What If Only Those Who Suffered Could Vote?

Here’s a completely impractical, even impossible idea. What if only those who suffered could vote? Bear with me. I know it’s ridiculous–who can certify pain?

But sometimes simply considering a ridiculous proposal sheds new light. (Hat tip to Jonathan Swift.)

So let us imagine that the highest principle of our society is to improve the lives of those who suffer. That the entire justification for the complex systems we call societies is to improve those those systems for every member.

You are going to have to believe that people aren’t evil. Imagine everyone’s just been born, that should help. Now ask yourself, who suffers? Let’s make a bulleted list. Because we’re being ridiculous.

Because we’re going to assume that those in need should set our priorities. Themselves.

Who Suffers? And Who Therefore Should Vote If Our Society Is To Improve?

  • The sick includes the mentally ill. Born that way, damaged by childhood trauma, taken by addiction.
  • The left-behind — those without the innate ability to profit from our knowledge economy, including those trapped by connection and history in regions without hope of employment that matches their skills.
  • The excluded — those who have the ability to participate and contribute but by reason of strong bias are denied opportunity. By the way, I’m going to exempt myself, a white woman with a name-brand education, from voting. None of the bias I have faced has ever denied me an opportunity, although itmade those I took on more difficult.
  • The oppressed — those who are actively targeted to be locked up or sent away.
  • Tongue-in-cheek I might add —those who have been body slammed while doing a job.

To improve our society, we need to hear from those we have failed. The rest of us, shut up for a while.

Note that I don’t per se count fear and anger as suffering. Why? Because if people are afraid of their possible future pain, they should rest easy. We are easing suffering for all. And if people are raging at someone else — someone who might have more than them, might get more than them, might “win,” — in this model we’ve assumed we don’t need to address that motivation. We’ve assumed we do not want to build a society on greed or envy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a simple Make Everyone The Same model. I suspect that over-taxing the entrepreneur and the inventor would hurt everyone. I observe that state-run enterprises rarely deliver the best performance. But I don’t come close to thinking I could propose a platform or policies or programs. Which brings up a sobering point.

Government is complicated. Economics are harder to predict than hurricanes. If we want to align compassion with function, we have to make our plans based on knowing something about how it all works. So, those suffering would need a way to learn as much of what is true as possible. Knowledge would have to be shared. Open. Spoken in plain language. Available, preferably in one place.

And then we’re in utopia-land, which isn’t my intention.

So How The Heck Would We Do This And Does Any Of This Folderol Matter?

Given that we have no blood test for suffering, neither lab nor meter of measure, why am I writing this? Given that we cannot expect everyone to know everything?

We can keep working to push past our biases and determine what works in fact, not in ideology. We can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the suffering and vote for them.

Yes we can.