Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Voting Decisions Made Easy

I seldom vote. This gives the legions of those who find my opinions objectionable a measure of smug satisfaction. It provides them a welcome opportunity to deplore my civic sloth and political indifference. Secure on the moral high ground they hurl accusations of hypocrisy, apathy, and worse. “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” they say. As if the Right to Whine were guaranteed by the Constitution, the precious Right to Kvetch rightfully denied to those who refuse to shuffle off to the voting booth like Eloi in the thrall of the Morlocks' dinner siren.

To this way of thinking, politically abused non-voters have it coming. Those who vote, on the other hand, having shown a preference for one bubble headed, dissembling, ego-maniacal opportunist over another, are entitled to whine whenever they are annoyed, impoverished or humiliated by the lucky election winners and their swarm of drones.

Would you have voted for the TSA or the Patriot Act if you had known about this?

“Step out of line, Miss. Take off your shoes, empty your bag on the counter, empty your pockets, raise your arms and spread your legs. Oh, you voted? Well, then you can talk to my supervisor after I finish pawing through your luggage and feeling you up.“

I often think how very lucky we are that the Shoe Bomber hadn’t been a Bra Bomber or a Fruit of the Loom Bomber.

In those rare electoral contests where there is a chance to increase rather than diminish freedom, I vote. In most elections there is no such choice. Voting in most cases simply lends legitimacy to the selection of the best of a bad lot. I rarely vote because I rarely see any difference between my options.

You would find me in line at every voting opportunity if “None of the Above” were one of the choices. Particularly if any election won by “None of the Above” would have the contested position and all its attendant staff positions permanently eliminated.

On the really important decisions, none of us gets a chance to vote. If we did, I’d like to think we would behave more sensibly than career politicians. But if we accept the old saw that the intelligence of any group is equal to the IQ of the smartest person in it divided by the number of its members, then Congress is probably making better decisions than the voters would, if only because it is a smaller group.

The war in Iraq is a wonderful example of decisions made by majority vote. I just read that Congress, each member of which secured at least a one vote majority of some group somewhere, has in turn voted to spend eighty seven billion dollars to rebuild Iraq. The mostly borrowed money will be used to repair the damage Congress voted to inflict on Iraq. After spending uncounted billions to bomb Iraq halfway back to the Dark Ages we will now spend billions more to clear the wreckage. The $87 billion probably won‘t be enough. Your tax dollar at work. Democracy in action.

Such a Sisyphean task is a perfect example of decisions made by majority vote. War is the ultimate public works project, the culmination of thousands of small self-interested decisions by millions of voters, politicians, government contractors and bureaucrats, each of whom has job security and benefits as his top priority. It is an undertaking, like so many other wasteful, foolish public projects, that sprouts from the rich soil of majority decision making
like a colony of mushrooms on a cow pie.

On the big policy decisions that I, or even my cat, could surely do a better job with than Congress, I don’t get to vote.

I didn’t get to vote on either the destruction or the reconstruction of Iraq.

I didn’t get to vote on the recent pay raise our representatives granted themselves.

I never got to vote on their decision to opt out of Social Security in favor of a taxpayer funded, full pay, full benefit, inflation indexed, lifetime pension after just a single term in office. Congress has permanently answered the question, “Why did you run for office?” by making the winning of a Congressional seat more valuable than the winning of most state lotteries.

I didn’t get to vote on bombing to death thousands of Arabs over the years, both directly by our government and indirectly through our good friend the government of Israel.

I didn’t get to vote on attacking Afghanistan in retaliation for an attack on us by a bunch of Saudis; an attack which itself appears more likely to have been retaliation for the killing of Arabs than envy of what freedom we have left.

None of us get to vote on the really big decisions. Decisions like the killings and the retaliations and the big bucks that get spread around to do them.

With that in mind, and with a deep mistrust of majoritarianism in general I will offer this simple two step formula for making voting decisions
.
First, when deciding on a candidate, since it is impossible to predict what sort of lunacy he or she will favor after attaining elected office, I recommend voting based on the ultimate canary-in-the-coal-mine issue, gun control.

The reason many politicians want us disarmed is because they know they will be doing things to us for which we may want to shoot them. Voting Rule Number 1: If you know nothing at all about a candidate, or worse, only know what you have learned from the media or the candidate himself, do not vote for anyone who favors gun control. If a candidate doesn’t trust you to own a weapon responsibly, why should you trust him to make the laws by which he will run your life? It won’t protect you from the inevitable venality, corruption or foolishness of politicians, but it will at least act as a deterrent against the worst they can do.

Voting Rule Number 2: Never vote to increase taxes or borrow money. Tax dollars are the krill upon which the Leviathan feeds. A starvation diet offers the only chance of limiting its eventual consumption of everything.

Simple, eh? In most cases this easy formula will keep you at home on election day. But at least you will not be contributing to the destruction of the Republic. I look forward to the day when using these simple rules, voters will examine the ballot, find a slate of mendacious, gun-hating, gas bags and heads-they-win-tails-you-lose tax proposals and decide not to vote at all.

What would happen if they held an election and nobody voted?

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