Social Safety-Nets and the Right to Vote: A Thought Experiment
Would you support amending the Constitution to provide a federal safety net in food, housing, education, and medical care, with the following limitation: anyone who accepts that support would not be entitled to vote for one election cycle after accepting the support?
My friend Stephen Hollingshead, a classical liberal who’s of the mind that the federal government should really have nothing to do with providing the mentioned necessities of life, posed this question for discussion in another forum, and with his permission I’ve asked it here.
As someone who wishes President Obama was actually something approaching a democratic socialist, I don’t share my friend’s underlying political philosophy; nonetheless, his thought experiment appealed to me.
He’s obviously not the first to raise a red flag in warning of the conflicts of interest and the fiscal troubles that would ensue when large numbers of the electorate vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. I’m not remotely convinced that most voters who benefit from federal social safety nets vote seeking to get something for relatively nothing, but I gather the posed question is meant in part to test the extent of that motivation for voting.
For my part, I would not support such an amendment, seeing it as an injustice, but if I were in the position of truly needing to accept this form of government aid for myself or for members of my family, then I would willingly sacrifice the right to vote for an election cycle. Would definitely complain about infringements upon my rights, though. The possibility that some recipients of government aid will use democracy to acquire wealth from the public treasury, without a care to contribute to it and to the common good, does not justify temporarily taking the right to vote away from anyone who has need to fall upon these safety nets. The hypothetical amendment seems to presuppose the takers/makers binary that way too much oversimplifies the economic reality.
What about you? How would you answer the question?