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Limited voting or civics lessons?

August 04, 2007

Re "Way too dumb to vote," Opinion, July 31

I was surprised to see Jonah Goldberg suggest that it would be a good idea for the government to place more restrictions on who can vote. I would've expected that, as a conservative, he would be more skeptical about giving this kind of responsibility to government.

There is an obvious point to be made: There is no guarantee that being familiar with cloture and other topics will cause voters to make more objective decisions. After all, wealthy people know a lot about taxes and are almost always in favor of lowering them.

Given a bit of realism about people's motivations, it would be an astoundingly bad idea for government to try to decide who should vote. Goldberg offers vague speculation about the benefits of limiting voting, but this is just as unconvincing as the "hoary cliches" he criticizes. He would do better to remember Winston Churchill's remark that "democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Kurt Smith

Leiden, Netherlands

Goldberg should be commended for advocating for a more informed electorate. But let's take his logic one step further: civics tests for elected and appointed officials. This might, perhaps, prevent the installation of an attorney general, secretary of State and secretary of Defense -- not to mention the election of a president and vice president -- who are unaware of the limits of executive privilege; aren't up to date on presidential powers under the Constitution; aren't familiar with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; can't intelligently discuss the narrow scope of legal warrantless wiretapping; or aren't acquainted with our perjury laws. If the voting privilege should be reserved to those of us who take the time to understand basic civics, so too should the privilege of serving in government.

J. David Pedraza

Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

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