Voting and Land Ownership

I voted yesterday.  I still wonder about the inclusiveness of American voting.  Would it be better if the electorate (voting body) were only landowners, as in the founding of this nation?  Wouldn’t that give a greater incentive to become a landowner?  Wouldn’t that ensure that government kept the rights of landowners first and foremost?

I suppose one potential problem would be that the landowners could encourage government policies to make it more difficult for those not owning land to purchase land.  In effect, they could discourage land ownership for those otherwise qualified and shut others out from the decision-making process altogether.  But if the system is truly based (and would continue to be based) on private property rights and free exchange (i.e. capitalism), then land would continue to be sold to the highest bidder, and as long as the individual can pony up the cash, he could purchase the land.

A problem with including non land-owners as part of the electorate is that now their voice is equivalent to the land-owner’s voice.  Government’s primary role of protecting private land ownership (private property rights) could be compromised, or degenerated, into doling out and redistributing resources from those who possess to those who do not. 

But what of the private property associated with the person themself?  Even if I am not a landowner, my capital, labor, and life are my own.  Who is to ensure the protection of these?  On the other hand, is it fair for me to have as much voting weight as a landowner?

As you know, I am interested, like Tom Woods, in asking questions no one else cares to consider.

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5 Comments

Filed under Libertarian, politics, role of government

5 responses to “Voting and Land Ownership

  1. This is an interesting question. My husband brought it up the other day. There are pro’s and con’s both ways. I wish I had a good answer. Are there any quotes from the founders on this subject as to what their thinking was?

  2. plato04

    Turns out this is a relatively complex problem/question.

    I think the property-owners as voters comes from either Locke or English tradition.

    Like many issues, the Founders disagreed on this. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, was in favor of a greater degree of universal suffrage. James Madison, chief architect of the Virginia Plan, favored checks and balances in this regard. Hence, the lower house of Congress was directly elected, and the upper house (Senate) was elected by the state legislature. Madison thought that democracies worked well in small geographic areas and small population, but not in large geographic areas with large populations.

    The question should be brought up. Instead, it is implicitly assumed that expanding voting rights is an absolute positive, with no real inherent negatives.

  3. socialist brother-in-law

    Plato said: “A problem with including non land-owners as part of the electorate is that now their voice is equivalent to the land-owner’s voice.” Or in other words, it’s a problem that “all men are created equal.”

  4. plato04

    I will respectfully disagree with your interpretation of that Platonic statement, though I acknowledge yours is the current 21st Century liberal mindset that describes how most mainstream Americans would respond to the question.

    The problem is not that all men are created equal. It is that though men are created equal, they inherently have differences. Different traits, abilities, skills, tendencies, desires, etc., translate into a different life and lifestyle. To treat all equally means that there will be economic, religious, and social disparity based on these individual differences.

    It is natural and even understandable for us to say that this is unfair, as we are wont to do. But to reduce or eliminate these differences, some individuals must be treated unequally, or discriminated against. This is the problem as I see it. It is discrimination of individual rights to create some sort of universal equality.

    I think, socialist brother-in-law, you miss the point that one of the primary functions of government is to protect private property rights, and that by including non-land-owners, this ability is compromised. Now you may disagree that this is one of the primary functions of government. And that disagreement would also be understandable, as most people in 21st Century America would find that outmoded, antiquated, and perhaps even anachronistic. Most liberals, and many so-called conservatives, would consider climate change, poverty, and social justice, for instance, to be more pressing issues than preserving private property rights.

    But in focusing on these other issues, we miss the point that we are, in fact, forced to discriminate to acheive these goals. We morph the philosophical underpinnings of our form of government from one based on protecting negative rights (i.e. trespassing, assault, theft, etc.) to creating positive rights (i.e. social justice, right to health care, education, housing, etc.). Needless to say, I find this problematic on a number of levels.

  5. Son of Jefferson

    Land-ownership should not be the determinant for membership in the government. To say so is discriminatory. We all have our first ‘estate’ and should be treated thus. To deny any right due to who own land and who doesn’t, would be the same as denying right due to color/religion/race/sex. History shows that each of these divisions in humanity has been denied land ownership at one time or another. Every child of God has all rights shared equally, and each man should do the best he or she may, and then-by choice-all things should be ‘equal among them, support one another in all things’. To do less or more is not of our Maker, and Satan laughs.

    May we all make the choices that God would want us to. And make those choices of our own free will, with the spirit of brother love and kindness.

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