When Is a Voter Truly Sovereign?

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November 4, 2008

As I think about the people who will line up at the polls on Tuesday, I'm reminded of the clich' that says, Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. There are many who believe voting is not the ultimate folly, of course, and therefore it is not stupid to vote, even though every election pushes us further along the path to self-annihilation. We're frequently assured it's not voting as such that's bad, it's who gets elected. If people were more demanding of politicians, we would have better candidates, and with a better crop of candidates from which to choose, we would have better government.

I will concede a certain truth to this view. Certainly not every president has been a Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, or Bush II. If they were, modern armaments would be sticks, stones, bows and arrows, and the warriors not organized armies but random survivors roaming the hillside foraging for food. If all presidents were as 'active' as those named, financial crises would at last be solved. Finance would no longer be part of spoken language, nor would there be gold to confiscate, taxes to raise, money to print, nations to subjugate, or any sort of new 'freedoms' to impose on the hapless natives. There would be no one powerful enough to impose them, and few left to suffer the impositions.

Most historians will tell us that the presidents named above are either 'great' or 'near-great,' excepting only the last two. And those two didn't fail for not trying. Is there reason to believe the next Caesar elected will be radically different in aspirations? No, because the people romanticize wealth plunderers rather than wealth creators. Both are subject to the people's votes, but in only one realm are their decisions sovereign.

The plunderers -- politicians -- control their voting from start to finish, including the frequency of elections, measured in years. Voting for a wealth creator is measured with each tick of the clock. It is merciless. If people should stop buying his products, he loses their votes, period. If he has served them well for long, they may stay with him for awhile out of loyalty. But whether they do or not, the voting is entirely in their hands. They don't have to arouse a spineless Congress and wait for a showy and expensive impeachment process to unseat him. Nor will the propaganda of the pundits save him if the creator's products no longer measure up. On the contrary, if a hugely successful entrepreneur takes a wrong step, intellectuals will scream for his head. On a free market, the customer is sovereign, and those producers who fail to serve their sovereign will find themselves in a different line of work.

What can we say about a politician who fails to keep enough people happy? That he might be removed from office at the next election? And by what standards do we judge the politician? That the economy is booming because it hasn't yet reached the bust phase from all the money his central bank has printed? That the slaughter and corruption of his foreign entanglements temporarily fades from prominence because Americans are looking good at the Olympics? That as bad as he is, he's still better than the guy he beat at the polls? Or should he be removed from office before his term expires, his successor would be even worse?

We've never had a free market and have been running away from one almost since the country's founding. Consequently, we have today a corrupt system of corporatism or crony capitalism, in which politically-connected producers have learned how to soften, and in some cases circumvent, the buying public's judgment through tariffs, quotas, subsidies, bailouts and other coercive methods.

On a free market, voters are consumers, their verdicts supreme. When we buy a pair of shoes, we pay for it with what we produce, the money given up serving only to facilitate the exchange. Thus, votes in an unhampered market are earned in the sense that every voter (consumer) must first be a producer, or at least be in the favor of a producer. And the item or service voted for is something specific, such as a certain size, style, and brand of shoes. Nor are consumers stuck with their decision. Refunds and legal redress are among their options, in most cases.

Voting for a politician is altogether different. Though there are legal voting requirements, they essentially allow any warm-bodied American adult to cast a vote. And the person voted for is of a 'one size fits all' nature. There may be as many different preferences for president as there are voters, but only one person will win. Voters who prefer someone else or non-voters who prefer no one at all must endure the election results -- for years. If the political methodology were imported to the market, everyone in the country would end up wearing one size, style, and brand of shoes, even if their choice was to go without them.

Why do people think an idea that would be ludicrous on the market makes sense in politics? Why do people continue to regard as saviors those whose record shows unfailing support for activities few of us practice on our own, such as plunder and war? If we want change for our betterment, we will turn to the realm in which we are sovereign and reject political solutions altogether.

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George F. Smith's picture
Columns on STR: 71

George F. Smith is the author of The Flight of The Barbarous Relic, a novel about a renegade Fed chairman.  Visit his website.