Why Tuesday ?

by John Q on September 28, 2007

Among many questions that you could ask about the US electoral systems, one of the more minor but harder to answer is Why Tuesday. More precisely, if you want to maximise turnout, why not hold the election on Saturday as in Australia, or even keep the polls open all weekend? I asked this question a couple of years ago , and there was no obvious answer. Now there’s an effort to raise the issue and force candidates to take a stand.

As with many other features of the US system, there is a historical explanation that has long since ceased to be relevant, but the bigger question is why such things persist. In particular, why don’t

It’s fair to note that the UK situation is even worse. Elections are traditionally held on Thursday, even though the Prime Minister is free to select a more sensible day of the week.

Horrifying Aspect

by John Holbo on September 28, 2007

From Michael Medved’s latest column, “Six Inconvenient Truths About the U.S. And Slavery”:

Historians agree that hundreds of thousands, and probably millions of slaves perished over the course of 300 years during the rigors of the “Middle Passage” across the Atlantic Ocean. Estimates remain inevitably imprecise, but range as high as one third of the slave “cargo” who perished from disease or overcrowding during transport from Africa. Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these voyages involves the fact that no slave traders wanted to see this level of deadly suffering: they benefited only from delivering (and selling) live slaves, not from tossing corpses into the ocean.

So the ‘inconvenient truth’ is that the slave traders were the real moral sufferers, in this situation. (OK, you’re so smart. What do you think he meant to say?) Let’s read on.

By definition, the crime of genocide requires the deliberate slaughter of a specific group of people; slavers invariably preferred oppressing and exploiting live Africans rather than murdering them en masse. Here, the popular, facile comparisons between slavery and the Holocaust quickly break down: the Nazis occasionally benefited from the slave labor of their victims, but the ultimate purpose of facilities like Auschwitz involved mass death, not profit or productivity.

But since the most morally ‘horrifying aspect’ of the Middle Passage was, by hypothesis, the element that is missing in the Nazi case – the element that breaks the analogy: the heartrending spectacle afforded by frustrated profit motive – I take it Medved has just proved the slave trade was worse than the Holocaust?

So we don’t need to feel guilty about slavery, after all?

Oh, never mind. (Honestly, don’t these people have a Moveon ad to complain about?)

Via Sadly, no! (whose discerning discussion of the whole column is worthy of your attention.)

UPDATE: In comments it has been pointed out that my reading is not plausible. Yes, I noticed. In all seriousness, what do you think he meant to say?