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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5759/reasons-to-vote-debunked/

Reasons to Vote Debunked!

October 16, 2006 by

As election day nears, America’s get-out-the-vote frenzy is entering high gear, trying to browbeat voters into exercising their franchise with various arguments. Unfortunately, those arguments reflect seriously flawed logic.

“If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice in government.” This is one of many arguments based on the false premise that your vote will affect what passes and who wins. But your vote will not change the outcome. You will prosper or suffer under the same laws and representatives whether you voted for the winner or the loser, or didn’t vote.

“If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about government.” This reflects the same false assumption. But even if your vote would determine the result, binary choices between “electable” candidates and yes or no votes on initiatives written by special interests hardly gives you the power to invoke your preferences.

“If you don’t vote, you don’t care about America.” No amount of care justifies voting if that vote doesn’t alter the outcome. Abstaining has been common since the foundation of our country (although unlike today, it then largely reflected the fact that the government had little power to hurt or help you), when new citizens who had risked their lives to create it cared a great deal.

“Many brave Americans have died to defend your right to vote.” Even granting the flawed premises, those who fought to found and preserve our country did so for our liberty and to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United State,” not for our right to vote. Anyone with even passing familiarity with the American Revolution and Constitution Ratification Debates knows that the key was not the right to vote (e.g., the many references to the tyranny of the majority), but a Constitution that severely circumscribed government’s ability to abuse their citizens. This is why the Supreme Court can override majority votes when they conflict with the Constitution. And if people died for voting rights, why has turnout never approached 100%?

“It is your duty to vote.” Voting is a citizen’s right, implying the right to abstain, not a duty. I have a right to become drunk, divorced and destitute, but that does not give me the duty to do any of them. And if one is not highly informed on an issue, as is true of most, casting an uninformed vote is more a dereliction of duty than a fulfillment of it, contributing nothing valuable to electoral results.“You must vote, because the electoral process would collapse if everyone chose not to vote.” Beyond the insignificant probability of everyone abstaining, this is just the common “if everyone” fallacy. Unless your voting choice alters many others’ choices about whether and/or how to vote, which is unlikely, this is irrelevant to whether you should vote (though politicians must, to be taken seriously, as witnessed by the harassment given to any candidate who ever failed to vote in previous elections).

Do the many invalid “get-out-the-vote” arguments imply that you shouldn’t vote? No. But it implies that you shouldn’t vote for invalid reasons. For instance, since your one electorally insignificant vote will not change the result, voting to transfer others’ wealth to you is simply a morally offensive but ineffective attempt at theft. Similarly, choosing to vote despite massive ignorance produces no benefit to you or society.

Voting can, however, be a valid form of cheering for candidates and issues you believe advance what James Madison termed “the general and permanent good of the whole,” or against those that violate it (that is one reason why voting against ballot initiatives so often makes sense). Your vote may not change the outcome, but it will avoid endorsing efforts to plunder some for others, which, except in politics, we recognize as theft. That is the most your vote can accomplish. So if you vote, that is what your purpose should be.

{ 19 comments }

Cosmic Vortex October 16, 2006 at 6:05 pm

Excellent overview on all the larger points of non-voting.

Thorsern October 16, 2006 at 7:16 pm

…yup, voting is especially pointless in the upcoming Congressional “elections” with the carefully crafted gerrymandering & ballot-access restrictions.

Citizens should at least insist on a basic ‘Quorum’ rule for Congressional elections — nobody is elected to office unless 50%+ of the ‘eligible’ voters cast a ballot at the polls.

Congress requires a 50% quorum for all legislation (… and a two-thirds quorum for serious stuff). Our Congressmen wouldn’t dream of operating without a quorum-rule …. and risking key decisions to a minority.
But they’re quite happy to assume their congressional seats with only a minority citizen vote.

Few if any Congressmen or Presidents have ever taken office with a majority vote of the ‘eligible’ electorate.

Doesn’t ‘Democracy’ require majority votes ??

Adrian October 16, 2006 at 7:46 pm

I agree with many of your points, but one simply cannot say that your vote will not affect or effect who wins. No matter how small, your vote, will alter the outcome. To deny that is silly. The people who vote decide the outcome. Or maybe you are promoting some conspiracy about the manipulation of voting machines, gerrymandering of the most absolute kind, or think the supreme court decides every election. Ballots still have options in most races, even if limited, thus a choice of one among the others necessarily effects the outcome.

I am not saying you should vote, maybe your first point was poorly written, but it is equally flawed logic.

Mark Brabson October 16, 2006 at 7:47 pm

I do tend to agree with the article for the most part.

I participated in the public input process for the post 2000 redistricting in Florida. I submitted for consideration a state House, state Senate and Congressional redistricting package. In the process of drafting my plans, and using the official redistricting software to study other plans, and the final adopted districts, I gained a very keen understanding of this process and an expertise in just how damaging it can be.

I will use my own Congressional District 24 of Florida as an example. The current incumbent is Republican Tom Feeney. He was Speaker of the Florida State House and had this Congressional District custom drawn for his own occupancy. It was drawn to include high income areas and exclude low income and minority areas. It included all his previous voters from his state house district. Basically, he elected himself to Congress and has a free pass into office every two years. As a “voter”, I am just performing a pro forma duty. I am not influencing any election. His victory was guaranteed when that district was drawn. Yes, he theoretically could be taken down in a party primary, but that only happens in very unusual cases, such as Cynthia McKinney and those are few and far between.

Some solutions. In the 2010 reapportionment, raise the total membership of the U.S. House of Representatives to 677, which represents the cube root of the expected population in the 2010 Census. Each state would choose its delegations at large, using a party list system. Parties would be seated in proportion to their raw vote. Or states could be divided into a number of multimember districts, using some sort of multi-member preference voting.

Above all, we must dump single member districts and increase the total size of the U.S. House.

Vanmind October 17, 2006 at 2:19 am

I recommend reading the novel “Seeing” by Jose Saramago. In it, a society holds an election and almost everyone casts a blank ballot–no formal mobilization of activists “getting out the non-vote,” just millions of individuals who happen to reach the same conclusion about the democratic process. The meat of the novel comes from the post-election reactions of citizens and government.

If you ever decide to pick up a copy, try to read Saramago’s earlier novel “Blindness” first (“Seeing” is sort of a sequel).

TGGP October 17, 2006 at 2:33 am

Isn’t Saramago a Marxist or something?

A major problem with voting is that the value of the marginal vote is nothing. It is all or nothing. The market does not work that way. Of course it is likely a bigger problem that costs are externalized, but that’s really an issue of government rather than really voting per se.

Urbanitect October 17, 2006 at 3:42 am

“A major problem with voting is that the value of the marginal vote is nothing. It is all or nothing.”

That’s not quite true. The marginal vote is very valuable up to a 50% + 1 margin, and beyond that it is worthless. This means that in the electoral system there are only two stable factions, the left wing and the right wing, who can aspire to earn enough votes to take power. In order to do this, they offer privileges to electors in exchange for their support at the polls. For example, last election the Republicans “promised” a gay marriage constitutional ban, thus ensuring that the religious voters would support them en masse. It works the same way in any country.

Because democracy is always this process of exchanging privileges for votes, and because these privileges necessarily involve harming one group of people to benefit another, it is incompatible with liberty.

Dan October 17, 2006 at 5:59 am

I just moved to a different state and was planning to enjoy life as a person unregistered to vote. Now I realize that I must register to vote against all the property tax increases on the ballot. Still, no candidate will get my vote.

Vanmind October 17, 2006 at 10:18 pm

About Saramago: I’m not sure, I’ve never looked into his political leanings. All I know is he’s a literary master.

Not to give away too much, but “Seeing” seems to be rather pro-market, anti-state (no doubt about it being anti-state). I still say give it a read, and then maybe post back here. Try “Blindness” first, then “Seeing.” The fiction is aces, makes hacks like Rand look like puke.

Sione Vatu October 18, 2006 at 3:19 pm

The bumper sticker I have says, “You can’t complain. You voted.”

Those who say that one shouldn’t complain if one does not vote have it the exactly the wrong way around. By taking part in the farce they supported it. The politician can rightfully claim to them, “You had your say already. You voted. That’s your contribution as agreed. Now you do as I legislate. That’s my contribution, to legislate on you. I was elected to power remember. That was part of our deal. Now shut up and obey.”

As a non-voter it always amuses me how people fall for this voting of silliness.

Sione

laura October 21, 2006 at 10:41 am

I’m not sure that I even appreciate the point of this conversation. Stop thinking so hard and vote if you want your voice heard, regardless of whether you ‘win’ or ‘lose’. Listening to some media call the shots before an election even takes place is just silly. It irritates me so much when the media takes the liberty of calling a state halfway through the vote. It’s tacky and needs to stop. I also do not understand the offense that has been taken against the revised voter requirements. I need an I.D. to drive. I need an I.D. to buy a bottle of wine. I need an I.D. to fly. I need an I.D. (at some venues) to use my credit card. Why shouldn’t a person be required to present identification as a condition of participating in something as important as an election?! I’ve heard all of the arguements, have considered possible hypothetical scenerios in which some honest soul may truly find themselves perfectly legal and yet unable to vote because of this or that requirement… but my most basic, uncompromising belief is that.. if you really want something (a voice) .. you will take the time… however difficult it may be… (There is now the option of having the I.D. folks COME TO YOU.) …to have yourself some identification made. If you don’t care enough to even put forth that effort… my most logical guess is that your’e just looking for govenment to take care of every little detail of your life anyway.

M E Hoffer October 21, 2006 at 11:14 am

synchronicity, yet again, quote was on right-side margin:

Ludwig von Mises: “Action is, by definition, always rational. One is unwarranted in calling goals of action irrational simply because they are not worth striving for from the point of view of ones own valuations.” – Epistemological Problems of Economics

billwald October 21, 2006 at 8:09 pm

Voting is pointless because we have a one party system. The primary difference between the USofA and the USSR is their party had a name.

Second, if voting is narrower than the margin of error then it probably doesn’t matter which side wins, each side having made an equally logical and/or valid argument. If all elections required a super majority . . . .

Third, elections would be more honest if not secret. I propose a national publiclist of registered voters with addresses and all votes be posted on the WEB.

Greenwood November 14, 2006 at 4:50 pm

I certainly hope you people aren’t serious.

If you don’t like the candidates, run for office or promote other candidates.

We also can’t write every initiative to where it fits everyone’s specifications.

To top it off, someone jumps on saying congresspeople need 50%+ eligible voters to cast ballots for anyone to get elected. This statement could only come from someone who knows that less than 50% voted in the recent election. This is a great approach. Let’s all promote “not voting” and tell congresspeople nobody can enter office because we didn’t vote.

Do you folks like democracy, or should we switch to a dictatorship. In a dictatorship, reasons for not voting could be the least of our worries. I don’t praise the U.S. or it’s politics, but I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather live.

Merlyn Magdalen April 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Actually, no, I don’t believe in Democracy. The idea of majority rule is much scarier to me than a dictator. The idea that the masses know whats best for them is definitely unfounded. As for a dictator, at least the people realize he is in it for himself, and have no delusions about having some sort of choice in the outcomes of politics. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in any type of government, it’s all about control, and people, no matter how hard you try and what laws and punishments you implement, are still free to do as they please.

Jacob November 14, 2006 at 6:35 pm

Dissagreement with government or a system of government has nothing to do with disagreement with culture, or America. American culture and American values have created the most liberal society the world has seen to date, with the highest levels of production and the greatest standard of living, but that doesn’t mean that things within it cannot be improved.

To simply say “vote and shut up” is not an argument. It’s placing a great deal of faith in a man-made system. You simply assume that democracy is good, that the only other option is dictatorship.

No, I don’t like Democracy, it’s nothing but mob rule and has there is nothing positive about it. It is incompatible with liberty and incompatible with real American values.

Saturdaynightspecial November 14, 2006 at 6:39 pm

My senators were not in this election; my Rep was and she was a pro gun candidate. I voted for pro gun candidates, and I voted for local pro gun candidates. In the end, locally, the socialists won; they used the excuse of the Iraq folly – thank you Bush (a pro gun candidate) and your holy crusade into Iraq. Every key position in my state is now held by socialists. The press is loving every bit of it.

Next election should I just observe polling results and then stay home ?

Kevin Dolan July 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I wrote a similar article at my Antimovement website. Good coverage though. Voting is rather silly!

Justin April 21, 2011 at 4:15 am

You really don’t have any excuse for voting for politicians who you suspect of being untrustworthy. And any politician who uses “creative spin” is making deceptive and intentionally misleading statements; undeniably.
Your vote empowers politicians to do what they will. But if they make war, and do all the other evils that history has shown politicians do – then to vote for them is to share their guilt. It is you who is condoning theft, lies, rape, murder and all the other atrocities perpetrated in your name.This is what it means to vote. You may plead ignorance for the voting you did in the past – but NOW YOU KNOW. Did you really think that putting an X on a piece of paper was all you had to do to help your suffering fellow man( and woman, and child) Relieving yourself of responsibility to humanity by giving your authority to people you really don’t know is your free ticket to purgatory, or something similar.Remember: Now you have been told!!!

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