On the Other Hand...

How to Vote Every Day.

by Jim Davies

We get to cast a vote on matters that have a vast effect on our futures, no more than once a year; and once every 4 years for US President.

And the probability that the single vote that you and I cast for him will actually determine the result, is less than the probability that we shall be accidentally killed en route to the voting booth. Fact!

It's therefore really remarkable that so many of us bother to vote. Many say they are surprised that the turnout in US elections is so LOW, usually in the 40% to 60% range; I am surprised, given this statistic, that it's so HIGH.

Yet the power these elected officials exercise over us is enormous. They govern an increasingly detailed range of day to day activities. I'm in business, and recently (for example) received a letter from one of my customers demanding, on behalf of some Federal Agency, to know whether my enterprise is owned by minorities or women. Well, I especially applaud Blacks if they can run a business despite the heavy regulation we all suffer, but I refused and told him what he could do with his form. Of course, it won't help trade; but if nobody protests, what is to stop this country degenerating into Nazism?

Point is, while our society is much touted as a "democracy", in which government is supposed to rule only with the "consent of the governed", in reality we each have only a microscopic degree of control over enormously important matters that affect us: how our kids are educated, what job we may select, how much pay we take home, how we can plan our retirement, the ways in which we may enjoy recreation, whether we or our sons will risk life in war.

That infinitesimal control is part and parcel of the political world, the "Public Sector", the amount of power we allow government to take.

Of course it's small! There's no arithmetic alternative, in a nation of 250 million, in every area of life we delegate to government. Even in some possible national "electronic town meeting" our vote would count as one 250 millionth, on issues all of which are matters in which winner-takes-all; it is inevitable that each of us will lose.

And that's a very powerful argument for delegating less and less to government.

There is an alternative, and it's called the "market", and there is still some of it left, and I'd like to show how very much more influence you and I have on our futures in the market arena compared with the political arena.

Suppose some Very Important Scientist discovered a new and highly beneficial breakfast cereal. It seems so good for us, that he asks his friends in Congress to make everybody eat it. You know, the usual fatuous arguments about the cost of health care would all be rolled out, just as they are for compelling the use of biker helmets and car seat belts.

And what do you know, the propaganda is so effective that, come next election, his friends win office and it's passed in to Law. From now on, everybody must eat a plate of Uncle Sam's Fabulous Fibers before setting off to work, and the cost is borne by the taxpayer in the national interest. Winner, you see, takes all. Wheatie eaters are out of luck; what they would have spent on Wheaties, is now taken in taxes to pay for Uncle's choice.

But in the market (which happily still remains, for breakfast cereals), every one of us exercises choice and pays our money accordingly. There is a large variety of alternatives offered for sale (check any supermarket) and - here's the key - every one of us gets exactly what we "vote" for, every time. That's the wonder of the market. Nobody is forced to accept the choice of somebody else. Each of us votes, with our own money, and we get always get exactly what we choose and pay for. And if the range of available choices isn't large enough, in a proper (ie, free) market, nobody prevents anyone from designing a new alternative and offering it for sale.

And so in a free society, which is what I am here to recommend, the things delegated to government (and over which you and I therefore lose virtually all control) would be few or none, while nearly everything would be available for choice in its own marketplace. We'd each regain control over our own lives.

Taxes, accordingly, would be slim to none; and regulations would be limited to simple matters like which side of the road to drive on (one of the very few issues where winner must take all, for the common survival.)

Schooling? You choose, you pay. Out of the dozens of educational alternatives a free competitive market would provide (in the hope of making profits), every one of us would choose what we each think best; religious or not, disciplined or not, large or not, etc. And my bet is that the average market price would be far less than the current per-student taxes in the government school monopoly.

Work? You freely offer your labor for sale, for whatever you and the buyer agree that it's worth. Involuntary unemployment would therefore be impossible, and of course, you'd keep every penny of what you earned.

Retirement? - the money that today is being confiscated for SS "contributions" would all be yours to invest in a genuine life-insurance plan, which I'm told (by an insurance expert) would even today buy you benefits three to four times higher than the SS scheme delivers. The market at work!

Though some would be harder to privatize than others, it's my belief that no single activity that government monopolizes today could not be done much better and/or much cheaper by a free market; and in such a market, you and I would be "voting" not once a year or two or four, but many times every single day.

And having voted, we'd all always get exactly what we voted for.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 40

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