"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
So You Work as an Elections Clerk?
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
[Author's Note: Readers who know someone who helps operate elections might usefully refer him or her to this article. Should it become widely read before November, it could have an interesting effect. It's adapted from one of a series at the new web site TinyURL.com/QuitGov, which aims to help government employees lead honest lives. ]
Probably you also hold another job in your state or city government, but at election time, you help administer the voting process. Once every other year it's really busy, and once every four years, no doubt it's like a zoo! But this is a task fundamental to our democracy, so you take pride in doing it well. Nothing here suggests otherwise. What, then, can possibly be "dishonest" about it?
In common with all other jobs in government, you're being paid out of stolen money, as noted in this page comparing government to the Mafia--so that's the first dishonest item. Then regarding elections, we're not talking here about the occasional dishonesty of deliberate election fraud--counting votes that were never cast, or counting some twice, or failing on purpose to exclude the "graveyard vote." Those things happen, and on occasion have a large effect, but in America, they aren't frequent (though here is one source that says they are). Rather, this page is concerned about the fundamental dishonesty of voting itself.
To vote in a public election is to declare not "I want Jim King to rule me" but that "I want Jim King to rule you." Jim King has described what he will do if elected, and the voter agrees with most of it and calculates that he the voter will do better at his neighbor's expense if King wins than if anyone else wins. Never mind that even if elected, Jim King will never be able to deliver more than a small fraction of the goodies he promised, that is the calculation made. That's why people vote, and you help and enable them to do it.
Yes, it's true, often a voter calculates advantage to himself not in simple money terms only (King will tax the rich so that health care costs me less) but also in terms of idealism (King will deal sternly with those pesky Iranians so that America continues as #1.) Patriotism--tribal loyalty--does play a significant part, and perhaps the kind of mindless enthusiasm of the sports fan spills over into politics at every level; it becomes ever more difficult to tell the difference between Democrat and Republican policies, yet tens of millions of supporters of each of those Parties somehow see the one as perfect and the rival as deadly. We have to reckon the sought-for voter advantage in terms of warm victorious feelings as well as in those of hard cash. So be it.
However the gain is perceived, the voter bids for it at his neighbor's expense. It's a zero-sum game; winners win, losers lose. Even if an election is mainly about a law concerning behavior--prohibiting drugs, for example--those voting for that will gain a righteous feeling of having helped keep society sober, while those wishing to relax with pot instead of vodka will suffer loss of choice. (Some of them will buy pot anyway, but at prices inflated by the far higher supply costs, but that's another story.) Voting is all about gaining advantage. Over time nearly all voter groups win what they want, so the result is that everyone also loses, for everyone has to pay the bill. Everyone ends up paying anyway for the particular goodie he wants, plus all the other goodies he doesn't want but which someone else does. The only winners are the politicians who administer the redistribution, and those they employ.
So: voting is one of the most immoral actions anyone can take. Elections are a vast game of Beggar Thy Neighbor. And you help them happen.
So far, so bad; you're helping voters squabble over dividing the loot. But much worse is to come. The partitioning of the loot is done by government, and having been (apparently) handed some power, its members grab a whole lot more while they're at it and rapidly create a heavily governed society, while placating everyone by continuing, falsely, to call it a "free" one. The description "tyranny" may still not be quite appropriate, but it gets ever closer. Government supposedly furnishes justice; in fact, it delivers gross injustice on a massive scale. It supposedly provides defense; in fact, it delivers offense, with huge dangers for retributive attacks in the future (the first came in September 2001). It supposedly educates the next generation; in fact, it indoctrinates children and systematically prevents them thinking for themselves. It supposedly makes health care affordable; in fact (and in real, constant-dollar terms), it has forced a massive increase in its cost. Supposedly it conquers poverty; in fact, is has created vast poverty and seriously hindered the generation of wealth that can (by any means) be shared--and by interfering with private charities who wish to do the job. It supposedly furnishes "social security" especially for the elderly; in fact, it has prevented the operation of honest retirement plans with far higher pensions.
And on and on; there seems no end to the chaos and suffering government causes. You can verify this: explore, for example, some of the other government jobs listed on the drop-down menu here; perhaps you hold one of them when elections aren't taking place. And/or, follow the link at the foot of that home page to "the last stop on your tour" and then some of the outbound links you'll find there. If government damages society--and the evidence that it does is now overwhelming--then it all begins with you.
All of that, you are enabling to take place, when you work to administer the voting process. You are the gateway; all the mayhem and discord and distortion and misery and death that government brings about, happens because you and those like you allow it to happen. True, elections are only lipstick on the pig, and non-democratic governments would be even worse (as Churchill observed), but that's a very feeble excuse, because no society is obliged to have any form of government at all.
That, then, is the environment you work in, the system you support. What does it do for your self-respect? Self-esteem is a vital part of life. We all need a purpose, a raison d'être, a way to feel pride in what we have been able to accomplish, a basis for ambition to achieve more in future. Working for government undermines your basis for self-esteem. Make a clean break; offer your skills elsewhere. Get an honest job--even if at first you have to take a pay cut. You'll not regret it; at life's end you will look back in pride and pleasure, and be able to say, "I helped build that!"