop there. As long as the Soldiers are on active duty, they are not voting citizens. Only the discharged Soldiers are allowed to vote.
Of course, we know his version of Fantasy-Republic would never be perfect either. But I think his concept of Individuals who still know what is for the Common Good without crushing the Individual is the basis for a healthy society.
*Contrary to those who like to bash “Starship Troopers,” it actually wasn’t just soldiers who got the right to vote, but anyone who volunteered for Service and was put through the EXTREMELY rigorous trials, whether they ended up working as Grunts, R&D types, Pilots, Logisticians, etc…