• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Vox Hunting

As part of a series of posts profiling the strange concept of “Christian libertarianism”, which seems more often than not to mean “Christian theocracy”, I recently chanced upon Christian libertarian and WorldNetDaily contributor Vox Day (Theodore Beale), who believes that women should be denied the vote. Since I, among others, appeared critical of his position, he issued a challenge to anyone to refute his idea. I wrote a few points, to which Vox has now responded on his blog. This is my response to that.

Normal “religion in the news” blog service will be resumed after this, exceptionally lengthy, entry

Part One

Well, Vox Day has wielded his flaming sword in my direction. I have been mildy singed in a couple of places, but, in my opinion at least, his weapon quickly fizzles out. Readers can judge for themselves.

He begins with the following headline:

I’m not gay, I’m English

Correct on both counts, although he shouldn’t assume that British people are English or that English people are not gay – but I suppose recognising that Englishness and gayness are not necessarily the same thing is an advance on PJ O’Rourke’s assertion that the English are “a race of cold-blooded queers with nasty complexions and terrible teeth who once conqured half the world but still haven’t figured out central heating.”

He then moves on to my actual points. I began with an informal note, written very quickly, and then provided him with the text of my blog entry from Monday. The informal note referred to his claim that since children were not allowed to vote because they were not responsible, then this means that exclusion was recognised as legitimate. I responded with the suggestion that:

Your recent comment about children is not valid: it is not discriminatory to deny them the vote because everyone was once a child and so subject to the same restriction.

His response to that is to point out that by the same grounds the elderly could be discriminated against and that furthermore:

discrimination against children is justified on their inability to make responsible decisions, not the universal nature of childhood.

I’ll concede the point. One for the flaming sword.

We then move on to American history, where I suggested “there is no evidence that there was less mobocracy in times when women or others were denied the franchise”. Response:

Sure there is. The Founders were concerned about a mob voting itself bread and circuses, while Joseph Schumpeter predicted the inevitable devolution of any universal democracy into socialist tyranny. An analysis of federal spending per capita easily illustrates this playing out right now.

But surely mobocracy is more than just “a mob voting itself bread and circuses”? To me it means the mob bringing about any political action or legislation that is a) manifestly foolish or ignorant or b) oppressive to non-members of the mob. Even if Vox’s interpretation of federal spending as an example of mobocracy is correct, totting up how much mobocracy there was before women were allowed to vote is rather more complicated and subjective. And even if – a big if – more mobocracy is indeed a vice that attends universal suffrage, that still has to be measured against the vices found in other forms of government.

Vox then adds, in reply to my comments about the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in relation to democracy:

The USA is not a democracy, never was, and was expressly designed not to be. In his first formal point, Bartholomew demonstrates that he has no understanding of the source of American rights and liberties.

I was aware of this issue, as it happens – Gore Vidal brings it up a lot. But America presents itself to the world as a democracy, most Americans believe themselves to live in a democracy, and democracy is the political system the USA claims it wishes to see spread globally. Vox, of course, sees this as a corruption of republican (small r) ideals. Fine, but it seems to me that “rights and liberties” are better protected in a democracy than the kind of republic he would prefer (although I am a “republican” in relation to the idea of monarchy).

Moving on to my second point, that if women could be excluded so could others, he writes:

First, it would indeed be very good sense to deny those groups who are determined to sabotage their self-interest.

This is more confused. I thought libertarianism was about personal responsibility, not ensuring that people don’t “sabotage their self-interest”. To achieve the latter, surely a fairly authoritarian big government is needed? I assume he really means “sabotage the general interest” or “other people’s interests”. But that’s why we have constitutions and/or independent judiciaries, as the best way to stop the worst excesses of people who want to bring about bad things.

Precisely this reasoning is presently being used to deny the Iraqi people the right to self-determination; I don’t know any so-called “democrats” who actually favor allowing open elections in Iraq as I do. Are they racist too?

Are they making such a case? If someone is arguing that given the conditions of the country at present a short delay is necessary to set up the checks and balances that can keep mobocracy at bay, then that is a reasonable proposition (although whether it truly reflects the situation in Iraq is another issue). If they’re saying that Iraqis cannot handle democracy based on their Arabness, then yes, they’re racist. And why does Vox favour “open elections” there but not in the USA?

Second, women are a unique group in that they are provably biologically different. These biological differences have a direct effect on their ability to think and reason, as numerous scientific studies have proven that women have literally different brains than men. There are both spiritual (Christian) and scientific (evolutionary) and psychosexual reasons that women are inordinately inclined to favor the “security” offered by Big Daddy government intervention. This is not true for any other group, except, possibly, the homosexual community, if one accepts the homosexual argument that their abnormality has a genetic base.

I wonder if men are also “provably biologically different”, and therefore “unique” as well? And if homosexual men are to be denied the franchise also, we’ve now got an odd idea of one kind of woman but different kinds of men. By the way, I’m left-handed – does that give me the correct sort of brain to be allowed to vote or not? But even if women are biologically obliged “to favor the ‘security’ offered by Big Daddy government intervention” (which I doubt), and even if that is a bad thing (which is impossible to judge when the political programme is painted in such vague terms), does that mean women should not be allowed to vote? Even if “they” are prone to a vice here, what virtues might they have to make up for it? And what other vices might belong to men? Testosterone has also has “a direct effect” on the “ability to think and reason”, and often the result is irresponsible behaviour. Men could be denied the vote on that ground alone.

I then raised the issue that if women could be denied the franchise, so could religious conservatives. This invited a strange persecution fantasy:

What are hate crimes for? I fully expect the openly religious to be disenfranchised in the future. They’re already being fined. We’ll be fortunate if it stops with only losing the vote.

But clearly, Vox sees such an outcome as undesirable. So do I. But if you don’t want that to happen to you, how can you prescribe it for others?

We move on to the principle of exclusion itself:

He sees exclusion as undesirable; neither I nor the Founding Fathers do. What accountability comes with a universal franchise? I obviously don’t have that confidence, as I believe that most people, given the chance to vote themselves largesse from others, will do so every single time. History would seem to support this very strongly.

I’ve no argument with that, but the problem that “most people, given the chance to vote themselves largesse from others, will do so every time” is not solved by reducing the franchise. It merely makes it more likely that the enfranchised group will try to take an even bigger largesse, and will be more likely to succeed in doing so, being unaccountable. I recall that Communism started out with political idealists who thought their ideological correctness and economic knowledge meant they did not need to trouble with democratic processes and accountability. The results were most unhappy. Vox’s system would most likely degenerate into something like Margaret Atwood’s “Republic of Gilead”.

I then raised the practical issue, that women will not accept losing the vote. Response:

The civil strife [in that case] would be as nothing as what is going to happen once the present system collapses under the weight of centralization. One of the many nice things about women is that they’re not prone to serious violence.

Well, try taking the vote away from women who have it and see what happens. Besides, “serious violence” is not the only option for creating disruption. Women got the vote in the first place in many countries through self-sacrifice, not violence. Aristophanes’ Lysistrata provides a further possibility.

Vox also notes that “voting is mandatory in many totalitarian states”. But therefore what? I never said the voting was sufficient to ensure liberty, only that it is a necessary component.

Part Two

We also hear about the Palestinian situation, his solution to which I had also taken exception to:

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 2,233 Palestinians have been killed in the present conflict, which is just heating up. Apparently Bartholomew was more offended by a suggestion that might actually help bring a final end to the conflict than he is by the actual “mass murder” of thousands of Palestinians. Or perhaps he believes that refraining from the intentional murder of children is hopelessly beyond those dusky savages now that the British Empire has laid down the White Man’s Burden.

Vox’s solution, you may recall, was killing 1,000 Palestinians for every one Israeli child killed, and 100 for every adult civilian. As it happens, the “actual ‘mass murder'” (of Palestinians and Israelis) does offend me more than Vox’s solution, but as he’s not responsible for the “actual ‘mass murder'” I didn’t mention it. My problems are as follows:

Every nation contains people who either cannot or chose not to refrain from killing children. Such people are not deterred by the idea of other innocent people being punished for his or her crime. Further, I would not wish to be killed as part of a collective punishment for the crimes of members of my ethnic group or nation, and suspect that attitude is fairly common. Why should Palestinians therefore be on the receiving end of such treatment?

It’s rather drastic for something that only “might actually help”. When has such a procedure ever helped? And even if it could help, that does not mean it is therefore the best way to proceed. Giving the Palestinians the same rights as the Israelis, either in their own state or as part of a bi-national state “might actually help” as well.

A particularly difficult point to grasp, it seems: it would be unethical. A central component of ethics is that you give up a very clear present advantage in order to protect long term values that will become corrupted otherwise. The deliberate mass slaughter of civilians to end a conflict (and not because they were in the way, as happened in WW2) would usher in a dark age of violence and savagery. The fact he can’t see that is perhaps the best evidence there is that being a Christian libertarian man does not necessarily confer a special wisdom and a greater right to vote.

That’s all I intend to say on the matter – Vox can have the last word if he wishes. What I’d really like to see, though, is how he sees himself as different from the Christian Thenomists and Reconstructionists, a number of whom leave enthusiastic comments on his blog.

Meanwhile, I have a blog on religion in the news to get back to…

UPDATE: Vox has sent me his response to the above, privately but with permission for me to post any part of it I care to. I’ve decided to put it in the comments section, as an appendix – it’s worth a read.

6 Responses

  1. The headline:

    Actually, this was from one of those random Sky shows a while ago when I was in Italy. “We’re not queer, we’re English”. I don’t know why, but it just stuck in my head. Kind of like “I’m not sleazy, I’m Canadian” from Kids In The Hall. I’m up on my British = English, Scottish, Welsh history, by the way. Heck, the novel I just finished draws heavily on some Albionish lore, so to speak.

    Mobocracy:

    I agree that it’s difficult to measure, but the fact that the chief form of it has already appeared is not insignificant.

    The USA self-perceived as a democracy:

    I see this more as a condemnation of the public school system than anything. But the fact that most Americans have no clue about their own system tends to support my notion that suffrage must be limited, one way or another. See the Tonight Show’s Jaywalking for details.

    Denying those who would sabotage their own self-interest:

    You’re missing the libertarian concept that my rights end where yours begin. This is my fault because I phrased it poorly: I should have said making sure that people don’t have the ability to sabotage everyone else’s best interest. If women want to screw up their own lives, fine. If they want to screw up mine, not so fine.

    Constitutions and judiciaries:

    Unfortunately, the judiciary has been totally corrupted and the constitution is now a “living document”, which is to say that it is dead. It was a good concept, it didn’t work very long, best try something else. I suspect you’ll start to see some of the dangers here now that you’re living in your own superstate.

    Elections in Iraq:

    They are trying to design a system that will prevent the majority Shiite Muslims from being able to vote their agenda into power. It’s openly anti-democratic. I favor open elections there because the disaster it will create will demonstrate just how bad representative democracy with universal suffrage can get. What I’ve seen in the USA and elsewhere proves it to my satisfaction; clearly others need a little more dramatic example.

    Men and women’s ways of thinking:

    First, I don’t actually buy the homosexual example, but all the studies done in that regard involved men. Again, irresponsible behavior that affects you is fine. Irresponsible behavior that leads you to try to control everyone around you, not so fine.

    Fears for the religious vs enfranchisement of women:

    Because what is likely to happen to the religious is not going to happen to women. Women weren’t persecuted in the 130 years they didn’t have the vote. They wouldn’t be persecuted if they didn’t vote now. The religious are being persecuted all over the world today and those deadly seeds are being planted in the West now. Evangelical Christians want to convert people, not kill them, for the most part. They are not alone in this regard, but they are in the minority, sadly. Libertarians just want to be left the hell alone. Both groups can be trusted with power. Groups that want to forcibly change society for the better are the ones you have to worry about, since they always end up killing people one way or another.

    Of course, I AM a fantasy writer.

    That a limited enfranchisement would lead to one group taking a largesse from others:

    This is disproved by the fact that a group of rich Christian landowners did not vote themselves such largesse. Again, it depends on the enfranchised group.

    Women’s protests and the Palestinians:

    I thought of Lysistrata too. I expect there’d be plenty of that, but the nation could survive that. It may not survive the collapse of the global dollar. We’ll probably get to see. As for the Palestinians, that was just a simple observation based on my hobby of military history. If the Palestinians took the threat as credible, nobody on either side would have to die. Even if they didn’t buy it initially, knocking off a few dozen leaders, including Arafat, would likely have ended the bloodshed with less loss of life than we’ve seen in the last 18 months. Hamas hasn’t been very active since they lost their leadership.

    Difference from Christian Reconstructionism:

    The main way I differ is that I believe it is neither possible nor desirable to attempt to use government to enforce Christian morality. Because government is a two-edged sword, any attempt to use it to further Christianity will eventually be warped into something that will be used against Christians. Furthermore, Paul wrote that non-Christians were not to be judged for behaving as non-Christians; they can’t help it as they are behaving as one should expect. Morality imposed is a false morality.

    My libertarianism is not directly connected to my Christianity, as I was a libertarian prior to becoming a Christian. Now, I do see a libertarian strain in God, as he presumably has the power and right to dictate, yet refuses to do so. I believe in free will, in both religious and political terms… the seeming, but false dichotomy is that universal democracy is friendly to the liberty and the free exercise of free will.

    No need for last wordism… I don’t intend to post this response though I don’t mind if you post any part of it that interests you. But since you asked sincere questions, I thought you were owed my attempts at answers.

    Best regards, Vox

  2. Seriously, why do you spend so much time on this guy? He’s clearly displayed an ignorance of history, the meaning of democracy (representative republics fit under the definition of democracy used in any political science text, and any dictionary), what “proof” means, the role of history in argument, what sorts of brain differences there are between men and women, and so many other things. When someone is that stupid, even if he writes well enough to get his worthless point across (though note his writing is often a collection of cliches), there’s no reason to spend time debating him. No one, save the odd group of semi-literates who seem to comprise his readership, will pay any attention to him. Better to let him rant in his own little corner, and publish in WND, a publication that even conservative republicans read only for a good laugh.

  3. Richard —
    You’re too smart to waste time on this fool. Don’t get sucked into debating history and theology with lunatic wonks.

  4. You all are a piece of work. Someone does not agree with your point of view and they are a lunatic wonk. I smell a heavy dose of arrogance here. If you all would just deflate your heads for a moment you might be able to see that this Vox character does have some good points and seems to be fairly intelligent as are you all. You may not agree with much of what he says, but I would be fairly confident to wager that even in more friendly ideological circles that you would have a hard time agreeing with everyone on everything. But I also feel fairly confident that you would not be pulling out the lunatic wonk stone with them. Can you say hypocrite?

  5. There are plenty of people with whom I disagree who I do not think are idiots. Vox is an idiot, and I see no evidence to the contrary on his blog or in his WND writings. But thanks for the psychoanalysis anyway.

  6. Actually, I did get pulled a bit off track; unless he does something newsworthy, this blog is from now on a Vox-free zone.

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