The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Friday, April 22, 2005


Megan McArdle, in discussing the moral impact (or lack thereof) of bankruptcy reform, added this aside:

... morally it's hard to argue people who borrow money they have no reasonable hope of repaying are somehow less culpable than the fellows who lent them the rope with which to hang themselves. To say otherwise is to deny moral agency to a huge swathe of our citizenry, which raises the question: why are we letting such moral lackwits vote?
Implicit in this question is the view that voting is an act of judgement -- in which the morally deficient cannot meaningfully participate. It is both a right and a duty.

On the other hand, those who support enlarging the pool of voters through same-day registration feel that voting is purely a right: it provides the citizen with a way to act in his own interests. In contrast to Mrs. McArdle's, they view voting as an act of desire.

How odd to see the right supporting social duty, while the left discovers the virtue of selfishness. This also helps to explain the liberal apoplexy (as in What's the Matter with Kansas?) when voters do not act in their own (short-term, economic) self-interest.

[Aside: In poking around while writing this, I was forcibly given a large dose of the strong medicine of honesty.]

[Update 17 May 2005: Mrs. McArdle revisits the question, saying "I've never understood how the belief that a large swathe of our society is in need of a nanny is reconciled, ideologically speaking, with the belief that we should do everything we can to encourage those people to vote."]