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Why should one vote? What is the point? Why should I validate the corrupt system I live in rather than protesting by lack of participation?

asked Oct 02 '10 at 05:37

capitalistswine's gravatar image

capitalistswine ♦

Great question. I would add the fact that your vote can't make a difference to the end result.

(Oct 02 '10 at 11:27) Cherman Cherman's gravatar image

There was a Republican primary this year (in Michigan, I think) where the initial vote count differed by exactly 1 vote -- so we have an existence proof that one vote can make a difference.

(Oct 02 '10 at 12:06) Kyle Haight ♦ Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

In a rational society, government is solely an agent for protecting individual rights. In such a case, voting would be merely a means of staffing the government with people whom the citizens deem competent to carry out this task.

In our mixed economy, unfortunately, questions of the protection or violation of individual rights frequently are at stake in an election. This can occur directly, as in ballot initiatives; or indirectly, through legislators, governors, etc. who typically do not understand the proper role of the state, and who advocate varying policies that violate rights. Thus, voting is an even more important decision for an Objectivist, because much more is potentially at risk.

Nevertheless, voting remains a procedural mechanism for achieving specific outcomes in government. As such, there is a limit to the philosophical weight that should be inferred from a particular voting choice, including the choice not to vote. To the government and the public, a vote for a candidate based upon a careful consideration of principles is indistinguishable from someone else's vote for that same candidate based upon personality. A refusal to vote, motivated by disgust with the uniformly morally corrupt candidates offered, is indistinguishable from someone else's failure to vote as a result of apathy.

The best option for an Objectivist is to vote for the better-principled candidates where they exist, and to vote strategically otherwise. The goal is to do what one can to slow down the erosion of individual rights, to buy time for better ideas to be heard and influence our political culture. The details of electoral strategy have been the subject of much debate, and there is no single answer that can be deduced from philosophy.

Refusal to vote is also an option, as many Objectivists chose in the 2008 presidential race, which featured two thoroughly statist candidates. But, of course, one of those statists still won -- as would have happened so long as those candidates were what our culture offered. This is another illustration of the power of philosophy, and why we cannot rely on electoral politics to reverse our nation's downward spiral.

answered Oct 02 '10 at 12:41

Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

Andrew Dalton ♦

When I cast my ballot in 2008 I voted on initiatives and down-ticket races but left the 'president' slot blank. I did this specifically to distinguish myself from an apathetic non-voter. I wasn't apathetic, I was a concerned and politically engaged citizen faced with two completely unacceptable candidates.

(Oct 02 '10 at 17:00) Kyle Haight ♦ Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

One should vote in self-defense. Refusing to vote, per se, is not taken by the political class as a protest of the system; it is taken as acquiescence. If you object to our current government -- and there are good reasons for doing so -- you should work to change it on as many fronts as possible. Voting the current officials out of office is one such front; voting for better replacements in party primaries is another. Encouraging others to do likewise is a third. Working to spread better ideas in the culture is a fourth.

I'm certainly planning to vote next month, and I hope everybody reading this does too.

answered Oct 02 '10 at 12:13

Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

Kyle Haight ♦

Do you think republican victories this November could contribute to a meaningful slow down and perhaps an eventual repeal of socialized medicine? I've been debating this with myself for months. If voting republican would genuinely help me in this matter I'd do it, but I don't want to end up feeling like I shot myself in the foot. I'd appreciate your advice. And as a side question: When we talk about voting defensivly how do we avoid falling into pragmatism.

(Oct 13 '10 at 18:39) Damian Damian's gravatar image

In purely practical terms... people notice, not only which candidate won, but by how much. Therefore, each vote is potentially an important statement.

Unfortunately, a vote is essentially binary — you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B. The pollsters don't record the reasons for your vote, and they don't especially care. The pundits will analyze and spin it, so you might think: why bother?

The symbolism of representational government is something we should not forget. The fact that people can vote them out of office is an imperfect, but real, check on political office-holders. When you vote, you remind them that they are supposed to be your servants.

I currently live in China, where people have only trivial elements of representational government. My students would claw over each other to exercise the right to vote. Please don't forget how lucky you are to have that right.

answered Oct 14 '10 at 02:32

Robert%20Garmong's gravatar image

Robert Garmong ♦

edited Oct 14 '10 at 02:33

I vote to try and move the govt in a direction I want. Politics in the USA is an evolution vs a revolution. My vote does not "validate" a corrupt system. It is my means of expressing my opinion. Yes, evolution takes forever, but my only other choices are to just take whatever is pushed on me or rebellion. Lack of participation is what the corrupt system is counting on. You matter.

answered Oct 02 '10 at 12:24

adamsdad's gravatar image

adamsdad ♦

One thing to add to the other good answers here: Our present system is not corrupt, not thoroughly. Democratic election of representatives is one of the good aspects of our system. So use it!

answered Oct 03 '10 at 03:16

jasoncrawford's gravatar image

jasoncrawford ♦

I agree! Let's not let our frustration with the imperfections of the current system get in the way of our participation. As Voltaire said, "the perfect is the enemy of the good." That's not inherently true, but all-too-often it is.

(Oct 15 '10 at 00:11) Robert Garmong ♦ Robert%20Garmong's gravatar image

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Asked: Oct 02 '10 at 05:37

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Last updated: Oct 15 '10 at 00:11