03 December 2012

Debt / Vote Buyback


 A win-win idea for the debt slaves and the overlords

Okay, we've got the whole massive debt overhang thing, with too many people up to their eyeballs in IOUs they cannot possibly ever pay back. 

Most of the debt is owned by rich folk, not all of it mind you, but the lion's share.

Meanwhile, many members of the moneyed classes have been feverishly attempting to buy the government, spending more every year and yet if the results of the recent elections are any indication, they are losing the ability to get what they are paying for.  Because poor people can still vote.

Do you see it yet, do you see where this is going (man)?  Each side has something the other is increasingly desperate to obtain.  At some point a deal will be struck along the following lines:

You can buy your way out of debt by selling your vote. 

Let's say in exchange for forgiveness of every $1000 of debt, you can sell your vote for one year in any election in which you are eligible to vote.  Or that's the minimum price, could be much more depending on the circumstances; we'll let the market work that out.

This way rich people could go ahead and buy the government if they really wanted, but to do it they would have to relieve poor folk of the crushing burden of indentured servitude.

The sellers would (arguably) be getting more out of this arrangement than they could possibly have ever gotten by mere voting.  Yes it may involve a loss of dignity for the poor schmuck selling his/her vote – but is this really any worse than the indignity of being a debt slave?  And the debt holders would get some return on what increasingly looks like a bunch of otherwise worthless paper.

How much did, say, Sheldon Adelson spend this year anyway?  By some estimates it was 'tens of millions', let's call it $25 million.  So under this system for that he could have bought 25,000 vote-years, not a huge number in the overall scheme but perhaps enough to swing a race here and there.  And knowing exactly what he would be getting for his money, he may have been motivated to spend much more.

Who loses here?  Mostly the consultants, advertising firms, and so on tasked with spending the political donations.  You mean [Political Pundit X] would be out of a job?  I know, cry me a river, right?  I'm sure he'll land on his feet, red and puffy as they may be.  If he falls behind on his payments he can always sell his vote, same as the rest of us.

Sure there are potentially some issues to be solved, such as the moral hazard created, though this may not even be a problem.  How many people would deliberately run up huge debts, knowing they never gave two chits about voting in the first place?  Quite a few perhaps, but this would have the positive effect of stimulating consumer spending, as boatloads of people with zero disposable income are suddenly back in the game.  (Also keep in mind that each citizen would have a natural 'credit limit' of how many future votes they could sell, based on actuarial tables.  Of course the only logical punishment for exceeding this limit would be death, but I'm sure we can come up with something better than that.)  In any case all the bills would be paid by people with plenty to spare, who are already spending that much or more every election cycle anyway, and meanwhile many people who currently do not participate in the civic process would be drawn in.  Okay they'd just be pulling the lever for somebody someone else told them to vote for, but that doesn't sound like such a big change to me.

People in swing states could sell their votes for more, and the least populous swing states would be the easiest to buy; this might encourage relocation of heavy debtors to certain states and even to specific districts, which could have undesirable side effects for local governments.  Maybe we would need to just get rid of the Electoral College and eliminate the whole swing state issue.  But I don't want to get too far into the weeds today; I'm just yammering away here, not writing legislation. 

Okay, your turn.  In the Comments section, please share your thoughts and feelings after reading this, or if you prefer, just say something snarky or rant a bit about whatever gets your goat, whether or not it has any relevance whatsoever to the topic at hand.

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