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Be Responsible, Be Patriotic: Don’t Vote!

-Some people would say it’s a person’s civic duty to vote
-That’s very much like saying that its our civic duty to give surgery advice…

It’s almost sacrilege to say “Don’t Vote” in the US these days. People are shamed into voting by the loyal minions of mainstream politics. But does a higher voter turnout actually help society? In Bryan Caplan’s book, Myth of the Rational Voter, he explains in great detail, and with extensive citations and statistics, how the average voter has certain cognitive biases that cause him to vote in ways that have a net negative outcome for society (they’re not uninformed, Caplan argues, they’re misinformed, which is much worse). And since the solitary goal of politicians (the successful ones, at least) is to get elected, their policies are based on pandering to the misinformed public. So their whole ideologies, the ideologies of both major parties, have come to represent policies that are damaging to society as a whole. In effect, democracy is destroying the United States.

But it goes deeper than the fact that most voters misunderstand the issues. It goes deeper than the fact that both major candidates represent ideologies that are abhorrent to most economically educated people. It goes deeper than all of that. You shouldn’t vote because voting is pointless. It’s a complete waste of your time. It’s a suggestion box for slaves.

A lot of people are trying to convince you to vote. They’re mostly celebrities and other self-important social suck-ups who don’t have a clue about the politics they’re supporting or the related economics anyway. But why? Why is so much money, influence, advertising, and general energy going toward encouraging people to vote? Because the system wants a high turnout. They don’t care who wins, and they know both candidates are the same. They just want you to think you’ve made a difference. It’s the same principle as a dictator claiming 100% voter turnout, it gives him legitimacy. It fools the fools into thinking they have an actual stake in the political process. On top of that, the masses cannot fathom a society where their voice doesn’t matter, so they convince themselves it does. But as Wendy McElroy said, “Voting is not an act of political freedom, it’s an act of political conformity“.

Think of it this way… do you have more freedom in your local supermarket, or in your local government? As Arnold Kling says:

The absence of monopoly means that you can exercise exit, even if you cannot exercise voice. The presence of monopoly means that, at most, you can exercise voice.

Neither my local supermarket nor any of its suppliers has a way for me to exercise voice. They don’t hold elections. They don’t have town-hall meetings where they explain their plans for what will be in the store. By democratic standards, I am powerless in the supermarket.

And yet, I feel much freer in the supermarket than I do with respect to my county, state, or federal government. For each item in the supermarket, I can choose whether to put it into my cart and pay for it or leave it on the shelf. I can walk out of the supermarket at any time and go to a competing grocery.

The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly.

Your voice does not matter in this process. Don’t believe me? Ask any economist. Read what Steven Landsburg has to say on the subject, for instance. Look at the numbers. You are statistically irrelevant and you will not make a difference.

So skip it this year, and go do something positive with your time. Blog about something you’re interested in; go help out a homeless person or donate some money to your favorite charity; go read a book like Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter or Michael Shermer’s The Mind of the Market; go to work and actually make some money or go to the store and spend some. Whatever you do, just don’t vote.

Reason Magazine’s Remix of this popular ad:

Also, this is my favorite sentence of the week:
“After the election, the new President will be viewed as having a “mandate” to enact policies (including policies that were never proposed during the campaign). Meanwhile, the vast majority of voters are expressing their identity, not their policy preferences.”

It comes from Arnold Kling’s recent post entitled “The Wonders of Democracy“.