Just for a moment, pretend that you don’t care who wins the 2012 presidential election. No preference whatsoever. Why would you even bother putting on your jacket, starting up the car, and standing in line to cast a ballot that means nothing to you? If only there was a way to dispose of your vote without feeling guilty . . .
“Why aren’t citizens allowed to sell their votes to the highest bidder?” asks John Holbo of Crooked Timber, a provocative, academic-leaning political blog. This at-first-blush gee-whiz inquiry leads Holbo down an interesting discussion of the place and potential of money in politics.
Holbo isn’t talking about selling away your right to vote, just single votes for candidates or propositions. As he puts it, “A short-term surrender of rights and liberties for the sake of something you want: namely, cash.”
In one way, granting citizens the right to sell their votes seems like a simple way to expand everyone’s economic agency. But, of course, there’s also the specter of a Citizens-United-on-overdrive nightmare, in which the money-slinging war between corporations, political action committees, and wealthy candidates leads to an electoral bloodbath. “In short,” writes Holbo, “it might look a lot like the real world, in its range of outcomes: The rich would mostly, but not necessarily always, win.”
The article doesn’t really take a side; rather, it’s meant to stir up discussion. The comments are worth a read as well. As you might imagine, a lot of people are balking at the idea.
As for me, candidates, if pay-for-vote legislation is ever enacted, I’ll pre-warn you that my vote will cost you a pretty penny. I care too much about what happens to our country, have something of a chip on my shoulder about “the system,” and have some student loans to pay back. But if you’re still interested, maybe you could borrow some cash from a banker—I hear you folks are on good terms.
Source: Crooked Timber
Image by Sarah Korf, licensed under Creative Commons.
Will Wlizlo is the editorial and web assistant at Utne Reader. Follow him on Twitter at @willwlizlo.