Should some people in society (other than those in jail or otherwise restricted) be restricted from voting? This is a topic I’ve thought about before. It was brought to my attention again by a reader in the comment section of this thread:
The reader wondered whether the tendency of women to vote differently than men might be harming society overall. So, I decided to tackle this issue, looking not just at women, but looking at other groups, including men.
At this point, some people might be offended by the idea of even restricting voting. It’s not something you hear often. But I will argue that once you think about the logic, it’s a very logical argument.
First, you’d need to determine whether it’s even potentially beneficial to allow only certain people to vote. I would argue that restricting voting to certain persons is one of the most important things a society could do for the overall benefit of society.
How many things are more important than voting? You are choosing the government…the people are choosing who will govern them! In the case of the US, they are choosing who will manage the collection and disbursement of the largest pool of money in history! Taxpayer money! Shouldn’t it be of the utmost importance to choose the best people to govern us, to spend our taxpayer money?
Now, ask yourself this: Do you think there are any people that are misinformed, unknowledgeable, or not intelligent enough to make an ideal voting decision?
Of course there are. There are many! This is evidenced solely by the fact that many people vote for people based on their personality, even when warning signs are available! Two examples of this are: 1) the election of Hitler even though Mein Kampf had already been published and 2) the election of Obama, even though his anti-American actions and associations-to say nothing of his extreme policies-were highly public. I'm sure there are many more examples of this phenomenon.
In fact, there is even more evidence that people may tend to vote based on a person’s personality. Obama’s overall approval rating is currently about 45-48%, yet if you ask people whether they support individual policies of his, the support is much lower. Why? Well, when people answer as to whether they support Obama or not, they may be thinking about his personality (that he seems likeable) and not thinking only of his policies.
Has humanity’s ability to vote logically not changed enough between the 1930s and 2008? If you were to poll people at the booths, how many would have actually been informed enough to provide a smart answer to back up who they were voting for?
Some readers might respond: Well, those people make poor decisions, but it’s their right to vote!
Is it really? People in jail can’t vote, can they? It sounds to me like voting is considered a privilege.
But even if it was considered a right…perhaps that should be reconsidered. After all, ideas aren’t immune to change. If it is currently considered to be a right, that’s because at one point in time people in society made it so. Society can similarly rethink its position if new information becomes available.
Voting is similar to playing a game, in one respect: If a country is going to send ballplayers to represent your country on an Olympic baseball team, the country sends its best players.
Why should it be any different with voters? Why shouldn’t only the most capable people be sent to vote for society’s future? After all, the results will affect society by a magnitude much greater than the results of a baseball game will. The wealth of the country as a whole depends primarily on its import/export policies alone. Why? Because (outside of the stock market, perhaps) it’s unlikely for a society to become wealthier (in terms of money and assets) unless it exports more than it imports. See this thread for more on that:
And there are many policies that will directly or indirectly affect the country’s export success: budget spending, interest rates, outsourcing, tariffs, trading agreements etc.
What could be more important than choosing a government that will enact the ideal policies for society?
If I was deemed not to be one of society’s ideal voters, I would have no problem with letting others vote instead of myself.
There are two possible negatives that I can think of in regard to restricting voting to certain groups:
1) Many people being restricted from voting probably will not like it. Chances are that many, if not most, won’t like it. There could be riots. This is obviously a negative, and if that negative becomes strong enough, it could overcome the other benefits of restricted voting.
2) It’s possible that the group that can vote might end up voting for people that end up serving the interests of the voters rather than society as a whole. Or you might have politicians specifically pander to the people who are voting. This is a serious problem, and certainly could be enough to invalidate the implementation of restricted voting.
However, as I will show below, the idea is that one of the criteria that you use to select who can vote is whether or not those people are rational and unbiased and expected to favor the interests of society over their own interests. I’m sure there are people like that out there. But I think that there likely aren’t many people like that out there at all.
The concern would then become this: Even if you can identify people who, based on current information, would vote for the benefit of society overall, is it possible that they might change when placed in the new, powerful environment?
Yes, it’s possible, and so I suggest that if the use of only select voters is to be pursued, it be done on a temporary basis for evaluation, one year or one term, with a reversion to the current system after that.
There should also have to be other safeguards put in beforehand, to prevent harm to society during that probation period (for example, putting in a law that states that certain financial benefits can’t be withdrawn from society under certain circumstances, etc.)
One area of concern is that the smaller the group of selected voters is, the easier they are to manipulate (by being paid off, etc). This is something that certainly might derail this process; it would need further investigation. However, a situation in which voters are being bribed is not totally different from the current situation in which politicians receive millions from lobbyists.
So I think I’ve argued well that it makes sense, for the benefit of society overall, to allow only certain people to vote, as long as they are able to remain unbiased and vote for the benefit of society overall.
So, who would those selected voters potentially be?
Well, I believe it's crucial they be rational, unbiased people. As unbiased as possible, at least. Why? There are many intelligent people who ignore logic and vote according to what they want to believe. Keith Stanovich reported there is almost a zero correlation between intelligence and rationality. Therefore, intelligence isn’t enough.
Once you select for rationality, it’s important to select for intelligence and memory. I think the reasons are obvious. You want people that can analyse the information the best, and who can recall enough information to maximize the amount of information being compared.
How intelligent should ideal voters be? I don’t know the exact cut-off, but I would suggest people somewhere above 140 IQ, maybe 160 or higher. Why? I’ve noticed that there are many very intelligent people who make incorrect claims. I assume that they aren’t (for lack of a better term) smart enough to see things as accurately as someone with, say, a 160 or 180 IQ. And when selecting, I might not select based on traditional IQ tests, which use some subjective multiple choice questions in some parts (but you could simply select based on non-subjective results, perhaps. That’s another topic).
Another type of person you might select is someone who is emotionally aware. A Highly Sensitive Person (as Elaine Aaron’s book is titled). This type of person might be more able to discern the emotional aspect of people’s lives, and vote better accordingly (for example, they may be better able to determine what emotional impact a certain policy decision will have on the lives of others). However, you’d have to choose a sensitive person that is able to block their sensitivity from overriding their logic, which can become a problem with some sensitive people.
Those are three examples of traits that an ideal voter should have, I would argue. There are probably more. There are ways to test for intelligence, to test for sensitivity, and to test for rationality (I assume, since it was a variable in a study).
The reader I mention above had stated that he thought society would be better if if women weren't allowed to vote. So, would society be better off if women didn’t vote?
I believe the question should not be whether the ideal situation is for only men to vote. It would very likely not be ideal for only men to vote.
The ideal situation is to allow only the best voters to vote, regardless of whether there are more women or men in this group.
But it is interesting to study how society would change if only men were allowed to vote (which was the case at one time, and it would be interesting to study men’s voting patterns back then).
After all, if more women than men do vote illogically, then by definition it would mean that society would be better off if women didn’t vote (but like I said, this isn’t the most ideal situation, the ideal situation is one in which you restrict voting of both irrational women and irrational men).
But I find the argument interesting, because I like studying group differences, so I’ll delve into the topic.
Women do vote very differently than men. Not massively, but significantly.
I remember Ann Coulter once said that if women didn't vote, Republicans would've won every election except one dating back something like 50 to 60 years.
Look at the exit polls from the 2010 election:
Women voted 49/48 Democrat, while men voted 55/42 Republican. That's a significant 7 point difference (7 points means women were about 15% more likely to vote liberal in 2010). By the way, 15% is also close to another figure regarding male/female differences. One study showed women get into about 15% more car accidents than men (although I’d still probably prefer to drive with women, because although men get in fewer accidents, I suspect the accidents they get in are at higher speeds and more likely to be life ending!)
It's important to note that the differences between men and women in 2010 are quite a bit understated in comparison to the past. Women were much more conservative during 2010 than in the past:
“Whereas the gender gap played a major role in 2008 with women voting for Democrats 56 percent of the time compared to Republicans 42 percent of the time, in 2010 the split was 49-48 percent for Democrats to Republicans.”
However, even though women overall vote liberal more often than men, it’s very interesting to note that in 2010 white women voted conservative by a healthy 57/40 margin (although like I said, in the past women voted liberal more often, so white women probably had a different track history also).
So the question I have is this: since women vote differently than men, do women vote more illogically?
Well, you’d have to define the word "illogically".
I would argue that one correct measure (although not the best measure) of whether someone votes illogically is whether he or she votes liberal. But it’s important to note that I don’t think all liberal votes are made illogically, and I don’t think all conservative votes are made logically. I simply mean that I think that there are more illogical voters among liberals than among conservatives, because I think that evidence is overwhelming that there are more liberal policies than conservative policies that are illogical.
The idea here isn’t to completely determine what’s illogical. That’s a complex argument. I simply want to determine why women vote differently than men, and to examine my thesis that women are less likely to vote logically than men, by a margin of about 5 to 10 points. Here, I will define logic as voting in the best interests of society overall (although women might believe they are voting for the best interests of society, what they support might not actually be in the best interests of society).
So, what accounts for the voting differences?
Well, their genetic makeup (compared to men) involves more searching for consensus and reaching out to individuals to foster group harmony (this is probably evident by the common example: When a woman is in a bad mood she often wants to hear supportive words, not a solution).
I just read a good book showing brain scan differences between men and women, titled "Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business". It argues that evolutionarily, women are hard wired that way. And women’s method of thinking probably provides them (and many others, including offspring) with a lot of benefits in life (including reducing conflict through consensus).
But I simply think that the same method of thinking likely tends to lessen the odds that they end up voting for policies that are the most ideal for society overall. Again, there are many men that vote in a manner that’s not in the best interest of society either, but there is a gender difference. I don’t like the fact that I feel the need to emphasize that there are also men that vote irrationally. Readers shouldn’t feel that my comments about women imply that all men vote rationally, because nothing I’ve said implies that. Unfortunately, in this politically correct world, people assume certain things for no good reason.
Remember when I earlier wrote that I think people with 160 IQs can often gasp the important concepts that people with 140 IQs can’t? Well, is it possible that there are fewer women with 160 IQs than men?
Yes. It's true that womens' average IQ is basically equal to mens'. But if you were to look at a bell curve distribution of womens' IQ scores, the curve may look different than mens'. There may be fewer women at the very high and very low tails than there are men. Larry Summers publically stated as such, because he was trying to hypothesize as to why there are many more men occupying positions that involve extremely high intelligence levels (Nobel prize winners, the highest levels of science, etc.)
Now, as I said earlier, I don’t advocate allowing women not to vote, because you should define who the best voters are and then select both men and women from that group, no matter the ratios.
But what if one advocated letting men (and not women) vote? Someone might respond: Well, if Larry Summer was correct, there are more very smart men then there are very smart women, but there are also more very dumb men then there are very dumb women! Wouldn’t the dumb men cancel out the advantage of the very smart men? Perhaps, but I don’t think that’s likely.
Why? Because it’s extremely high intelligence that I think is one of the traits ideal voters should have, and hence the difference in voting ability between
1) those with extremely high IQ and those without extremely high IQ
is likely greater than the difference between
2) Those with extremely low IQ and those with an IQ above that.
This is because those with low, average, and high IQs all tend to have large numbers of people who vote illogically. I suspect that it's not until you examine the voting record of those with extremely high IQs (160+ or 180+) that you will tend to see large percentages of voters who vote logically.
If it’s true that women have fewer members that score at the extremes of the IQ scales, why is that? I wonder aloud simply to provide information, this is obviously not crucial to my article’s point.
Well, I posit that such distribution of intelligence has, evolutionarily, provided them with a greater advantage. Why? Well, if Larry Summers (and the anecdotal evidence) is correct about there being a different bell curve for women, the distribution means that more women’s IQ scores are clustered towards the average. This means, by definition, more women’s IQ scores are closer to each other, and hence when one woman meets another woman, they are less likely to have as large an IQ difference between them (versus a man meeting another man).
Why is this important? Well, if you agree that people are more likely to understand each other the closer their IQs are, this would mean women are more likely to understand (and perhaps get along with) other women. This might have been important for them evolutionarily, in terms of being able to meet friends that help with typically female tasks of child rearing, social networks, etc.
So, evolution might have caused any bell curve distributions that may exist.
As I mentioned earlier, women’s genetic makeup versus men apparently involves searching for more consensus and reaching out to individuals to foster group harmony.
This might be reflected in their tendency to vote liberal, because liberals often claim (claim being the operative word!) to have the interests of minority groups in mind. By voting liberal, a woman might feel that she’s building consensus and harmony by trying to help the races get along, etc.…that line of thinking…but that same tendency might conflict with her ability to look at a situation as rationally as possible. Because voting for something in order to build consensus or avoid conflict doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the wisest decision overall.
Envision a bell curve distribution of womens' tendency to build consensus. And compare that to men. My feeling is that women would have a distribution shaped more similarly to that of mens' IQ scores. There would be more women at the extreme tail ends. And this would explain my reader’s comment that you see many more women moaning about “human rights”, “illegal wars”, etc, more extreme and rarer steps. (I haven’t investigated that assumption, but I would think it’s likely true). Because there are more women that feel the need to consensus build.
If you compare two bell curves, a small rightward shift in one of those distributions results in a very large increase in the number of people at the right tail. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the number of people at the 99.9th percentile increase by a large factor, perhaps five or tenfold.
So, if there are, say, ten times as many women as men that feel a very strong urge to consensus build, and if consensus building is related to protesting for human rights, against illegal wars etc., then it should not be surprising if there are many more women at these events than there are men.
One important thing to mention is this: Although I’m not familiar with the research, I think it’s fair to say that men are more likely to hire or promote a man than to promote or hire another women. Similarly, most groups would probably do the same, because people tend to favor those similar to them in some respect (although interestingly, I wouldn’t be surprised if women weren’t as biased in hiring, due to their search for consensus building. This is one of those examples in which their consensus building would provide a strong benefit to society, and might make them a better candidate for leadership).
Without knowing the research, I suspect that the most likely scenario that would result in women not being discriminated against is one in which men are so aware of the environment that they overcome the problem by intentionally hiring more women than they otherwise would. That, along with the situations in which companies have gender policies that purposely encourage the hiring of women.
So, with this in mind, it’s possible that women tend to vote liberal more often because they feel that liberals are more likely to enact policies that will reduce discrimination against women. This could account for part of the gender gap in regard to voting liberal. It’s important to note that even if it’s logical to vote liberal because liberals might reduce gender discrimination, by the same token voting liberal might results in society being harmed by other policies: liberal fiscal policies etc. The question would then become: What’s more important, reducing gender discrimination that affects x percentage of women, versus selecting better overall policies that affect larger percentages of society?
This is not to suggest that most men intentionally discriminate against women. It’s simply logic: Among a group of 100 men, you will probably find enough men that will discriminate enough to shift the hiring patterns. And I would think that the same pattern would likely be found among other groups: blacks, blue collar workers, white collar, friendly people, etc. They tend to favor their own.
One interesting thing to note is this: About the men that vote illogically...do illogical male voters tend to vote illogically for the same reasons illogical women do? Do men vote illogically simply because they are also attempting to consensus build instead of concentrating on making the best choice?
No, some men might be voting illogically for other reasons. When they do vote illogically (which may be less often than women do), men might have a tendency to do the reverse of women, to vote in their own interest, rather than search for consensus. I argue that perhaps both tendencies are equally wrong when they are at the expense of making the best choice for society overall.
And I anticipate I will get some reaction regarding the rationality of voting. I’ve explored rationality elsewhere on this site, but I will say this: Voting for someone that helps you in the short run isn’t necessarily the most rational decision. Because, for example, if you are middle class and you vote for someone that will take money from the rich to give to the middle class, that might help you short term, but will likely hurt you long term, when that same rich person has less money to spend to hire the middle class, or to shop at their stores, or to pay in taxes.
However, I’m not going to be rigid and assume that in every single case it’s best to vote for the interests of society overall instead of what’s best for yourself. Feedback on this would be appreciated.
So when I mention it’s very important for extremely high intelligence to be a trait of the ideal voter, I’m thinking of situations like the one two paragraphs above. Being able to project all the externalities related to the effects of a vote, not just the short, medium term, and the immediate long run.
So I hope I’ve convinced you that further investigation should be pursued to determine whether society would be better off by selecting certain people to vote for the outcome best for ALL of us. This would certainly be a decision of profound magnitude, and it shouldn’t be made easily, it would require a lot of research and discussion.
Now, those ideal voters may tend to include more men (with extremely high IQs), or they may tend to include more women (who have more emotional awareness), or those two traits might offset each other and result in equal proportions of men and women.
I hope someone pursues this line of research.