I used to be a libertarian. I was about 19 years old, a time when I was fiercely independent—or so I thought.
I was working the drilling rigs during the summer months. Not only I did like the paychecks, I liked the physical challenge of hard work and fighting the weather. Plus the rigger’s nature suited my macho tendencies. My workmates and I were a flock of John Wayne’s: getting that oil out of the ground so people could drive their cars.
With this job, I was able to work four months to earn enough money to live for 12 months. Not only that, I was able to pay for my university tuition, operate my car, and imbibe in a little bit too much beer. I got my degree with no student debt, thanks to the drilling rigs. Well not really. It was I who found the job and proved my worth to earn those paychecks. I saw more than a few young men who could not handle the work or the culture. I deserved the money!
Somewhere during this time, I read some work from Ayn Rand. To paraphrase, she said that Man is a rational animal and will make decisions for his life based on some rational means. For me, I wanted the benefits of the big paychecks and I was willing to pay the price to get them. My university colleagues were not so ambitious, so they had to live with less resources and took on debt. We each made our decision; we each lived with the consequences. Libertarianism was very rational.
Then I started having doubts about this ideology. I replayed my life history at that point and I saw my family’s income transition from working poor to fairly well off. If my father had to pay for my Grade 1 education, he probably would have kept me at home; the money was just not there. My provincial government paid the bills for my schooling. I knew that a true libertarian does not want the government to pay for education. So how was someone from my economic background supposed to get the Grade 12 education to enter university in the first place? I did a little more investigation. It seemed that libertarians believed that lower income families could enter into contracts with benefactors to cover the expenses of education their children. In exchange, the family or the children would be obligated to work for the benefactor to pay for that education. I could see that 12 years of education meant a long time as a serf of some kind: I would not have much choice in my after-school occupation. I didn’t like that. So my ideology changed from libertarian to conservative—and a conservative who understands that sometimes it is right for the government to interfere with the natural marketplace.
The internet has provided me with lots of opportunity to dialogue with libertarians. But I wouldn’t call it dialogue. I would say that libertarians are just as religious with their political ideology as evangelical Christians with their faith. Public education: bad! Public health care: bad! Public transit: bad! Progressive taxes: bad! Libertarians are always right. Anyone who disagrees is either too immoral (for confiscating wealth) or too stupid to see the right path.
So I guess I’m too immoral or too stupid. Why would a society give such a person the right to vote?
Taking away voting rights from poor economic performers seems to the only way libertarians can ever implement their ideology. They must realize their rhetoric will never convince progressive thinkers and people who benefit directly from social programs to the libertarian way.
To earn voting rights in a libertarian world, we could create a means test. Let’s say that voting rights would be granted to those who have amassed a net worth of at least, say, $100,000. We could argue that those who have attained this life goal have a good, smart, tenacious work ethic plus they have a good understanding of finance, business, and building a career. They are self-reliant and not a burden on society. They have proven they can put the pieces of the world together. I think there is some logic in this line of thought. But this goes against the one-person-equals-one-vote principle of modern democracy.
To be fair to libertarians, I have never heard any of them proposing this kind of means test for citizens to earn voting rights. But one wonders why they are so obsessive with their goal when it is so unattainable. At least evangelical Christians have got their spot in heaven.