December 12, 2003

Why not vote?

Posted by shonk at 06:20 PM in Politics | TrackBack

Unsurprisingly, Fox News is critical of Rock The Vote and other get-out-and-vote organizations for supposedly promulgating and supporting “liberal” candidates. Also unsurprisingly, Fox completely missed the real problem with these organizations: they encourage people to give their tacit support to politicians. Who the voter votes for isn’t nearly as significant as the fact that he votes. After all, in an election, the government always wins.

In the 2004 election, I’m quite sure, many otherwise well-meaning people will trudge to the polls and dutifully vote for Dean or whoever wins the Democratic nomination not because they support him, but because they find the current president repugnant. But this tactic is a classic example of missing the forest for the trees. A choice between a Democrat and a Republican is no choice at all, as the primary objective for both parties is consolidated power. When Hillary Clinton rips into Bush, claiming that “This administration is in danger of being the first in American history to leave our nation worse off than when they found it,” she’s not offering a fundamental critique; she’s merely expressing her frustration at not being in charge herself. To borrow a metaphor, it’s just a ball game: you root for one team and curse the other, but you still want the game to be played. Red Sox fans may hate the Yankees, but they don’t want next year’s games to be cancelled.

As Alvin Lowi so aptly notes,

Politics bears a strong resemblance to messianic theology. Regardless of all the obvious problems associated with its practices, adherents remain steadfast in their belief that the savior is just around the next election.

Lowi is a strong proponent of not voting as, if not a solution, at least a step on the path to recognizing that there is a problem. He recognizes that politics is a dehumanizing institution, one that destroys order in the name of government regulation and law-enforcement. The supposed aim of regulation is to prevent the selfish or destructive from harming themselves and others. A laudable goal, in and of itself, but ultimately based on the incredibly naïve proposition that elected or appointed politicians and bureaucrats will, miraculously, rise above the self-interest and narrow-mindedness that are the purported causes of the problem in the first place. In fact, regulation’s primary purpose is to convince the voters and taxpayers that those in power really deserve their money and support. The best way to do this, of course, is to create new problems (or at least exacerbate existing ones) and then promise to fix them in exchange for more money and power.

With this in mind, it should be clear why I tend not to favor political solutions. Even were it possible to accurately capture the “will of the people” (it’s not), one gains nothing by “giving” power (I use scare quotes because voting purports to give a power that doesn’t exist, namely the power to rule others) to those whose job is to do whatever it takes to stay in power. Returning to Lowi:

Once a person recognizes politics is a game and that it is a game in which only politicians can be winners and everyone else must lose, he will get out of the game for self preservation. This game like all games cannot be played without willing losers. While this game cannot be stopped merely by some who refuse to play it, the non-participants can at least know the game is absurd and turn off to it. While a person can be victimized by a gang of players, he cannot lose a game he does not play.

Not active enough for you? Well, keep this in mind:

Remember, politics is built for conflict. That’s its stock in trade. It has to have a war or a threat of one to subsist. Behind every “liberation” movement, crime or environmental “clean-up” campaign, cultural “purification” pogrom or public “enlightenment” program will be found a political racket.


Man, these "serious" posts are hard work.

Posted by: shonk at December 12, 2003 06:21 PM