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Voter ID Laws: The Regulatory Fetish

| March 28, 2012 | 2 Comments

In the news lately are proposals for new voter identification laws, which would require some form of government identification to cast a vote. The aim here will be to deconstruct the catastrophic idiocy lurking behind this affront to freedom.

Let us deal first with the nature of government in relation to its citizens. Rousseau coined the sneaky term ‘implicit consent,’ and governments for centuries have operated under its tremendous umbrella. Citizens—especially in the unique and exceptional United States—are thought to have given consent to be governed by their involuntary act of being born. Ignoring the incredulous consequences this notion has in economic, social, and political realms, let us extrapolate further. Proponents of voter identification laws not only agree that the event of their birth constitutes implicit consent to be governed; but argue that in order to participate through voting in the allegedly representative government, they must retrieve special permission by the very same governing body.

Essentially, proponents of voter ID laws argue that government should determine who votes for those who participate in government. One can see how those who dissent against the government could become victims of voter ID laws. As has occurred throughout American history, those who dissent are simply not allowed to vote, courtesy of voter ID laws. Clever statists must only come up with some tricky sifting device, like forcing the would-be-voter to count marbles in a jar.

The argument for voter ID laws is the same as any counterargument from anyone advocating an increase in the power of the state: any harm done in the past or possible harm in the future is necessary. For simplicity, let us put aside any questions regarding what is necessary and what isn’t and who gets to decide what is necessary and what isn’t. Obviously, the term ‘necessary’ is qualitative and an argument always exists for the necessity of anything. Assuming that such a thing as ‘necessary harm’ exists, though this author in no way believes it, the argument against voter ID laws still prevails.

Examine the argument of efficiency. Undoubtedly, anything done by the government is done in a less efficient manner than the private sector (i.e. mail carriers, police services, etc). Therefore if those who professed such desire to keep safe from any fraud the elections throughout this country really meant what they said, they would advocate not for state regulation of elections through voter ID laws, but private enforcement of current laws. But even if they arrived at such a conclusion, logical fallacies would persist. Even if elections were essentially privatized, they would still lack the remarkable qualities of a free market since it would be the government that would award contracts to firms to conduct security at the polls. As with any government contract scheme, the consequences of failed performance on behalf of the hired firm would be entirely irrelevant to the economic analysis of the government for the obvious reason that failure of the firm would result in no net loss for the government. After all, the pockets of the government stretch deep into those of its people thanks to taxation and currency devaluing money printing on behalf of the Federal Reserve. Thus, even privatization of the service of protection against voter fraud would maintain economic fallacy.

So, if the government inevitably does everything worse than the private sector would and if privatization of the service of protecting elections from false votes is also economically indefensible, what then is to be done about the problem of voter fraud? First, we must understand that there really isn’t a problem to be dealt with. Unlike what some proponents of voter ID laws may argue, few Americans actually vote in the first place. Presidential elections draw the greatest turnout of voters comparatively, but even then, the figures are low—about 50% historically, compared to approximately 37% in non-presidential election years. Half of the population of this country does not vote. Proponents of voter ID laws are thus assuming that of the those who do vote, it is those who are somehow otherwise ineligible to vote that break the mold, forge forward, and intentionally compromise the integrity of elections. That is to say that these voter frauds are really quite determined individuals, bent on distorting elections. If this were true, forcing everyone who does vote to get a government ID card to show to some volunteer at the door would be no remedy to the problem of voter fraud; one need only ask a college student how many fake ID’s they have, and one would realize the illogic of such a law.

Second, and more broadly so, every right-minded individual must beg those who would advocate for more laws and rules to stop with the regulatory fetish. This is the quintessential American problem. Citizens are engulfed in finding a problem in ‘society’ or in ‘public’ and suggesting a government-run cure. Stop it. After all, from where would this money come that would fund the extra rules placed on elections? This country is broke. We ought to be in the business of rolling back regulations, not enacting new ones. The undying argument that “well, this law is different than the rest, we really need it,” is laughable; the same argument can be made for another’s sacred cow; the idea lacks even a speck of credibility.

Of course, the thought of perfect elections, or even elections with the economic optimal level of fraud is a marvelous thought. But surely, evermore government regulation is not the prescription necessary for such a condition. If enacted and even if they were effective, what would voter ID proponents say when the new regulations themselves became ineffective—when the stubborn election perpetrators figured out how to forge a government ID? The logical step would be to enact even more regulation, to spend more money, to feed the regulatory fetish forevermore.

Thus, to those who would consider further government action through more complex voter ID laws, I implore you, look through history and learn how whenever government does something, anything, it does it inefficiently, ineffectively, and flat out wrong. If Jim Crow and simple economic analysis are insufficient to persuade big government advocates to stop crying for more legislation, then the fight for freedom is a lost cause.

Category: Columns, US Politics

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