How would a "democratic" system work where people that are entitled to vote buy votes? To prevent the duplication of this question, voters start out with 0 votes.

Here are the conditions:

  • Voters start out with 0 votes each. People who don't want to or can't afford bying ballots will not vote.
  • When you buy a ballot, you can choose how many votes you buy.
  • The official who sells ballots will mark the ballot (for example using a stamp with special ink that is hard to fake) with the number of votes.
  • The voter then will proceed to the voting cabin where he may give each candidate one or multiple votes; the sum of all votes must of course be the number of votes bought.
  • To prevent electoral fraud, any ballots where the sum of the given votes is larger than the number of votes of the ballot are destroyed.
  • This means that you can either choose to give all of your votes to one candidate or distribute them among multiple (or all) candidates on the ballot.
  • The maximum number of votes is limited to 1 percent of the population entitled to vote to make the "tipping" of elections by the candidates themselves or by extremely wealthy people harder.
  • Another measure is that you can only submit a ballot once. It is not possible to vote several times during the election.
  • It is illegal to pay people to vote for you (self-explanatory).

My questions are:

  • What effect on society and politics would this have? I guess that the political situation would be one that favorises wealthier persons or candidates more, but it still would be hard to buy an election due to the 3 measures described above. I also think that there would be a major black market where poor people could buy cheap fake ballots, candidates could illegally pay people to vote for them and false voter identities could be set up.

  • What would be major differences to a normal European democracy?


5 Answers 5


This is essentially a reprise of an old system of voting known in ancient times as "Timocracy".

In a Timocracy, voters are eligible because they meet some sort of income or property requirement. Ancient Greek Timocracies gave eligibility to landowners who produced a certain minimum amount of produce, which allowed the landowner to afford the Hoplite's weapons and armour (in modern terms, about the price of a full sized car). The American Founders also had set up the Republic as a Timocracy, reasoning that voters who had some permanent attachment to the polity (i.e. landowners) also had reason to be engaged and active in the community and its legislature.

So a system of buying votes ensures that people are willing to actually put some skin in the game as far as politics and legislation are concerned. If people are unengaged, then they are not going to vote and support the operation of government.

This can actually be a good thing in another way, if the monies collected for voting are the government's only source of income. This will limit the scale and scope of government and force it to stay focused on core responsibilities. As well, people who advocate for expanding roles of government will realize that "someone" has to pay for this, and that "someone" is them.

Finally, if crony capitalists are spending their monies wildly in attempts to buy enough votes to sway the government, they will be depleting their cash available for other things. So long as the potential payout is less than what crony capitalists and other rent seekers need to pay in, then opportunities for corruption and graft will actually be minimized.


1 percent is not low enough.

In the UK, where we have ~62 million people, there are probably 40-45 million people entitled to vote (wild guess, I haven't actually looked it up). 1% of that is 450 000. If I'm rich enough (and I guarantee you there will be someone who does this), I can lay almost half a million votes on one candidate.

The formula to calculate votes should be a little more complicated. Forgive me for expressing it in code, since that's what I understand, but you want something like this:

votes = math.max(10, math.min(100, population * 0.00001))

So you get anywhere between 10 and 100 votes, depending on the voting population.

The major effect of this change on politics is that politicians and political parties focus their campaigning efforts on the wealthy. That's bad, because that also means they're going to craft their policies to fit what they think the wealthy want - tax cuts, extra benefits, etc.

The major effect, then, is going to be pretty nasty if you're not so well-off.


What you're essentially doing is limiting the number of votes on any given topic to however much any voting individual wishes to pay. This will have a number of immediate effects.

The poor, lower-class and disenfranchised will not vote. If they're struggling to do silly things like "eat", spending any money for something as amorphous as voting. Those on the other side of any bill that is supported by a large industry or wealthy individual(s) would also not want to waste money voting due to the cap (because votes are capped, any rich person or persons would simply have to pony up enough for half of the votes for the cap).

The middle class will only vote on a handful of things that matter most to them. You may have members of the Sierra club show up for a big vote on the environment, but not much else. People will "save" their votes for something that would effect their spheres of influence directly, and ignore the rest, as investing the funds in education and retirement would be more beneficial to them.

The upper class, and various tiers thereof, would still be the main target of anyone trying to legislate any changes. Instead of American-style fundraisers (dinners, capital raisers), events and entities would be places into motion to encourage those with money to waste on votes to vote for certain things (bonuses that happen right before election time, other soft-dollar movements to encourage those people to go vote). This reality would seriously warp the legislation presented towards those voters... for example, why even draft legislation to raise a money for renovating X side of town or for Y industry? None of the voters live there, or only do business on the fringes.

It wouldn't be democracy, specifically, but really an argentocracy, a government by money. This is not a specifically a plutocracy because other people than the wealthy minority CAN have a say by vote-purchasing, but statistically will not in any large mass due to sheer economics.


This is how corporate America works today. The process of buying votes is called a "hostile takeover", "leveraged buyout", or tender offer.


There are some greedy bastards in the world today who support policies that make the poor poorer, even if those policies don't make the rich richer. This possibly comes from a sense of competition ("I'm winning by an even bigger margin"), or from simple sadism. There are some (slumlords, for example) who profit directly from poor being poor, as it takes away their power to fight against injustice.

The system you propose would shift the balance of political power even further into the hands of the wealthy. And, what's worse, it would directly incentivize them to push for policies that make others poorer, even if the policies didn't make the rich richer. The poorer the middle-class, the fewer votes they'll be able to buy, so the votes of the wealthy will mean more. Even policies that take wealth away from the richest people would be beneficial if they take enough away from the middle class and the poor.

I don't see any scenario where the wealthy wouldn't use this power to drive the majority of the populace into abject poverty.


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