In this article I will present to you an argument which questions the practical relevancy of voting. I consider this a “devil’s advocate” perspective, because I do NOT consider myself an anarchist…that is, one who denies any and all efficacy of government. And though it may seem that I have convinced myself one way or another on this, I assure you I have not. I have pondered the question of the true value and efficacy of government and have not been able to utterly conclude and convince myself that government cannot work. Indeed, I would submit that given the right context government can be exceedingly beneficial, and there are objective examples of this which can be cited. Many of my close friends are politically active and I by no means intend to disparage their interest or their opinions.
This article is one regarding, particularly, voting, not necessarily government qua government as we currently observe it. However, in order to address that topic I needed to examine what I believe can be argued is the fundamental premise which underwrites government currently (but not necessarily absolutely, and not necessarily initially or innately) and proceed to make my argument from there. So that’s what I did.
But I admit that my premise may be flawed, and though it may sound like it, I am by no means suggesting that voting is necessarily inherently useless or perpetuates a malevolent system or idea. This is only true if we accept the premise, which we may not. And if the premise is true. Which I concede it may not be.
“Does voting really matter?”
Wait. Before you answer, let me put it another way:
Does it really matter who gets elected? And don’t think transiently. Think ultimately. Think: does it matter, when the premise of government has realized its ultimate purpose and necessary conclusion, who holds office and who does not? For every premise must lead to a practical outcome, and this outome is inevitable if the premise is consistently underwriting and perpetuating the apparatus of that which is established upon it. Which of course it will be, for otherwise that which has been established upon the premise will deviate so far from the premise that it will no longer fit the definition or practical description of that which has been established. In other words, as long as government as we know it currently is defined as “government”, instead of something else, or “government”, but qualified by a definition which is markedly different from what is observed, then the premise will persist. Which means the conclusion must necessarily be realized.
I guess I should pause here and ask: what is the premise which underwrites government? Do you know? Have you given it much thought? If not, don’t worry. Most people haven’t. Oh, certainly people have ideas and opinions about what government should and shouldn’t do for and to people, how big or small it should be, and what kind of power it should possess for the purposes of structuring people’s lives, and what kinds of institutions it should be able to legally establish on behalf of certain constituents, or itself, or what offices should exist and for how long the terms of these offices should be. In other words, many people have ideas and opinions with respect to government after the premise. But this isn’t the real issue…meaning it isn’t the root issue, or even, really, and ultimately, the operative issue. And further, government isn’t really rooted in the nature of itself, but…
The real issue is the nature of man. Of you and I. Of the individual over which the government will rule, or for which the government will act on his or her behalf.
So I ask again: what is the premise behind government?
Think about it.
Okay, that’s enough time. Do you have it? No? That’s okay, I will tell you what the premise is.
The premise is that man, according to his nature, must be governed. That at best, man free from the compelling force of a central authority will necessarily, again by nature, organize an existence inferior to that established through government. And it will be so inferior that it must fail eventually, because the nature of man is to consider himself an individual first, entitled to the full sum and substance of what is procured and expressed by that existence, which thus must lead to the individual subjective cognitive definition of existence which in turn must lead to chaos, and the wild and unfettered exploitation and destruction of humanity at the hands of itself.
And because of this premise regarding man’s nature, governments are established (by men, a contradiction never really addressed) to create an “objective” and “organized” society so that man will not dissolve into a sea of anarchy and an orgy of sin, but will flourish and prosper in peace and plenty, and will survive to pass on this objective and benevolent existence to his children, who will, under the authority (to compel by force) of government, also experience such prosperity.
In other words, and to put it more precisely. Man needs governing because he will literally destroy himself without it. Man thus needs government to create an organized reality for him, to ensure his survival and to promote his well being. And what this really means is that man, himself, individually, is fundamentally insufficient to his own existence. He possesses neither the innate epistemological adequacy or the metaphysical singularity–the fundamental Ability–which can amount to anything efficacious, relevant, or moral at all. Therefore:
Man qua man = the death of man
Which means that man qua man = the absence, or the the NOT, of man, meaning that to exist as man is to, in fact, contradict man.
And therefore, according to the premise of government then…
Government = the life of man; which means the TRUTH of man
Governement = the true and actual existence of man, and thus the efficacy and relevancy of man
Government = man; or Government IS man, FOR man.
And because this is the foundational premise of government, the reality is–and this will scandalize–that in the matter of the democratic voting by the people for their public representatives it simply, ultimately, does not matter WHO gets elected. For he or she who represents the people–the collective–cannot by definition represent the individual. Indeed, the very title “public representative” or “public servant” reveals the inherent contradiction. There is no “people”, no “public”–it’s an abstraction that has been infused by false metaphysics with some kind practical efficacy. But this efficacy is also false, for what is wholly abstract cannot have any benevolent or rational effect upon man’s non-abstract experience. The “public” is an ideal. The individual is what’s real. Thus, a public servant cannot by definition serve individuals. A public servant serves the ideal. He or she serves the abstraction of “public”.
And what is the purpose of an abstraction? The purpose of an abstract concept is to affirm and promote that (he or she or they) which utilizes it in service to their practical organization of the environment in order to realize a desired outcome. We use abstractions like “left” and “right” and “over” and “beyond” and “miles” to get where we want to go. SImilarly, the government uses the abstraction of “public good” to go where it desires to go. And it desires to go, always and ever, back to where it started: the premise. Man needs governing. Man can only really efficaciously and truly exist through government. Government’s existence IS man’s existence. (And isn’t this the notion we all seem to concede at some level and to some degree–that humanity perishes without government?) Thus, man must be compelled to the affirmation of that which is his only true self: the government.
To be a public servant then is not to serve the individual, but to serve the government, which is the material establishment of the abstraction of “public”. Individual existence, according to the premise, must be subordinated to the governing representative in order that true existence–public, collective existence, determined and defined according to the dictates of governing authority which wields self-legalized force as the ultimate means of compelling individual submission and represents the abstract (“transcendent” is actually how it is described) ideal of “public”–can be realized. Once this objective is finally fully realized, we are assured that paradise will be manifest.
Now, it is no surprise that the philosophical–especially metaphysical–premise which affirms government could very well mean that the worst kinds of people will seek positions in it. And because the inherent authoritarianism of government can be said to cater to those with proclivities towards authoritarianism–because they are the ones who naturally thrive in such an environment–it is to be expected that most people in positions of public power might likely trend, personality-wise, to the antisocial side of the psychological spectrum. Thus, to be suspicious of politicians and political candidates is both a natural and rational mindset for people.
However, it would be a bit shortsighted to turn this natural and perfectly understandable suspicion into a cause by which we might engage in entertaining the notion that it actually makes a difference who we vote for and who we don’t; who is elected and who isn’t.
Because when it comes right down to the root of things, it is NOT the nature of people that is the problem. It is the nature of government–or rather the philosophy from which government springs. It doesn’t matter WHO is governing, because the outcomes are predicated ultimately not on what these individuals do or don’t do, or what their personality is or isn’t, but on the metaphysical premises which necessitate government in the first place. You see, government is not erected upon itself–it doesn’t spring from its own vacuum. It is merely a logical extesion of the aforementioned premise. Because man needs governing, there will be government, and it will fundamentally look a certain way, and it will fundamentally act a certain way. It will root all of what it practically accomplishes upon the necessary right it assumes to compel individual behavior by force, because this is what is demanded by the premise.
To put it another way, the problem isn’t the hypothetical malevolent or psychologically immoral government official–indeed, we just as well might assume that all officials are in fact benevolent and well-intentioned. But the be the benevolent official cannot redefine the premise (or can he or she? You decide.). Government renders such benevolence moot according to its nature. No matter how well-intentioned a government official is, his or her actions will be given categorical moral and practical value by the absolute philosophical context of government. There is no such thing as “good” individuals in government. Because government has nothing to do with individuals.
Now, occasionally government will act in spite of the root premise, and individuals will benefit from the altruism. When the rights of personal property are upheld; when dangerous criminals are removed from society and neutralized; when peace is brokered between nations and war averted. These are good things, and government is rightly lauded for them. But eventually the government working from the premise will create so many opportunities for it to act in spite of itself that these altruistic acts must inevitably decline, and then finally be eschewed altogether. For government cannot act in the interest of its own demise…by definition it cannot act out of the assumption that it has no right to act. And since act it must, to its own end, according to the premise which validates its very existence, act it will. In other words, these acts of altruism will eventually be seen, when enough opportunities for them arise, as either existential threats to government, or a means by which its mandate to rule can be further realized through manipulating them. And at this point, functionally, they no longer occur at all.
So…why vote then?
To limit government?
No. To say the government is too powerful and that we need to elect person x, y, or z to curtail it is a contradiction, because what we are really saying is that the government needs to limit its power BY its power. That is, we accept the contradiction that government can restrict government. If the government uses its power to limit itself then its “limitation” is really an extension of its power.
The argument can be convincingly made that if one was really free then it wouldn’t matter who they vote for because no one would have the power to compel their behavior by force. And the corollary to this then is that if they are not really free and the government can compel their behavior by force then it likewise doesn’t matter who they vote for. Either way their life is fundamentally a product of what the government says they can and cannot do.
Further, since we have no frame of reference for freedom in the truest sense (freedom from compelling force), I submit we can never actually vote on “issues” related to the people, which must and can only find practical relevancy at the individual level. For these things only rationally exist in a context of freedom from force, and government by nature is the antipode of this. Thus, we can never vote for what we think would be in our best interest, because ultimately our interests are besides the point.
When all is said and done, and regardless of whatever reasons we may conjure up for ourselves, and even if we truly believe those ideas, we all pay our taxes and obey other laws because if we don’t we will find ourselves in prison. And since this fact is constant and unchanging across elections, again I ask: does voting matter?
It’s a good question.
5 thoughts on “Does Voting Matter?: An argument for non-participation”
“When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it” – Avett Brothers
Individualism is far and away more important and relevant than statism (or membership in any political party, or church, or club, or sport). Government does not solve problems for individuals, and cannot honestly claim to do so. Govt exists to propagate and expand govt.; it is a self perpetuating fulfillment of the every-increasing size and scope of the machine that is seemingly irreversible at this point. Any supposed effort by govt to aid individuals is dishonest; people are seen as groups, and collectivist thinking has always been and will always be anti-individualistic at its core. Which is why some less informed believe that people of different religions should be viewed as collateral damage in wars- in order to achieve the goals of the ‘greater good’ of the collective.
I agree with your assessment that occasionally individuals will benefit from govt actions, but these occasions are incidental to the actions taken and not the intention. Unintended (albeit positive) consequences at best.
Thanks, Sean. Points worth considering.
Collectivism is the root of evil…and it seems almost impossible to dislodge its foundations in the minds of men, which is exceedingly frustrating.
I don’t necessarily think government cannot work, or that it is inherently evil and unworkable. Certainly individuals are free to collectively cooperate–which is not the same thing as “collectivism”. But it must start with an individualist metaphysic–the idea that government is for man not man for government.
But as soon as we concede that force is the foundational means of the ends of government in service to the PUBLIC (the collective), then government functions from a collectivist metaphysic which destroys necessarily the individual. Which means that government must eventually even destroy itself–because it is individuals, not ideals, which are the government, ultimately.
What you witness when collectivism flourishes is not the fall of institutions, but the fall of men. And this is what I am hoping to get people to see. If we have government, then individualism is good for it AND the citizens it serves.
I agree with your assertion that “it is individuals, not ideals, which are the government…”. Which leads to the next assumption that the government is only as good or bad, beneficial or evil as the people in positions of power making or altering policy for everyone else. So in essence, government is not the problem (and as an institution, cannot be to blame; rather it is the people in government…which is why it IS important to vote for those we believe will do their utmost to bring about change which will benefit all INDIVIDUALS, not the collective. And by benefit individuals I don’t mean handing out free stuff to people because of their belonging to a certain group (again the collectivist mindset); I mean that they will pass policies which will allow individuals more freedom to thrive as individuals in the ‘free market’ system upon which this country claims to have been founded.
Right. Government power, if we concede that it is in fact efficacious, should be limited to maintaining the conduits for free assembly, protection of individuals and their property from violence and theft, and defense. As far as I can reckon at the moment, there really isn’t any other “responsibility” of government which isn’t ultimately collectivist and thus ultimately authoritarian.