This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The problem of voter dependency

“The right to vote is the only test of citizenship; but this right presupposes the independence of him who wishes to be not only a part of the Republic but also a member of it—a part, in other words, that acts as it sees fit in conjunction with the others. Action in this capacity compels a distinction between the active citizen and the passive.”

~ Immanuel Kant[1]

Even Immanuel Kant, an advocate of Enlightenment Liberalism, knew that Aristotle was right when he observed that one of the most important qualifications for participation in government, and therefore citizenship, was independence, not only in mind or in law but also in concrete reality. Thus, Aristotle does not consider laborers to be citizens—although they may have rights and access to the court—since they do not have the leisure time or autonomy required to practice the intellectual virtues. Moreover, in agreement with Kant, such men are for their livelihood dependent on an employer, and so their interest is subordinate to his, which means that their vote is really dictated by the employer’s well-being rather than their own. In short, their autonomy is compromised.

Discussions regarding servants are especially enlightening on this subject, particularly those taken from the 17th, 18th, and even 19th centuries. This is because modern men might readily agree that a “servant-master” relationship is one of dependence, and therefore the vote of the servant could not really be considered an independent one. These men, however, will turn around and congratulate themselves on the fact that we no longer have “servants” or “masters” and that, therefore, we can all imagine ourselves as autonomous individuals. Yet how surprised they would be if they were to read the following excerpt from C.B. Macpherson’s work:

The term servant in seventeenth-century England meant anyone who worked for an employer for wages, whether the wages were piece-rates or time-rates, and whether hired by the day or week or by the year.[2]

Thus, it seems that we can call the laboring man whatever we want—servant or the more flattering “employee”—we are still a society of servant-master relationships, and the same relationship of dependence holds true. The employee is beholden to his employer—his security, indeed his family’s welfare, is wrapped up with and subordinate to the welfare of his employer. He does not vote as an independent member of the community, and so the worth of his vote is somewhat dubious.

[1] Metaphysics of Morals, part 1, xlvi.

[2] The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (New York: Oxford, 1964), p. 282.

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