On the Other Hand...

by Jim Davies

Committing a Vote


Casting a vote is normally one of the most immoral acts we can commit.

That opinion flies, I'm quite aware, in the face of Conventional Wisdom. Well, so much for Conventional Wisdom; for I'm about to prove it's true.

Voting is not, unfortunately, a criminal act, but only because - in its own interests, of course - no Legislature has declared it so. It has all the hallmarks of a crime, but has not been given that title. 


Like most sound and reliable rules, this one has an exception: it is that when the vote is cast wholly for the common good, it is untainted. That is very rarely possible, however. A direct referendum vote to reduce taxes, for example, would qualify, for tax reduction is always in the common good, being the reduction of wholesale theft; so would a vote to have a common rule that everyone drives on the right (or the left) side of the road, for such a rule clearly benefits everyone in general, not just some group in particular.

But such voting opportunities are very rare; normally, we can only vote for a candidate who has carefully crafted his or her platform to benefit one or more specific segments of society (which he judges will maximize his support) at everyone else's expense. So, instead of the general welfare, he will do his best (and be openly proud of it!) to deliver some particular welfare, so damaging the common or general interest of Us The People.

In fact, one of the very few things that Congress is allowed to do, on the few days of the year that the Founders supposed it would meet, is to "provide for the general welfare" (US Constitution, Article I, section 8.) But 99.99% of today's Congress is wholly occupied in providing for the particular welfare of its most dedicated lobbyists and supporters instead.

It Encourages Them

Perhaps you've seen that great bumpersticker, "Don't Vote, It Encourages Them!" Unless one of the above rare opportunities presents itself, that would be my very serious advice. Once elected to power, you see, the R&D Party has done its best to exclude all others (in New Hampshire, they blew it: the Libertarians got four men elected to Concord) and has expressly denied voters the chance, by ballot choice, to vote for "None of the Above".

One of the things I like very much about the Libertarians is that whenever they hold an internal election - for a nominee for public office, for example - "None of the Above" is ALWAYS a candidate, on the ballot, by Party Byelaws. It's a fine mark of respect for the sovereignty of the voter.

Routinely, politicians love to boast that the voter turnout was High, or Higher than Last Year, or Solid, or whatever. Those statistics have fortunately been rather sick during the last few decades - there have been so many people wise enough to follow the advice on the bumpersticker - but when it staggers above 50%, all politicians in The System celebrate. The higher the turnout, the more they feel their System is vindicated.

In some countries, like the Soviet Union, it was made compulsory to vote - so the Communists could boast to the world that 95% of the people, or so, voted Communist. The fact that the People there had no other choice wasn't mentioned.

Pols here would love to have the same arrangement, but so far have not had the gall to make failing to vote illegal, as well as "Unpatriotic." Stay tuned.


Why is voting immoral, with the exceptions noted? - because you and I, if we vote, are firstly endorsing a system that is thoroughly corrupt, and secondly, we are taking specific and deliberate action to better ourselves at the expense of our neighbors. Outside the voting booth, that is properly called "theft", or worse; inside, it's called "Good Citizenship."

The guilt, you see, is not confined to the politician who SEEKS the vote of special interests; it rests also on individuals who PROVIDE those votes.

That betterment is often in the form of directly transferred money, but takes other forms too. I'll end with a few examples to make the point.

Here's a property owner, who uses his vote to deny a neighbor the right to build on his own, nearby lot. The villain is voting for some candidate who promises to impose, or retain, Zoning Laws that have that effect. The result is that the villain gains (his property, keeping its fine view, stays valuable) while his neighbor loses (his land is prevented from returning to him its true market value.) Outside the voting booth, we'd rightly call that theft.

Or here's a parent, who's not too hot at arithmetic, who firmly believes that the government's school monopoly will "educate" her children "free". She is terribly mistaken, as I can demonstrate, but she believes it. Many do. And she casts her vote for a candidate who promises to keep that tax-funded monopoly in place. What she's doing (or what she thinks she's doing) is to make her neighbors who may have fewer kids or none, pay her school bills; tens of thousands of dollars' worth of grand larceny. Legalized, but immoral. And here's a worker, earning much more than his job is worth, just because the Feds have erected a tarriff or other barrier to make foreign goods or labor more expensive than they would naturally be. He votes for candidates who swear to sustain those barriers, so he gains. Who loses? - the foreign competitor, obviously (contributing directly to world poverty), but also the rest of American society; for we are denied access to lower-cost goods or labor. He voted for us to lose, and for himself to gain. That's immoral.

Back to Subject Index