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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14486/if-you-didnt-vote-dont-complain/

If You Didn’t Vote, Don’t Complain

November 3, 2010 by

You know those corporations you hate so much? Do you own stock in them, and do you vote at shareholders’ meetings? No? Then shouldn’t you stop complaining?

Every year, corporations hold shareholders’ meetings at which new boards of directors are elected. It’s easy to make your voice heard. All you have do to is own a share of stock. Some companies probably even allow you to mail in your ballots or appoint proxies to cast your vote for you.

If you aren’t exercising your right to vote in a shareholders’ meeting, then you are forfeiting an opportunity to make your voice heard. And aren’t you just making excuses if you’re saying “one vote won’t matter” or “what’s my one share going to do when there are institutional investors that own hundreds of thousands if not millions of shares that will drown out my vote” or “the people who will get elected are just members of an Old Boys’ Club”?

Thanks to fact that there are formal markets for shares of ownership in business enterprises, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard when we vote at shareholders’ meetings. Thousands, indeed millions, of us don’t take advantage of that opportunity. But couldn’t yours be the vote that makes the difference?

{ 26 comments }

Daniel Kuehn November 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm

That’s an odd argument.

Usually when people complain about corporations it’s because of some infringement on them without compensation (spilling oil, fouling up air, tainted food, etc.). Owning and therefore having a say in the management of capital (1.) shouldn’t be a requirement before people expect to be compensated for imposed costs – so it’s not really relevant to most complaints about corporations, and (2.) wouldn’t even really do much to help people who bear uncompensated costs even if they did own shares.

So what is your point here, really?

Do you think peoples’ primary complaint about corporations is that they don’t have a say in the selection of the board of directors?

Jeremy H. November 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Daniel,
While some complaints about corporations fall into the category you discuss, I’m not sure if that is what people “usually” are complaining about.

Another complaint is profits are too high, with several sub-categories: workers wages are too low (compared to CEOs), or they aren’t giving enough back to the community. Also: the products they are making aren’t of the quality and/or price consumers desire (e.g., planned obsolescence, conspicuous consumption, sin goods). Or: they are putting small mom-and-pop stores out of business. Or: corporations aren’t socially responsible enough, which could include external costs, but includes many other things as well.

I think that was Art’s point.

Peter November 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Seriously? Is it not obvious that an article entitled “If You Didn’t Vote, Don’t Complain”, posted on mises.org a day after a US election, is not about corporations?

J. Murray November 3, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Considering the winning candidate is heavily dictated by the location of the polls and if his name is first on the ballot or not, it’s hard to consider that my well thought out vote truly counts.

Johnes Florenceburg November 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

This is one of the most idiotic articles I’ve ever seen. “Don’t complain if you didn’t vote.” Not voting is also a form of protest. Your argument in effect calls for a silencing of protest, and therefore free speech, which is hypocritical from a Libertarian standpoint. Additionally, the people that did vote are DIRECTLY responsbile for the failures we are experiencing in Congress. They put the garbage in by casting the ballot.

Moreover, the consumer who doesn’t own stock does vote for a corporation through their choice of spending their money on said corporation’s merchandise. Or did we forget Economics 101 again here?

Come down off of your high-horse and obtain some common-sense.

Art Carden November 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I think we’re in complete agreement here, so I should probably go ahead and say something lest I be misunderstood further. This was supposed to be satire illustrating the absurdity of the oft-repeated claim made in the title: my guess is that most of the people who criticize non-voters for complaining about politics also don’t vote at corporate shareholder meetings even though they could. And yet they probably complain about corporations anyway. Those who hold that voting is a holy obligation are being inconsistent by not insisting that people vote at every opportunity.

Johnes Florenceburg November 3, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Oh… wow… I have no sense of humor…

:(

J. Murray November 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm

It’s not about a sense of humor or not, the satire wasn’t over the top and required you to click the link where Art is actively telling us that our vote truly doesn’t matter.

Peter November 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

It’s not about a sense of humor or not, the satire wasn’t over the top and required you to click the link where Art is actively telling us that our vote truly doesn’t matter.

Hardly. You just had to read the title.

Art Carden November 3, 2010 at 2:52 pm

No worries. I used to make the “no vote/no complaint” argument, and I’ve become more and more convinced that the non-voters are those who have the right to criticize.

Tyrone Dell November 3, 2010 at 6:42 pm
Art Carden November 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

And you’re right, it would be a pretty idiotic argument if I were serious!

JFF November 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Don’t worry, I did something similar to a LRC blog post recently.

billwald November 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm

More than 60% of stock trades are made by computer. The computer reads the prospectus and votes the shares? Not quite. The technical traders only care about trends, not company management. I get a stack of proxies every week and they go right into the trash.

Company CEOs sit on each other’s boards and vote each other raises. The occasional individual stock holder who vote his shares doesn’t mean squat. That’s the American system.

Inquisitor November 4, 2010 at 7:05 am

Do you have a point even?

J. Murray November 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Another angle that I posted, about two years late, on that link of yours – in pure statistics, you’d have to basically hit a 1 in 16 billion set of odds just for your vote to count in an election where there were 30 voters. A number hasn’t been named yet to describe the odds of hitting the right set of circumstances where your vote legitimately counts in an election involving millions of people.

jmorris84 November 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Art, I think the only reason I knew you were being sarcastic is because if you actually were being serious, it wouldn’t really make sense being posted at this site. Maybe next time, be a little more obvious! :)

Robert Hamburger November 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm

With the election behind us, an appeal.

Open Letter to the newly elected Senators and Representatives: http://www.hamburgersstand.com/406/an-open-letter-to-the-newly-elected-senators-and-representatives/

Daniel November 3, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Mr. Hamburger, I love your other site, Real Ultimate Power

Ohhh Henry November 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Voting in a government election is very similar to voting for a board of representatives in a condominium association. Except that instead of confining itself to making decisions about awarding maintenance contracts for common areas (roof, parking lot and lawns) this condominium association insists that it has the power to break down your door and kill you if agents hired by the board determine that you’re doing something which they claim is harmful – to yourself. They will also break in and kill you or put you in a cage if you: don’t put your children in the school that they run; don’t use the paper scrip that they issue for all of your shopping; patronize banks or other businesses of which they haven’t approve in writing; fail to pay people your employees a rate which they determine to be fair; refuse to pay the salaries of goons that they hire to go on looting raids into other neighborhoods; and a thousand other things, to which end the elected board is constantly dreaming up more and more rules which they can use against you.

And the more intolerable that living in the condominium gets, the more difficult they make it for you to get out – starting with financial penalties and ending with razor wire, searchlights and machine guns.

Of course they have a million ways of rigging the election of the condo association board members, from running slates of sham ideological foes to give an illusion of choice, to outright vote tampering.

You can either vote and then claim that you have a “voice” … or you can refuse to vote and deny them the pretense that their stealing and killing is done with the will and consent of you and your fellow condominium owners.

Gil November 4, 2010 at 1:01 am

Should the real analogy proving the invalidity of Democracy be that only stockholders/owners can vote and make decisions on the future of their corporation and people who are not stockholders/owners have not right to vote whatsoever? In other words, no one actually owns government or society but everyone gets a vote anyway. Hence in the same way non-stockholders can’t just barge in and cast votes as its not their place so too Democracy is invalid because voters have no private ownership intererst in government/society.

Jake November 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I’m going to second Jmorris’s comment, I wouldn’t have picked up on the sarcasm if I didn’t know better than to think the author was serious.

Art Carden November 4, 2010 at 8:23 am

Thanks. And re: Seattle’s comment below, I find it kind of terrifying that a lot of people might find this convincing. I’ll remember to add tags next time. :)

Adam Berkowicz November 4, 2010 at 6:07 am

How can you all be on a Mises blog and not get the sarcastic inference implied?

Seattle November 4, 2010 at 7:03 am

Because this is politics. No matter what incredibly dumb, sarcastic argument you can come up with, there’s a million people who actually believe it. Mr. Carden’s arguments mirrored those of real “Vote or you can’t complain!” people.

Jay November 4, 2010 at 10:10 am

“If You Didn’t Vote, Don’t Complain” is really a flaw-filled argument. Because there’s no logic to it at all. Really, the case is if you DO vote, you cannot complain, because if you elect politicians that go to Washington and make things worse, then you’re partly responsible for that person getting there in the first place, so you have no right to complain.

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