The Magazine

Psst -- Hey Buddy, Wanna Buy a Vote?

Let's privatize universal suffrage

Jul 3, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 40 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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When the vote is deregulated and electoral majorities can be bought and sold without bureaucratic interference, the result will be governance on the corporate shareholder model. Will this be an improvement? Let us compare Congress to the Justice Department's case against Microsoft. No one is trying to break up the House of Representatives because it's been too successful.

Of course there are potential drawbacks to an open market at the polls. "A great deal of stupid people have a great deal of stupid money," said economist Walter Bagehot even before Ted Turner was born. Rich liberals might be stupid enough to spend all their money gaining control of America. But look around. They control it already. What's the dif? And if rich liberals spend all their money, they won't be rich enough to be liberal anymore.

Vote vending will be good for the economy. Here is an enormous new business enterprise with a customer base of almost 200 million people and practically zero start-up costs. Over 130 million potential customers are already "registered" -- signed up for their slice of the American dream. Referendum buying will also force American politicians to learn at least something about economics -- knowledge that they have resisted acquiring for 224 years. Furthermore, plebiscite marketing gives the nation's campaign fund-raisers an incentive to enter rehabilitation programs, get well, and find an honest job.

Most important, having a wide variety of useful and attractive ballots readily available at our local mall is the best way for ordinary Middle-American voters to enter the political arena and put our two cents in -- two cents being about what our votes will be worth this fall, given the current presidential candidates.

P. J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.