The Felon: The Self-Stripped Individual
Within the framework of a philosophically built state, or governing body, is the premise that it is built upon a form of hierarchical-given authority. The derivation of this power generally stems from the consent of the lower castes or, possibly, from an absolute entity (such as in a theocracy). It is important to mention, however, that the state, after it derives its power from the lesser, could abuse its given authority. However, this deviation, as it was not logistically present within the premises, or bounded by the natural scope, of the framework in which the state was built, should be excused for the sake of contending proposed ideas in hopes of reaching a proficient structure. Only after doing so, can one then evaluate the efficacy of a state’s laws and system. This, in turn, does not mean that one should be banned from critiquing a state’s methods but, instead, warns against blaming the origination of the state as one rooted in evil and spite since such accusations would subsequently lead to an overturn of the entire governmental structure.
As is such, the American system can thus be established as one whose power originates from the people (in the broadest sense). With this being said, such then can be specified that laws in which the state enacts are laws in which the people have influenced. And thus, virtuous people can be said to enact virtuous laws. While the term “virtuous” can be contested, as can any other moral, the broadest and connotative sense of the word is applied here.
Now, to quantify the term of “felon” would, in the general sense, be defined as an individual who has trampled upon the state’s enforced laws and, thus, the public’s agreed upon moral code. Furthermore, a felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness that tends to result in the forfeiture of the doer’s rights in addition to any other punishment.
Furthermore, to posit the moral question correctly, it must be understood that these premises are based on underlying conditions such as the presumed virtuosity of the populace and the efficacy of the state to produce laws that protect these virtues. These aspects should be assumed as they would be the actions of a rational populace and trying to determine the actions of the irrational would be nonsensical since irrationality has no stringent bounds. Thus, the moral question would be this: why should individuals who have chosen to violate the moral code enacted by the government and populace thus have a say in the present moral code before he or she is dealt retribution and punishment to deter him or her from that of the agreed upon unvirtuous action?
Those who defy the populace’s agreed upon values may have a fair place in the critiquing of such laws but to transgress and violate the sanctity of a democratic society would validate the stripping of such individual of the rights given to them by the state (since the state’s given power to establish rights stems from the people’s acceptance of universal truths). For how can such an individual, one who, not only violates the law, but also the inviolability of radical discourse be trusted to have the well-being of the populace at hand. One might argue that desperateness could have forced that individual’s hand but that would be too morally arbitrary to determine and draw dangerous lines for the permissibility of legal defilement. Moreover, the selfish and intrinsic desire of an individual must always be tamed and contorted to fit that of society, not the other way around since doing so would promote such irrational infighting that the state itself would crumble since it then lacks the universal agreements that had laid the foundation for its forming initially.
It is logically incoherent to permit individuals, felons, to vote and change the system for which they have disregarded themselves unless they have paid for their encroachments. It should be considered that “justice” and “punishment” are subjective values and actions placed upon individuals. These values, the premises for reprimand, originate from the populace’s’ general consensus on what activities, within the ethical framework, equate to that of the transgressor. The complexity of the formulation of certain punishments is too much of an ethical debate and contention to include within a single article, thus it should be assumed that the punishments are just and are considered as so by the population residing under the state. While these premises are absurd, they should be assumed as the rational foundation of the argument since, as stated before, irrationality has no limits within an argument.
One last possible contention with the restoration of the right to vote to certain felons is whether their other rights should also be reinstituted, since voting was not the only right stripped from them for their crime. For example, should someone who has committed mass murder with a firearm, after serving the proper sentence in jail, be allowed to have his gun rights restored alongside his voting rights? People who would answer no to this question are intrinsically contradicting themselves since rights are supposedly absolute truths and actions humans are given from the moment of both. Weighing two rights against one another is morally inconsistent since they would both be universal.
It must be understood that the conversation, regarding felons, and certain contentions are more nuanced than what this article proposes. This was merely written to give a structure to a position, not dive into the position and every nuanced contention it may have with the affirmative. It must also be understood that certain properties were suggested within this framework that may not be applicable to our current day society. Some of which would be a virtuous populace, an efficient state, a lack of abuse from the state, and the idea of universal truths and rights. While it may be hard to apply these to any country, they are the threshold for this position which was also stated to be based on the foundation of a rational society.