Analog: SUPER Science Fiction and Fact Letter To Analog ...


By William Westmiller

Following is my response to an editorial in Analog Magazine ("Science Fiction and Fact", April 1999) posing a conundrum over "right" opinions and the "right" to vote.
Editor Stanley Schmidt proposes better public education to foster better government decisions. This lengthy letter is not intended for publication elsewhere, but it discusses some basic political issues that you may find valuable.
Dear Mr. Schmidt:

I'm sorry to inform you that you have failed your own test and will not be allowed to vote in the next election. Although you seem to be intelligent and thoughtful, you have failed to demonstrate the minimal knowledge and competence required to cast a meritorious vote.

Your editorial (Rights vs. Rightness, April 1999) starts with the premise that ignorant voters are "running the show". This is incorrect in two respects. First, we don't live in a democracy. Second, intelligence is not required to cast a worthy vote.

The majority does not make decisions about the law. This is not ancient Greece, it is the United States. Unlike most governments in history, ours is a unique Constitutional Republic. Voters select representatives (usually by far less than a majority), who are pledged to uphold and defend the individual rights of every citizen, particularly those itemized in the Bill of Rights. Even the vaunted public plebiscites of my home state, California, do not become law if they violate any one person's right to life, liberty and property. The occasional failures are those of a judicial "meritocracy" which "knowsbetter" than to follow the Constitution.

Stupid people are perfectly capable of voting wisely. Because we are a republic, citizens vote for their representatives, not the law. They select people based on their judgment of the candidate's character, intelligence, and ethics. No special knowledge is required to make those decisions. In practice, we tend to get the best legislators when the least "politically correct" individuals cast a ballot. The values that make a legislator "meritorious" are a willingness to listen to everyone and make decisions that respect everyone's rights.

Your ignorance of our basic system of government is not nearly so egregious as your perversion of basic good government principles. We are born equal simply because we are all born human. We remain human throughout our lives and thereby maintain our fundamental human rights. In nearly every other respect, we are obviously unequal, independent, and unique individuals. This is the glory, not the fatal flaw, of human civilization. It is also the reason why government ought to be limited to defending fundamental rights rather than coercing individuals to conform with the social norms of wise and learned elites.

Your column totally evades the critical phrase "equality under the law". The Fourteenth Amendment stipulates that no government shall deny any person "the equal protection of the law". That means that any law which benefits one group at the expense of another is unconstitutional. It means that any effort on the part of government to deprive one person of justly earned rewards in order to "equalize" the wealth of all individuals is a violation of fundamental human rights. The problem is not that there are stupid laws, it is that there are inhuman laws. If our representatives, courts and executive honored the principle of equality under the law, there would be no corporate or individual "welfare", no "special interests", no grants, subsidies, credits or privileges granted or imposed by government. The ideal is not the "equality" of socialism or the"meritocracy" of fascism, it is the freedom guaranteed by a government that only protects individual liberty. That means protecting every individual's right to be unequal; to excel or fail on our own merits.

You are absolutely correct that there is objective truth and that some people have a better knowledge of reality than others. You are absolutely incorrect in suggesting that government should make those decisions. Even if every person were given the most exhaustive and comprehensive education; even if we had tests on obvious facts before granting a voting privilege; even if the best minds analyzed, tested, and evaluated every aspect of every law; it would still be wrong to use the coercive power of government to impose one "opinion" on anyone else. Government is much more about the art of defining rights and the ethics of social intercourse than it is about scientific truth or authoritative proclamations.

Perhaps an "ignorant majority believes it's perfectly all right to dump untreated sewage in the water supply," but that statement is a demonstration of the art of hyperbole, not a rational opinion on the issue. No one that I know drinks out of their toilet. Does some waste injure some marine life? Sure. But, the solution has nothing to do with phosphate levels or algae. The problem is the persistent "tragedy of the commons". Everybody owns the rivers, lakes and oceans, so nobody owns them. There are no rights, there are only privileges granted by government to the most politically powerful lobbies. If the Sierra Club spent its money buying old growth forest rather than elections, they would long ago have had complete control over their proper use. Their opinions about whether to allow logging, tourism or hiking might have been correct or incorrect, but their right to control their private property, without injury to others, would have been the only government issue.

The utter incompetence of government bureaucracies to perform good deeds other than protecting rights is well demonstrated in the education system. If we truly want aneducated population, we should eliminate the government monopoly that has been a demonstrable failure almost everywhere for all time. It has nothing to do with "information superhighways," school construction or even class size. Education is still an art form, not a science. There is no "right opinion" about the best way to pursue knowledge. Compulsory government education is a perfect example of imposing uniform, elite nostrums on a complex set of conflicting and worthy objectives. If we want the best education for everyone, allow competition to flourish and let every parent select from a broad spectrum of methods and techniques that they believe are best for their children. Freedom is the only scientific method for social and intellectual advancement.

These are my opinions. Are they right? (Of course!) Who will decide? You, your readers, everyone who evaluates them against their own knowledge and experience. They will, or they won't, vote for those who share my opinions. The legislators they elect will weigh the value of all opinions and make good or bad decisions. We are all involved in the pursuit of happiness and, thankfully, our ideas tend to evolve very slowly toward a better life and a better society.

I disagree with your opinion of what is "right", but I will defend to the death your "right" to make your own mistakes. The consequence is that you might have to suffer through lengthy arguments in opposition. So, consider yourself chastised. Oh, and it's fine with me if you vote. You passed my test.

©1999, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24 CA) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
rightly.c37 ~1,100 Words
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