What’s Your Voting Privilege Worth?

October 7, 2009

John Stossel’s column, Transfer Machine, is recommended reading.  Rarely do we think of the misaligned incentives created by transferring wealth between citizens using political power.  Stossel sums it up nicely.  First with a quote from George Bernard Shaw:

The government who robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul,” George Bernard Shaw once said.

The other way to say this is “It’s like two wolves and sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”

Then Stossel adds this startling paragraph:

The theory of government I was taught says that government provides benefits, primarily security, to the entire population. In return we pay taxes. But lately the government has been a distributor of special privileges, taking money from some and giving it to others. America is now about evenly split between those who pay income taxes and those who consume them.

Suddenly, the two-wolves scenario sounds plausible.  What incentive does someone who receives assistance from government have to vote for people who may take that away?  Better yet, what incentive does the sheep have to stay?

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.  The U.S. government has been growing over the last century at the hands of special interests.  Perhaps, when taxpayers become a special interest, by being in the minority, they’ll actually have more power.

Another interesting thought, should you lose your privilege to vote if you accept direct government assistance?  In the private sector, having an economic stake in something you can influence politically is called a conflict of interest.

Of course, this would never fly politically (as in correctness) or logistically.  Would government assistance include Social Security and Medicare, for example?  But, I still find it interesting to think about.  The mere suggestion makes one think about how much they value their voting privileges.

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