Power & Market

Current State and Federal Schemes to Bribe Voters are Totally out of Hand

Men are not infallible; they err very often. It is not true that the masses are always right and know the means for attaining the ends aimed at. “Belief in the common man” is no better founded than was belief in the supernatural gifts of kings, priests, and noblemen. Democracy guarantees a system of government in accordance with the wishes and plans of the majority. But it cannot prevent majorities from falling victim to erroneous ideas and from adopting inappropriate policies which not only fail to realize the ends aimed at but result in disaster. Majorities too may err and destroy our civilization.

-Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (1949)


Forbes recently published a list of 17 states that are implementing direct-to-consumer stimulus in order to provide ‘inflation relief’ to struggling residents. These include CA Governor Gavin Newson’s ‘gas rebates’ of $1050 for families earning less than $150k annually and even larger proposals like in Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Wolf has proposed $2,000 stimulus checks for households earning less than $80,000 (estimated to reach a total of 250k households). Because that’s not enough, Wolf is also proposing small business grants of up to $50,000 in which firms owned by women and minorities, as well as rural companies, would get priority.Hey… at least ‘rural’ is now a protected class too!

It’s no surprise that nearly all of these proposals were signed or proposed just ahead of midterms, a strategy that is becoming alarmingly bipartisan. As an early adopter, NY Senator Chuck Schumer has mastered this technique. You may recall in early 2021, the stakes were high ahead of the Georgia run-off elections as this race would determine whether the Democrats would secure a majority in the senate. Polls slightly favored Republican candidate Perdue leading up to the start of the new year. Then, late in the evening on Dec 27 2020, Schumer announced his plan to raise the scheduled $600 stimulus checks to $2,000, emphasizing that “No Democrats will object. Will Senate Republicans?”. To the exact day, you can see how the polling results shifted, knocking Perdue’s +10 basis point lead down to -170 (note this is pre-Jan 6):

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In response to Biden’s $10-20k student loan forgiveness executive order (also strangely enacted right before midterms), Schumer and MA Senator Elizabeth Warren released a joint statement which read “the work - our work - will continue as we pursue every available path to address the student debt crisis.” In other words, we’ll be forgiving more debt ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

New York state has taken things considerably further. Last year, the state passed a measure allowing for stimulus checks of up to $15,600 to be given to undocumented workers. The $2.1 billion in funds quickly depleted, yet to this day, the Excluded Worker Fund receives hundreds of calls per month inquiring about further stimulus. The self-described “nonpartisan” think tank Economic Policy Institute praised the initiative and recommended all other states follow suit.

NY based immigration advocacy groups are now calling for another $3 billion in stimulus for the undocumented and $800 million to provide them with monthly unemployment checks of $1,200. While Governor Kathy Hochul has not weighed in, this year’s state budget includes subsidized medical care for undocumented seniors and mothers with newborns, estimated to cost $220 million. Ordinarily such measures would not qualify as constituent bribery, however, New York City passed a law earlier this year granting noncitizens suffrage.

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In June, this law was shot down by the New York State Supreme Court. Still, the law is an omen for things to come, and during a time when senators and district attorneys consider the federal Supreme Court to be ‘illegitimate’, it will be interesting to see how long this ruling holds up.

Masked-profile-picture MA Senator Ed Markey and NYC District Attorney Eliza Orlins call the Supreme Court ‘illegitimate’.

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All of this brings up this question: Should the recipients of outright bribes be permitted to participate in elections? Is the conflict of interest not too great? I’ve written in the past about implementing a ballot test to curb some of the less desirable symptoms of pure Democracy. But perhaps the solution is as simple as: if you receive direct payments from the government (federal, state, or local), then you cannot vote. Another solution is a poll tax, which, in addition to being a voluntary tax, ensures one’s vote is not influenced by the prospect of financial gain.

I realize these suggestions are literal “assaults on Democracy”, but I fear the path we’re on eventually leads to hyperinflation, capital controls, and a deterioration of personal autonomy over one’s property. I see no reason why the bribing-of-the-constituency trend reverses without decreasing the size of the US voting base, which is instead rapidly increasing as, in addition to adding noncitizens, Democratic congressmen are advocating to reduce the voting age to 16. Lastly, I don’t expect anyone in office to take up a position of reducing voter rolls as it’s too easy to be branded an “enemy of Democracy”.

I truthfully believe the US is beyond saving, although someone like Ron DeSantis could help to delay the inevitable for a while. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world is destined to our fate. Small government, anti-authoritarian, freedom-oriented, Libertarian ideals are more likely to take hold in countries where government has failed its people time and time again - countries in Africa, South America, and parts of Asia.

It’s a long shot, but if you’re a person with means who would like to attempt to fix big government, reach out through my Substack and let’s see if we can get a group and some capital together. Then use it to either back pro-freedom candidates in a developing nation or educate the local population in these concepts (a foreign Mises Institute). Just a thought I’ve had for some time but never acted on. It certainly feels like the authoritarians are winning these days, why not try to counter them?

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