Time for a stupidity tax
As many of us spend time each day becoming more frustrated with the political news and our country’s direction, it is worth noting that our country is (for now) a self-governing democratic-republic, which means that the people who are ultimately responsible for our situation are those who participate in our wonderful little experiment.
Let's face it, self-government, whether in the personal or political sense of the term, requires some common sense. And our country suffers from an overabundance of stupid people – and too many of them have voter registration cards. There, I said it.
Just how stupid are we? Several years ago a Gallup survey found that: 43% don't know that the "judicial" is one of the three branches of government; 41% don't know that their state (and every other state) is represented by two US Senators; 53% don't know what the "Bill of Rights" is; and 66% can't identify the document containing the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal".
In 2006 and 2007, a multiple choice civics exam was administered to over 28,000 college freshmen and seniors by the National Civic Literacy Board. The freshmen (AKA, high school graduates) failed each year, and the seniors, after four years of higher education, failed each year as well. In 2008, the same group tested over 2,500 adults of all backgrounds and 71% of them also failed.
In addition to general civic ignorance, the study found that "college made graduates more liberal, while greater civic knowledge led adults to be more supportive of America's constitutional traditions", (which might explain why so many schools give civics short shrift, especially since so much of liberalism's gains come at the expense of the Constitution).
The study also demonstrated that greater civic knowledge was the leading factor in encouraging a higher level of civic involvement beyond just voting, such as attending political meetings, contributing or volunteering for a campaign, lobbying an elected official, or just writing a letter to the editor. (Again, not the type of thing the average liberal politician wants to encourage).
A study in the 2001 Annual Review of Political Science found that "Despite huge increases in the formal educational attainment of the US population during the past 50 years, levels of political knowledge have barely budged. Today's college graduates know no more about politics than did high school graduates in 1950". (This testifies to the fact that we have a “quality” problem, not quantity.)
Their shocking conclusion? That "the successful study of America's history and institutions is the key to informed and responsible citizenship".
All the while that we are teaching less civics, (half of the states don’t require it in high school), we are constantly encouraging the less civically inclined to engage in two of the most fundamental aspects of citizenship: voting and jury duty.
Of course it is politically incorrect to suggest (and no less true), but those who are unfamiliar with the basics of how our government should function are more easily “bribed” with their own money to vote for certain politicians, and are more malleable by trial lawyers in the hunt for big verdicts.
It's bad enough that the stupid among us do participate, to the degree that they do; but why on Earth would we continually make it easier? We almost force them to register to vote automatically when they apply for a driver’s license. At least when it comes to driving a car you have to study, take a test and demonstrate that you can do so. But not when it comes to driving the world’s oldest experiment in self-government.
Perhaps we need to do away with voter registration and current jury pool rules and institute a "citizenship volunteer registration" whereby the bearer volunteers to vote when called upon and serve on a jury when called upon. (Failure to do so could revoke said privileges for one year.)
Meanwhile, we are awash in tens of billions of dollars, spent on sports, Hollywood entertainment and video games. So, how about imposing a "stupidity tax" on such pass-times, much like the "sin taxes" we impose on alcohol and tobacco that supposedly fund healthcare and public awareness campaigns. Take money from the stupidity tax and fund civic education programs. Isn't understanding our freedoms and the government instituted to secure them at least as important as funding the latest preachy anti-smoking ad?
Or maybe we could just demand that our schools actually start focus on teaching the basic civics that prepare future citizens for self-government.
The father of our Constitution, James Madison, once said, "A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people". We seem determined to test that notion.