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“If You Don’t Vote, You Have No Right to Complain”

With the presidential election coming later this year, and one that I might not vote in, I thought it was an appropriate time to respond to a criticism I’ve received in the past but never answered adequately.

“If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”

Here are three reasons why I think that’s wrong:

1. An individual vote doesn’t matter.

In 2012, the United States had 129 million people turn out to vote. Even if we divide that by 50 and account for some of the differences in state sizes and voting procedures, it’s still clear that your vote is a nearly infinitisemal part of the total. The truth is that your vote only counts in the case of a tiebreak. If there is no tiebreak, even if you hadn’t voted, the results would have turned out the same.

Why is this relevant? Because it doesn’t make sense to say that unless you did something of symbolic value, with no real impact, you have no right to complain. The argument’s plausibility rests on you being able to do something about your situation, and if it loses that, it loses its basis.

2. If a person’s views are outside the box, those views can’t be furthered by voting.

Imagine a box of opinion in mainstream politics. Anything within this box is votable – there is some candidate or the other that represents the opinion and is willing to fight to make it reality. But what if your views are outside the box? If your views aren’t represented by a candidate with plausible chances of becoming president, then they simply can’t be furthered by voting for existing candidates. Once again, voting turns into an action without consequence. (In reality, presidential elections are worse than the box analogy makes it seem: you actually have only two distinct points to choose from, and any view outside, and also, in between, is not votable – I could add more nuance to this, but I’ll leave it there for now)

3. There are other ways to advance a political cause than through voting.

The biggest fallacy the argument exhibits is its overwhelming emphasis on the importance of voting, as if there exist no other means to change a society one lives in. You can start a blog, talk with your friends, talk to strangers, start an organization, donate to an organization, educate yourself, live your ideals, join a protest, etc. etc. Even complaining itself is a way you can advance your cause. And with that, I think the argument is fully demolished.

 

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Bonus Video:

3 Blog Posts I Now Disagree With

Reading up for a post about economic calculation and it’s taking me a while because I want to make sure I properly understand the concept. So thought I’d throw this together for the time being.
Many of the posts I put here are ones where the conclusion I have hasn’t changed, but the way I get to the conclusion has. Bad arguments are bad arguments.

So in a sense, this is less of me making a list of posts (whose conclusions) I disagree with, but rather making a list of posts I think are bad. If you think these posts are bad too, then great! We’re in agreement! Just don’t assume these are posts representative of the typical quality of this website. Nevertheless, if you read some of the other posts and think the quality still sucks, then feel free to give me some feedback on how I can improve.

I’m going to start with the smaller errors and save the worst ones for last:

1) Are you a libertarian?

I actually like this piece I wrote overall. I think it makes some good points for libertarianism that the layman might find appealing, and that was my target audience. However, I pulled the following fact out of my ass:

The philosophers of the pasts were generally consequentialist utilitarians. In other words, their philosophy stressed the outcome that would be the “best” for mankind. The hidden assumption was that they were willing to do absolutely anything to make that outcome reality. That is, they were willing to aggressively, violently force other individuals to act accordingly with their utopian desires. And the prevailing mechanism was the State.

While it’s true that there are many consequentialist philosophers, it’s definitely not appropriate to throw that label on the ancient ones (I think it would actually be more applicable to modern ones). To claim this is a characteristic of the majority of past philosophers is probably blatantly false.

2) Voter Apathy? Quite the Contrary

This article was written to show that one might not necessarily be apathetic just because he decides not to vote, and secondly, to dissuade people from voting. While I still agree with the conclusion of this piece (maybe I’ll write another post when voting time comes around again), one of the arguments I made is clearly not a good one:

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. Normally we can both go our separate ways and choose whatever hair color(s) we want…

While this is true, as a libertarian who thinks there indeed is some proper use of force (self-defense), I cannot use this argument against voting, at least without proper clarifications. Since the libertarian is in favor of the non-aggression principle, and thus against activities such as murder, rape, and theft, he is in favor of the right to use violence to stop these activities. In other words, he is in favor of forcing his opinion that murder, rape, etc. should not be allowed on others.

Of course, there aren’t that many people who the libertarian is forcing his opinion on. In fact, the vast majority of the public agrees with outlawing these activities (there are obviously some issues with this argument since libertarians are individualists and typically don’t care what the majority thinks, however).

It can also be argued that the particular use of force of self-defense is more justified than others. The libertarian only allows the use of force in response to the initiation of force by someone else. Defense against those who are already transgressing against others is certainly necessary, while forcing other opinions of taste and personal choices on individuals has a variety of unintended consequences. My intention isn’t to prove this argument at the moment but rather to show that it exists and could be used. So let’s move on:

3) Does God Exist? Yup

I realized pretty quickly after I had written this that there is so much I don’t understand about the arguments for God. While that’s true about virtually every subject I learn about (I’m just a student after all), I think I’ve been lucky to have access to good sources on most topics, something I lacked when I jumped into a discussion about first causes. This isn’t completely my fault, of course: I don’t think 99% of people that jump into discussions about God properly understand teleology, and most don’t even discuss the metaphysical views necessary to reaching conclusions about God but instead decide to argue at a less basic (incorrect) level.

I think I’ve found the proper sources (check out The Last Superstition by Edward Feser yourself) to have an educated conversation about this, so hopefully next time I bring this up I won’t be so uninformed.

Note: I still like the intuition I give in that post, but obviously I was looking for more than intuition, I was looking for a proof.

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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?

It’s Your Responsibility to Vote for Someone Who Will Put Your Child in Harm’s Way

So I was googling articles about the “responsibility” citizens have to vote, and I came across this paragraph:

“If you are a Spouse or Family member of someone in service to our country, do you not support that person as much as you can? What greater lack of support can be shown than to not participate in the process of choosing the person who can and will send your service member off into harm’s way?”

Haha, I completely understand the point this guy is trying to make here, but his wording is absolutely terrible. Great job man! Voting for the guy that can and WILL put your child in a deathtrap is your responsibility, and I’m glad you care so much about your son!

Anyway, I’m going to make a post about this topic sometime in the next few days, so come back and read it if you’re interested (prob. Mon. or Tues.).