What do you contribute to society?

Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins from CBS 60 Minutes

It would be easy to write off Tom Perkins and his $1 in taxes paid = 1 vote idea. It would be easy to dismiss him as an entitled elitist who would be among the first to get his head chopped off in the next peasant revolt. However, he raises an interesting question: How do you judge a person’s contribution to society?

If you judge a person only by how much he or she pays in taxes, his point would be valid. And if companies and individuals get more votes by paying more taxes, it might encourage them to participate more in government (as if lobbying wasn’t enough). However, money isn’t the only way people contribute to society.

What about soldiers? They risk life and limb to keep Mr. Perkins and all of us Americans safe. Certainly they are entitled to more than one vote, and the families who lost loved ones in defense of our country should get even more votes.

Speaking of safety, what about police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics? Wouldn’t they be entitled to more than one vote? If, heaven forbid, Mr. Perkins needed their services to protect him or save his life, he might be happy to give them some of his votes in appreciation.

Why stop at soldiers and first responders? What about the employees whose labor enables Mr. Perkins and the other one-percenters to build their fortunes? And the teachers who educate them so they can do their jobs? And the people who pick up the trash and manage our sewage systems so our communities are free of disease? And the people who pick, slaughter, prepare, package, and cook the food he eats?

All of us play a part in our communities, even if it is just to earn and spend the money that keeps the economy going. But how do you measure the relative value of one person over another? Is somebody worth more because he has more money? People offer value by the things they do for a community, but how do you quantify that? Are soldiers who risk their lives in Afghanistan worth more than police officers who risk their lives in our neighborhoods?

Fortunately, we have a convenient and fair system to determine the value of people’s contribution to society: 1 citizen = 1 vote. Everyone contributes to society, so everyone gets an equal chance to participate by voting. The only time people don’t get an equal chance is when they don’t exercise their right to vote.

It’s important for everyone to feel invested in society and feel their contribution is valued and welcomed. When only the rich are valued simply because of their wealth (regardless of how they got it), everyone else feels disenfranchised and resentful until you wind up with another French or Bolshevik revolution. (Not a Kristallnacht, Mr. Perkins, which was used by the Nazis to further their persecution against Jews.)

A society where everyone is valued encourages everyone to participate in their own way for the betterment of their community. Everyone feels invested in society. They would be willing to sacrifice and give generously because their contributions are appreciated.

What we contribute to society should be determined by what we do, not what we own. We need to know that the person who maintains the city streets has as much at stake in a community as the person who drives on them in his Bentley. We express this shared responsibility with 1 citizen = 1 vote.