Voter Apathy? Quite the Contrary
“Go out and vote! It’s your responsibility!” says the concerned citizen. Once he accepts this seemingly innocuous statement as his premise, the derision of those who don’t vote with the phrase “voter apathy” naturally follows.
“Well, if you don’t vote, it must be because you just don’t care!” But is it really our responsibility to vote? And is it really out of only apathy that someone could choose not to vote?
Let’s start off with a clear understanding of what the State is. The State is a monopoly of force over a given territory. What the State decrees is forced upon the entire nation, upon every individual who may or may not be opposed to that decree.
Voting is an act of taking part in the State’s process of forming decrees. By voting, you are imposing your opinion on someone else.
We all have opinions and surely have the right to have an opinion. But when you take part in the political process, you are forcing someone else to go along with your opinion.
For example, if 51 people vote that we all dye our hair red, and 49 people vote against it, all 100 people end up having to dye their hair red even though 49 did not want to.
So by its very nature, politics turns into a “them vs. us” situation. I want black hair, and you want red hair. Normally we can both go our separate ways and choose whatever hair color(s) we want. If we disagree, I can try to convince you that keeping your hair its natural color is a better idea, and you can try to convince me of the opposite. We may have differing opinions, but there is no inherent animosity between us just because we disagree. But as soon as this turns into a political issue, animosity becomes far more likely just because we disagree. It immediately becomes the red-dye hair people vs. the natural hair people (well, now that I think about it, I guess natural red heads can be on either side).
A more realistic example: people who believe only heterosexual marriage is valid vs. those who think homosexuals should be able to get married as well. Wait a second. Why not individually define marriage as we desire and go from there? If we think someone’s marriage is invalid or immoral, why not peacefully persuade instead of forcing our opinion on others? Answer: it’s part of the political process.
Now that we understand what the State is, let’s go back to our original two questions. Is it our responsibility to engage in the political process outlined above? After all, if everyone decides not to vote, how will the country be run? The answer is simpler than expected. All the current functions of the State have at one time or another been handled without the institution. There is no necessity of the State, therefore no necessity to vote, and therefore no responsibility to vote.
What about the second question? Do people who choose not to vote only act such a way out of apathy? Quite the contrary. It is precisely because I do care that I do not vote.
I care about my friends, my family, and society. I care about myself.
I think we all want to change the world for the better. We see problems and we want to fix them. We see suffering and we want to get rid of it. What I’m advising though, is to reject political action as a means of changing the world. Your primary focus should be on yourself. You have direct control over yourself and so logically that’s the first person you should change. But happily, this is also the best method if you want to change others. Start by setting an example. And if someone is open to conversing with you, use peaceful persuasion. But never use force. If you want others to change for the better, they have to change of their own free will. Forcing them to accommodate to your beliefs is not only wrong-headed, but it’s contrary to your original goal. After all, do you really want to live in a world where people force their beliefs on others?