Repeating the same mistake with an intent to receive different result is not called stupidity. In simple language, it is called voting. Unfortunately, in this era of information, a certain line of ignorance is all too prevalent among ‘rational’ voters; it runs as follows: “Candidate X may not be perfect, but s/he is better on public policy than candidate Y, and that is obviously what matters the most.”
In this whole circuit, humanity fails to realise the real lies with their real eyes.
Those who seek political office appear to be eager to break the moral code that most of us are willing to follow. The greater the power of the political office that a candidate is seeking, the more likely it is that that individual has no sense of right and wrong.
The political economy of voting
Consider a spectrum of possible political positions. There are extremists, such as NOTA supporters and political voters, at the edges of the spectrum. Most voters are not at these extremes of the spectrum. Many voters tend to have somewhat similar views and they are in what we might call the center of the spectrum. I realize that one might argue that the bulk of voters are nearer to one edge of the spectrum than other edges, but my point is that there is a centrist position in this spectrum and voters tend to be clustered in this region of the spectrum.
In order to win the election, a candidate needs to appeal to this center position. If candidate D takes a position much to the left of center and candidate R takes a position just slightly to the right of candidate D, then R will probably win the election. Similarly, if candidate R takes a right-of-center position, candidate D can win the election by taking a position slightly to the left of R. Therefore, in order to win the election, each candidate wants to appeal to the center of the political spectrum.
The analysis above is a watered down version of the median-voter theorem. Candidates of both parties need to get the support of the middle-of-the-road voter, the “median” voter. A lot of potential voters, however, can be convinced that their vote will make a difference.
In order to win support, candidates stress that each vote does matter. They claim that the election hinges on every single vote and that the upcoming election is always the most important election in a lifetime. Since voting is infrequent, voters will have forgotten that the last election was also the most important election ever. Linking voting to patriotism or claiming that practicing democracy is equivalent to living in a free country are also successful tactics. Of course, such statements are false, but many people still fall for these claims. It helps that the government schools reinforce these ideas and teach students that it’s their civic duty to vote for politicians. After years of hearing this propaganda, many people will accept this position. History shows that this works.
As Election Day nears, India’s get-out-the-vote frenzy is entering high gear, trying to browbeat voters into exercising their franchise with various arguments.
Unfortunately, those arguments reflect seriously flawed logic.
“If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice in government.”
This is one of many arguments based on the false premise that your vote will affect what passes and who wins. But your vote will not change the outcome. You will prosper or suffer under the same laws and representatives whether you voted for the winner or the loser, or didn’t vote.
“If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about government.”
This reflects the same false assumption. But even if your vote would determine the result, binary choices between “electable” candidates and yes or no votes on initiatives written by special interests hardly gives you the power to invoke your preferences.
“If you don’t vote, you don’t care about India.”
No amount of care justifies voting if that vote doesn’t alter the outcome.
“It is your duty to vote.”
Voting is a citizen’s right, implying the right to abstain, not a duty. I have a right to become drunk, divorced and destitute, but that does not give me the duty to do any of them. And if one is not highly informed on an issue, as is true of most, casting an uninformed vote is more a dereliction of duty than a fulfillment of it, contributing nothing valuable to electoral results.
“You must vote, because the electoral process would collapse if everyone chose not to vote.”
Beyond the insignificant probability of everyone abstaining, this is just the common “if everyone” fallacy. Unless your voting choice alters many others’ choices about whether and/or how to vote, which is unlikely, this is irrelevant to whether you should vote (though politicians must, to be taken seriously, as witnessed by the harassment given to any candidate who ever failed to vote in previous elections).
Do the many invalid “get-out-the-vote” arguments imply that you shouldn’t vote? No. But it implies that you shouldn’t vote for invalid reasons. For instance, since your one electorally insignificant vote will not change the result, voting to transfer others’ wealth to you is simply a morally offensive but ineffective attempt at theft. Similarly, choosing to vote despite massive ignorance produces no benefit to you or society.
The basic reason is that I see no reason to engage in a morally dubious practice when it doesn’t even yield any pragmatic benefits. For example, if I take the wheel of a runaway bus, and I can swerve to kill 3 people instead of the 30 in the path of the bus, then maybe I go ahead and do it. Sure, I feel bad about killing 3 people who otherwise would have lived, but I understandably could “pick the lesser of the evils.”
Yet that’s not what happens if you vote for someone you think will violate property rights and order the deaths of innocent foreigners. Here, your vote is not reducing the number of people killed (unlike in the bus story). Whether or not you vote for the “lesser evil,” the same person will become a political leader and will go about doing a whole bunch of evil.
Salience of NOTA
Principled promotion of ideological change is the way forward. Once libertarian ideas take hold and sweep through the ranks of the thoughtful set, there will be no need for access to the halls of power. The parasitic state will slough off of society like so much dead skin. The most effective way to promote liberty today would be to choose NOTA and to tell everybody about that choice. “None Of The Above,” or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organizations, designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system. It is based on the principle that consent requires the ability to withhold consent in an election, just as they can by voting “No” on ballot questions.
NOTA is a reflection of your scientific angst against the system, whereas voting is a structural violent tool to collectively impose your beliefs on ‘others’.
Let me tell you, the work of is crucial. This is important. This is more important than all political action. We have to change people’s hearts and minds, and their understanding of free markets and individual liberty, and this is possible with NOTA.
The political class is trying to bad-mouth NOTA. But it is an investment that will yield long-term dividend. When NOTA gets more votes than any candidate, the Election Commission of India (EC) would lose the moral authority to announce anybody a winner. It will be forced to expedite electoral reforms. And I would not equate NOTA with the right to reject, which has a negative connotation. NOTA is a [positive] call against malicious and manipulative democracy.
That’s how we can step up to change the world of political apathy.