Mail”; in Oregon, tlie recent Senate campaign broke records forrnspecial elections, by spreading the voting over a month andrnallowing votes to be mailed in. Or campus registration. YouthrnVote ’96 was holding seminars last winter on how to get outrnyoung voters, and among the topics discussed was how to getrnuniversities to allow voter registration with class registration.rnAlready they have met with success on a number of large campuses.rnMTV and MCI are pushing to register young voters viarnthe Internet. Meanwhile, author Andrew Shapiro is arguing tornreturn more voting rights to convicted felons.rnThe only arguments Republicans can come up with arc thatrnMotor Voter is an unfunded mandate and that voting by mail isrnprone to fraud. Big deal. Both those problems can be fixed or,rnat least, tempered. The issue is that voting is a serious responsibility,rnand people who cannot accept that responsibilityrnshould not be allowed to vote.rnWho would argue that a Supreme Court Justice who did notrnshow up for the oral arguments and did not read the briefsrnshould vote on a case? Who would argue that a federal regulatorrnshould rule on an issue which affects his personal finances?rnNo one. And national elections are no less important becausernthe voting power is more dispersed.rnQualifications for voting are controversial, and for goodrnreason. They have been abused in the past to disenfranchisernpeople based soleh’ on race. Ultimately, though, qualihcationsrnare a tool, and like any other tool can be used for good or ill.rnThe first qualification to vote is basic knowledge. All itrnwould take is two questions administered in the booth at therntop of the ballot, and they would not have to be in Chinese torndisqualify scads of voters: “Who are the two (or three?) majorrnparty candidates running for office?” and “To what parties dornthey each belong?”rnAmong the most common complaints about the way politicalrncampaigns work is the pervasiveness and power ofrnnegative ads. On whom do these ads work most effectively?rnOn committed party stalwarts? On responsible voters who readrnnewspaper stories regularly debunking the ads as false? Or onrnpeople who feel compelled to vote because it’s the “responsiblernthing to do,” but fail to put in the time following the race, thernissues, and the candidates? A knowledge qualification sendsrnthose well-meaning but ill-informed folks back to the sidelinesrnwith a message: voting is only part of the responsibility. Judgingrnfrom the Washington Post’s survey, those two questionsrnposed above might eliminate half the number of registeredrnvoters.rnThe second qualification to vote is to be a contributor to therngovernment’s coffers. Those taking any kind of governmentrngrant should be disqualified. How can anyone learn responsibilityrnif food, a roof, health care, and a small income are rights?rnNo American wants to deny these basic needs to anyone, butrnpeople have sacrificed to provide them, and those with theirrnhand out must give something back. A vote is a small but significantrnsymbol of sharing the sacrifice.rnThe Posf’s series focused significantly on the growing distrustrnof Americans for their government. They sounded surprised tornfind this distrust among all classes of people. They should notrnhave been—the past 50 years of democratic rule have underminedrnthe original purpose of our government—to providernpubUc goods. Simply defined, a public good, once produced, isrnconsumed by evervone, even those who did not pay for it. Becausernthose who consume do not have to pay, market forces dornnot provide these goods. Thus governments were formed tornprovide them, such as national defense, police protection, and,rnmore recently, clean air.rnIn 1950, more than 90 percent of federal dollars went tornproviding public goods. Today, barely a third of the federalrnbudget goes to such purposes. So in half a century, the federalrngo’ernment has gone from a source of public goods—sharedrnexpenses and shared benefits—to a source of private goods.rnThose who do not share in the largess feel cheated and thusrndistrustful of the leviathan that lays claim to so much of theirrnwealth. Those who receive the government’s bountv are afraidrnit could stop without warning. They are distrustful becausernthey have little say in what may happen to them tomorrow.rnNeither feeling is surprising, but both arise from the fundamentalrnchange in the federal government’s focus. This pervasiverndistrust allows Democrats to sow envy among one grouprnand Republicans to sow anger among the other. And the rankrnsuspicion makes it all the easier to see evil intent on the otherrnside.rnLook at how this politics of personal gain has affected thernfederal government. It is at the feet of clderiy voters that thernblame for the budget impasse should rest. Clinton’s appeal wasrnstrictly to those voters’ private gain. In preventing Republicansrnfrom “destroying Medicare,” his appeal moved voters.rnThis anger has changed supplicant classes—whether welfarernmothers, textile workers, or farmers—mto demanding classes.rnIn 19th-centurv America or Victorian England, people whornmessed up their lives, for whatever reason, still asked for help,rnbut it was an appeal, not an ultimatum. Victorian England andrn19th-century America are in fact models for conservatives onrnhow to deal with the destructive effects of the government’srnmove from public to private. Some conservatives now argue forrna return to shame for failings like going on the dole or outof-rnwedlock births. This may help in relatively healthy parts ofrnthe country, but in some communities—particularly the “permanent”rninner-city underclass—individuals who qualify but dornnot apply for free monev are considered fools. As much asrnindividual change can help, the government must apply thernstigma of losing the right to vote, a right so symbolic of beingrnan American.rnIn other communities, people do not look at their middleclassrnentitlements as “welfare.” People who live on Social Securityrnand Medicare largely believe they paid for it, though anyrnactuary can tell you that this is false. Government has to lookrnfor a way to make those people feel the cost of their benefits.rnClearly, the idea of disenfranchising large swaths of thernAmerican population is a radical proposition. After all, is it notrntrue that the more people who participate in the political process,rnthe more vibrant our democracy, the more legitimate andrnrepresentative our government—”of the people, by the people,rnand for the people”? But what is legitimate about a vote basedrnon ignorance? Or one based on avarice? The argument mirrorsrnthat over welfare. Those who argue that putting a check inrnsomeone’s hand solves anything are arguing for surface overrnsubstance.rnThose who believe that our society is in tatters and who placerna good share of the blame on government have to ask themselvesrnwhy the last 50 years of history happened. In two words:rnvoters voted. Change the dynamic, and you have changed thernworld; leave it alone, and the “Great Society” will flourishrnunabated.rn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn