Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Case for Voting

I had a debate with a friend from school the other day about the reasoning behind not voting in government elections. He claimed he's never voted in an election because he feels his vote doesn't make any difference. That argument, I felt, was silly and contradicted the basic principles of democracy. Of course everyone's vote counts! If everyone thought like that, there would be no demonstrable voice from the public, giving way to authoritarianism once again. However, there is a much more logical and thoughtfully presented argument for his side: perhaps abstaining from voting might help to fight the government's bureaucracy and expansion. My buddy-in-bloggage Stewart Browne wrote an essay about the subject on "Strike the Root" here. I did some thinking on the subject, and thought I'd offer a rebuttal to the general argument regarding the issue.

Votes are Voices. As I stated before, voting gives people a voice that could not come through other forms of government. I am and will always be a vocal opponent of government abuse and bureaucracy, but I AM a fervent supporter of democracy in it's purest form. But that's a much deeper argument for another day, hehe. (ahem) Anyway...

Where there is a lack of democracy, there is authoritarianism. This has been demonstrated innumerable times throughout human history. If we surrender our votes, we give up all right to be heard by government officials. The percentage of voting among citizens is already the lowest in America's history, and we are seeing the effects of it everyday. Because we are no longer in control, our politicians are doing whatever they please without any concern for what we, the people that elected them, think. Some might argue that anarchy/absolute independence can be achieved if we "leave" the system, but history has proved that the inactivity or discontent of a populace provides the perfect opportunity for dictatorship.

I firmly believe that most people call themselves Democrats or Republicans because they were brought up that way and simply buy into ideologies without reading into them. I was raised by both a staunch conservative and an old-school liberal hippie. I didn't really buy into either of their philosophies, but I did agree with fiscal conservatism and strong social freedoms. So I did a little research, and discovered libertarianism. How many people do you think actually look into the philosophies they claim to agree with? Sadly, not many. Discourse with Democrats and Republicans is completely stale, because most of them simply regurgitate what the mainstream media feeds them. Their parties' respective reigns have ended.

My point is: libertarians now have the fiercest momentum this country has seen since probably the American Revolution. Ron Paul's campaign was the match that lit the fuse: he brought a light upon us that was unprecedented. So you see, the trick is not to abstain from voting, but to continue the push into Washington's bloodstream. It's already begun...More and more people are beginning to recognize our philosophy for what it is: a step towards TRUE "power to the people".

The more people that know about us, the stronger our movement will get.

The stronger our movement gets, the more libertarians will be elected.

The more libertarians that are elected, the closer we get to personal freedom.

But this can only be done if we truly believe in democratic process, which means voting. Let's start at the base, and work our way up. Even if it takes 100 years...If it spells the end of government expansion, it'll be worth it. We'll take some heavy losses, granted, but no victory comes without defeats.


  1. Good points Scott, but you neglect a crucial point: the voter is a (mostly) rational individual. You only make arguments for voting in terms of the benefits to the collective.

    Public choice theory has a lot to say about individual voters. The benefits of a "good" vote are spread amongst everyone in the country and the liklihood of one vote influencing the election are infintesimal. The opportunity costs of a "good" vote are substantial and concentrated on the individual.

    So while it would be awesome if everyone started to realize that the diverse benefits are worth the concentrated costs, economists have been stumped by that problem for centuries.

  2. I agree completely!

    What we need is some kind of fire lit under our asses to get young-adult and middle-aged citizens more interested in civics. The health care debate has had a particularly huge impact on bloggers and young political writers (like myself, I suppose), and some of that interest has begun to radiate to those folks' peers/friends/family, so that's a start.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful rebuttal to my column! My response is very similar to irrationalrationality's -- there are systemic problems with centralized democracy that I am convinced cannot be overcome via the voting process. I don't see that we can dismantle the Washington mess even if a strong majority of citizens became libertarian. The incentives in Washington are more powerful than the desires of the voters.

    That said, there is no denying that the Ron Paul campaign brought all kinds of new people over to liberty, which is of immense value.

    Personally, I see it as a progression. There's the mixed-up, mostly unaware, certainly uniformed state that most of us are in when we graduate from the government schools. Via communication with each other and careful thought, the smartest, most open-minded people come to realize that free markets provide superior outcomes to all others, and try to vote for it. It's my hope that, over time, those people will come around to my way of thinking, namely that the way to free ourselves from Washington is to separate ourselves from it. This can be done with local nullification (ie - as of right now, in our community, these Washington rules no longer apply), or with local secession (ie - as of right now, in our community, Washington has no authority at all).

  4. This article was mostly based on the suggestion that Washington can still be salvaged. However, in time, what you've said may very well prove true: that Washington will become the Titanic, and we'll have to bail accordingly. And I agree that Washington's interests often outweigh the citizenry.

    If they reach a point where they are demonstrating outright authoritarianism, then honestly, I would have no problem with local secession. Things actually get done in localized governments because people often have direct contact with their representatives. I have never met Jon Corzine, or Menendez/Lautenberg (and I wouldn't want to!). I have, however, met my town mayor and most of the county reps. I'm not sure if you are involved in local politics, but it is 1,000 times more effective than trying to get a Senator or a Governor to listen to anyone but his constituents.

    My only concern would be that such a declaration by local governments would likely be met by Fed violence...But hey. We succeeded on January 14, 1784. We can certainly do it again.