"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
If You Believe in Right and Wrong, Don't Vote
Column by Greg Haley.
Exclusive to STR
It always strikes me as odd when someone encourages me to vote, but they say they don’t care about who I vote for. They’re just concerned that I participate. Really? These people are that infatuated with the process of voting that they don’t care if you vote for something they believe is wrong?
I can hardly think of any institution other than democracy in which people believe that you should participate, despite the fact that, from their point of view, you’re voting for a result that is bad. What if I voted for a Nazi Party candidate? Is mere participation more important than some sense of right and wrong?
I was once asked by a woman if I voted for some local election. I said, no, not caring to explain my position. She said that I should be ashamed of myself, and that people died for my right to vote. I was tempted to say that people died for Al Qaeda as well, but that doesn’t mean I support their cause. And it certainly doesn’t mean that politicians are important. After all, physicists have done more to influence the world for the better than politicians. Every machine in a hospital that is powered by electricity only exists because of the discoveries of physicists, such as with X-rays or MRI machines. That doesn’t mean I have to go support some fraternity of physicists.
How can anyone seriously believe that you should vote at all costs? People who vote should ask themselves just why they support voting as participation. Gene Siskel said that he refused to vote in some top movie poll because he didn’t want to participate in a process which might have an outcome with which he disagreed. How right he was! Because by lending a vote, you legitimize the process of democracy. You say that your candidate and his policies had a fair go of it, and you’ll consent to a candidate whose policies you disagree with, all because democracy is more important to you than right and wrong.
Murray Rothbard put it like this, and I’m paraphrasing. If 70% of the population voted to kill the other 30%, can we just say that the 30% committed voluntary suicide? But is there any difference in the quality of the argument when it comes to less extreme policies? Or is the difference only in degree?
The point can be summed up in this--if you believe in right and wrong, you don’t believe that a candidate or idea should prevail because of their popularity. You might argue that an informed populace should vote, but the problem is that people vote for incredibly silly and petty reasons having to do with all kinds of biases. Informed populaces don’t vote, both in the practical sense, and, dare I say, in the ideal sense, because an informed populace wouldn’t lend their vote of legitimacy to an outcome with which they disagree.
And we vote for almost none of the important things in our daily lives that private exchange give to us. We don’t vote for where to live, what computer to buy, what food to eat, and what people to associate with. We benefit from a great number of choices on all these matters because of private, voluntary exchange, out of which arises such a great variety of apartments and houses to choose from, computers, food, and friends. The government can never add to any of these; not without subtracting from somewhere else and dividing people into groups of recipients of government support and victims of government predation.
If you steal from Peter to give to Paul, you can count on Paul’s support. Ultimately, that’s the system you vote for, should you choose to vote. Mitt Romney’s leaked speech in which he says that the 47% of the country that doesn’t pay income taxes aren’t his supporters shows that politicians understand this. And what a cynical thing it is to say that he’s not trying to reach people about his beliefs of right and wrong because they’re not his constituency. He doesn’t count in his constituency this 47% that may or may not pay income taxes. He just wants people who will see a direct benefit for them with his presidency. It’s a cynical thing, but it’s a disturbingly honest observation about democracy.
Just how much empirical evidence do we need before we can say that democracy is an intolerable evil? Obama predictably said that in response that the president needs to be the president of everyone. Don’t people have enough going on for them that they don’t need to appoint someone ruler over them?
And what are you really voting for? When you vote, you’re giving a very small, intermittent say in a very small part of the government machinery. It’s not like you get to choose your candidate directly. You’re stuck with a Republican or a Democrat, and at that, you don’t even get to choose the policies they enact. Obama had many promises that he’s broken from his run for president, such as closing Guantanamo Bay’s military prison, yet it doesn’t even seem to faze his supporters.
So if you voted for Obama, not only did you vote for someone who broke many of his campaign promises, but you give legitimacy to the powers he has, such as with the NDAA to detain Americans as terrorists. And if you vote, thus legitimizing this power, you’re giving further legitimacy to a Republican who may inherit these police state powers, whether you like it or not. Spread ideas to improve society, not democracy.