Heinlein on Voting: Would You Bet Your Life On It?
By Bryan Caplan
Here’s one of Heinlein’s modest proposals for improving democracy:
A state that required a bare minimum of intelligence and education – e.g., step into the polling booth and find that the computer has generated a new quadratic equation just for you. Solve it, the computer unlocks the voting machine, you vote. But get a wrong answer and the voting machine fails to unlock, a loud bell sounds, a red light goes on over the booth – and you slink out, face red, you having just proved yourself too stupid and/or ignorant to take part in the decisions of grownups. Better luck next election! No lower age limit in this system – smart 12-yr-old girls vote every election while some of their mothers – and fathers – decline to be humiliated twice.
Then he gets a little Swiftian:
There are endless variations on this one. Here are two: Improving the Breed — No red light, no bell…but the booth opens automatically – empty. Revenue — You don’t risk your life, just some gelt. It costs you 1/4 oz. troy of gold in local currency to enter the booth. Solve your quadratic and vote, and you get your money back. Flunk – and the state keeps it. With this one I guarantee that no one would vote who was not interested and would be most unlikely to vote if unsure of his ability to get that hundred bucks back.
Just to be clear, I’m against the disintegration option. But I’m on board for the $100 bet.
HT: The excellent Garett Jones