|Date:||July 5th, 2000|
A democracy needs to be informed.
But more importantly than that, it needs to be just.
Recently the people of San Francisco tried to pass a bill that would outlaw ATM fees that banks charge for people with ATM cards from other banks. During the election period that was on the ballot, I happened to be discussing with someone the fact that I don't vote.
He was pro-voting, and he asked me if I had an ATM card. After hearing that I did, he told me that there was something I should vote for on the ballot - this ATM no fees thing.
Now - I've searched the constitution and bill of rights since then. I have yet to find any mention of our inalienable rights to have free access to ATMs. I don't think it's the kind of thing our forefathers had in mind.
But since we were talking about something that would benefit me, it was assumed that this was something I should obviously vote for.
Now look, I believe in selfishness. We should act first and foremost in our self-interest - but not at the expense of others.
If you disallow banks to charge ATM usage fees, then you'll suddenly find that banks won't allow any cards in their machines but their own.
The next bill, of course, with require that banks allow all ATM cards in their machines.
Then the ATMs will start to disappear. They're not free, you know.
Then what - do we require banks to provide ATMs? Do we have a legal right to free banking?
What bothers me the most is that it was assumed by the public that I should vote for this law, because it would benefit me (although long-term I don't think that's true).
I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who realized that democracy would
only work if the majority would rule with respect to the
The fact is, we can't rule with respect to the minority because we aren't even paying attention anymore.
Take a look at presidential elections. How often do presidential candidates win the majority vote from their home state in elections? As if someone is more likely to be a good president because they came from the same state that you did. What relevance does that have to good governance?
I have a suggestion. On the next ballot, we propose a bill that requires the entire population to give 10% of all their earnings to anyone named Dave. Call it a Dave-Tithe, if you will.
How much do you want to bet that just about everyone not named Dave votes no, and most people named Dave vote yes?
Hopefully I'm wrong and I'll get immensely wealthy.
For more interesting technical discussion on some of the problems of voting, see: Arrow's Impossibility Theorem