Big and Strong?

by Don Boudreaux on November 3, 2008

in Myths and Fallacies, Politics

I suffer from no romantic delusions about politics or about voting.  So I winced when I read in the lead editorial in today’s Washington Post that CBS newsman Bob Schieffer recently told his viewers "Go vote.  It will make you feel big and strong."

Mr Schieffer’s attitude — and the Post‘s fawning approval of it — is not unusual.  Indeed, it’s the norm.  But this attitude toward voting is irritatingly thoughtless.

This attitude reflects the myth that political action is as noble, or even nobler, than private actions.  Much more so than if I vote, I feel big and strong when I act consistently to be a loving father, husband, son, and brother – when I help my friends and neighbors – when I perform my job well – when I pay my bills – when I save for my retirement — in short, when I take responsibility for matters that are within my control.

Ironically, though, this voting that allegedly makes us "feel big and strong" often results in government relieving us of responsibility for those things that each of us can and should control, while giving each of us an officious and inherently irresponsible say in matters that should be the exclusive private responsibility of each of our fellow citizens. 

If Mr. Schieffer, newspaper editorialists, or anyone else really wants to give me the opportunity to feel big and strong, they ought to speak out first and foremost against government policies that treat adults as irresponsible children.  I am perfectly capable of saving for my own retirement, of choosing whether or not to patronize a restaurant that permits smoking, of choosing which elements to ingest into my own body, of providing for the education of my son, of deciding what degree of driver and passenger safety I want in my automobile — indeed, of doing a great number of things that government today presumes me to be too gullible or too irresponsible or too childish to do.  And what is true of me, an ordinary adult, is true of nearly every other adult.

Government treats me as if I’m small and weak.  This fact disgusts me.

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MnM November 3, 2008 at 11:01 am

Love it! Well said, Dr. B.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 11:15 am

Forgive me, but I'm believe in free markets and limited government, but still believe it is my duty as a citizen to vote. I don't know that I'd call it "noble"; I prefer to think of it as a privilege.

The "myth" in, say, Myths of Rich and Poor deals with factual errors that come about as a result of certain prejudices about that market. Not with simple moral notions about the nobility of practicing one's right to vote.

Limited government, free trade, and private property rights are important concepts worthy of defending. You do them no service by sneering at people who consider voting to be noble.

megapolisomancy November 3, 2008 at 11:18 am

Aside from how one feels when voting, as a general rule, as more people will be persuaded by such a message, the less "big and strong" one becomes:

The calculus of voting

C. Ashbaugh November 3, 2008 at 11:22 am

"Much more so that if I vote"

Do you mean "than"? It makes more sense in context to me.

But anyway, I agree with Don's sentiments but have a separate axe to grind: Why on earth would we even *want* everyone to feel "big and strong"? It's like telling an entire class of children to "be all that you can be", to "dream big", even to "be yourself". We don't want all of them to be themselves, because some of them are very terrible people. We don't want those children to dream big, we want them to fix their often sociopathic behavior rather than "be themselves", when they could be much, much better.

Of course, I want the government to have nothing to do with that.

Don Boudreaux November 3, 2008 at 11:36 am

C. Ashbaugh,

Thanks. I corrected the typo.

Don

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 11:45 am

Well Adam, You might have a point if voting wasn't so much about how people feel rather than about well considered and informed thought.

But that doesn't seem to be the intent of Bob Schieffer's call to voters. I suggest that he's just promoting the idea that freedom and democracy are equivalent.

Don Mynack November 3, 2008 at 11:54 am

I have a "big and strong" feeling in my pants when I vote. Does this mean anything?

Randy November 3, 2008 at 11:55 am

Well said Don. I think that this year, in response to all those "I Voted" stickers, I'm going to wear one that says "I worked".

Methinks November 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Worked, Randy? That's soooo 1980's. While you worked they were voting to rob you of that which you earned by working. That's the new new thing.

Ike November 3, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Funny, I just read the same thing over on a nutrition site, where Bob Schieffer told me to eat my spinach so I can feel Big and Strong.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 12:39 pm

You might have a point if voting wasn't so much about how people feel rather than about well considered and informed thought.

Of course it's about how people feel. What else could it be? Does being more "considered" and "informed" somehow give more value to your personal moral compass?

And what the underlying motivation of people like Schieffer is doesn't interest me. My criticism is levied specifically at this post, which seems to take pride in belittling people who believe in the value of voting.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Adam,

Whether voting is honorable or dishonorable depends on one's view of the nature of our current government. If this government is a servant of the people, then voting represents an opportunity to choose representatives that most accurately represent my views. But if government is the legal manifestation of a looting political class, then voting represents my wish to participate in the looting. It would be nice, I suppose, to content myself with the optimistic view, but the available evidence leads me to conclude the other. I'm not a looter, so I don't vote.

J Scott November 3, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Mr. Grove you are correct:
"I suggest that he's just promoting the idea that freedom and democracy are equivalent."

Voting is a civic obligation for all citizens, just like practicing civility. I don't feel noble when I behave in a civil fashion toward my fellow citizen; I "feel" civilized. From my perspective, there is too much emphasis on how we "feel"; progressive/socialism is an ideology lacking an intellectual foundation but rather appeals to base instincts, dependence on class envy and hate. The opposite of civility.
Lord deliever me from this Oprahfied crowd that "feel" their way through life—all that feeling has placed a Marxist at the top of the democratic parties' ticket.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Whether voting is honorable or dishonorable depends on one's view of the nature of our current government

Well, I mean, if you just say it then I guess it's a manifest truth.

Honor has nothing to do with cheap rationalistic formulas like this one.

I participate in the voting process because I believe in the traditions and values of this country and of my community.

Voting does not encourage the things you criticize any more than abstaining does. The choice to vote, in other words, is a decision made on what you value. You can turn your abstinence into a nice symbolic "je acuse!" if it pleases you. It has about as much practical value as the vote that I do, in fact, cast.

J Scott said it well in the comment above: I vote because it is my civic duty. Perhaps it is silly to speak of it making you feel "big and strong"; that's a conceit. But so is sneering at those who applaud participating in the process.

scott clark November 3, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Should we rename election day to be Big and Strong Feelings Day?

By saying this activity will make you feel big and strong, the writer is saying you are not big and strong, you are, in fact, small and weak, and the government continues to treat you as such. But, if you go out and vote, you may momentarily feel the rush of personal power that comes with actually being big and strong, something you regular folk will never experience. Its
quite condesending, really.

Like the nutrition quip, we don't say eat your spinach and you'll feel big and strong, in fact its much more common to say eat this and you'll grow to be big and strong, or you'll become big and strong. How hilarious would it be to say go vote and you'll become big and strong?

Metre November 3, 2008 at 1:25 pm

One can always vote for the candidate who will, in your opinion, do the least harm. Obama will do the most harm by restricting liberty and fostering socialism. McCain seems to have no agenda or original Often the less a government does, the better.

But I am reminded of 1964, Johnson against Goldwater. Goldwater openly espoused escalating the war in Vietnam and was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate. Then Johnson went ahead and escalated the war. So yes, it can be a crap shoot.

Metre November 3, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Posted again: Some text got dropped.

One can always vote for the candidate who will, in your opinion, do the least harm. Obama will do the most harm by restricting liberty and fostering socialism. McCain seems to have no agenda or original thoughts, but maybe that's good. Often the less a government does, the better.

But I am reminded of 1964, Johnson against Goldwater. Goldwater openly espoused escalating the war in Vietnam and was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate. Then Johnson went ahead and escalated the war. So yes, it can be a crap shoot.

muirgeo November 3, 2008 at 1:34 pm

It sad to me that an adult doesn't understand his dependence on the rule of law. We are a society of interdependent beings. The idea that no rules are needed is incomprehensible to me when I give even the slightest of thought to the struggles of man and society to evolve to this point where WE are the government. I will proudly vote tomorrow and feel a part of a government that is shared by all the people as the best system that has ever existed and continues to evolve and improve.

It's sad indeed that some expect all the benefits of society while expecting to have no obligation in return. But that's what happens when you look through society simply as an economic system and forget all the other aspects needed for it to function. The fact is for our economy to even have any chance of functioning in a competitive and efficient way we need order , rules and laws.

"But this attitude toward voting is irritatingly thoughtless."
Don B

No it's not thoughtless as you can't point to a system past, present or even in your imagination that works better.

You sit there and thrive in a society that was set up by those that spilled blood to be able to vote and by those who did vote to make it the way it is and the you pretend you are above it all. Shame!

"This attitude reflects the myth that political action is as noble, or even nobler, than private actions." Don B

I don't think anyone makes that claim. Both are important. Your private actions would not exist without the protection of society. Voting is not about control but about shared responsibility in the process of deciding how we are to order our society.

If you really think society would function better in an absence of rules and votes then indeed your lack of a vote will go down as a vote for such a system. But who are you to think that we should all play by your rules. WE voters believe in a government of, by and for the people… it's the best system that has ever existed and it's based in a realistic pragmatic approach to ordering a society of 300,000,000.

There are plenty of people out there pushing their religious or cultist answers to the problems of society and I see yours as just one more.

Mcwop November 3, 2008 at 1:42 pm

There are plenty of people out there pushing their religious or cultist answers to the problems of society and I see yours as just one more.

And what exactly are your answers Muirgeo? Government is making things worse, and not better. A few laws are fine, but the current system is ridiculous.

Examples? Look at the ignorant politicians in Maryland telling us schools will collapse unless we amend our constitution to allow slots? Slots that pray on the poor, the mathematically challenged, becuase they went to crappy public schools which will not get better if slots pass. The money is not even targeted to schools anyways – more politician lies. You support a system built on lies Muirgeo. Hope you feel better after you vote for these fools.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Adam,

"It has about as much practical value as the vote that I do, in fact, cast."

To me, not voting has considerable practical value in that it allows me to maintain a clear conscience. If voting doesn't mean to you what it means to me, if you can vote with a clear conscience, then by all means, vote.

"I vote because it is my civic duty."

Duty to who? Certainly not to the looters…

Oil Shock November 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm

There was a post not too long ago about Stossel's program on ABC – spontaneous order. He used Ice skating rink as an analogy. Somebody got ticked off and suggested Ice hockey with no referees. Well someone else pointed out that life is no win/lose game being played between just 2 sides. there are more than 2 sides, and many hockey game on the streets happen without a referee.

Taking it one step further. If there indeed is a referee, what would be the role of the referee? It is just make sure that people follow some basic rules, but not to make the rules up as the game goes along.

How would the game look if referee scored a goal for one of the teams, because that team was a little weak in his estimation? What if the referee asked the best player in the game to sit out, because he is too good? What if the referee gave the worst player in the game some advantage that is not available to others in the game? How many of you would watch that match?

Jayson Virissimo November 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm

"Voting is not about control but about shared responsibility in the process of deciding how we are to order our society."

Muirgeo, when should democracy stop? We don't vote on what kind of religion we should all practice or what kinds of speech we will allow. These are protected under the constitution to prevent the majority from trampling on the minority. Doesn't this make us less "democratic" than if we did vote on these things?

I think you misunderstand the anti-democratic sentiment displayed by some libertarians. Imagine voting on what kind or car we should all drive and then only allowing that car to be driven? Wouldn't you agree that this would be a case where democracy should be restricted and individual choice should be free? Many libertarians believe that things like retirement savings, the type of safety equipment in automobiles, medical treatments, drug use, and other similar things should be decided by individuals instead of by the majority. This is less democratic, but it is also much more free.

Far from being the absence of rules, this puts rules in place that prevent the majority from harming the minority. The Bill of Rights is not very democratic, but I like it much better than having more democracy in this case.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Muirgeo,

"I will proudly vote tomorrow and feel a part of a government…"

Yes, of course you will… which supports my belief that this is not a government that deserves my support.

OregonGuy November 3, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Bravo!
.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Does being more "considered" and "informed" somehow give more value to your personal moral compass?

That depends. If one is thoroughly inculcated in proper morality and thus has strong feeling about it, then feeling in such case is not opposed to morality.

OTH, if proper moral inculcation is lacking, then one's feelings can be opposed to morality. In such a case, the informed consideration becomes very important.

The big problem here is that most people apply a vastly different moral standard to collective action than to individual action. One's choices in the voting booth are disconnected from consequences down the road.

Which Bush voters from 2004 feel any accountability for their choice now? And who actually bore the consequences?

Shall we vote on rushing over a cliff?
Few would vote for that knowingly, but they often will unknowingly because they have been manipulated by "statesmen" and political "activists" via their feelings.

And, because of the nature of "democracy", those who know better are also dragged along to cliff's edge.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm

To me, not voting has considerable practical value in that it allows me to maintain a clear conscience.

Not to get too semantic, but you weren't exactly using the word "practical" in the sense that I meant it, and I think you understand what I was saying.

Duty to who? Certainly not to the looters

Who says that it is a duty to anything? It is a duty as something. Which is to say, my duty as a citizen.

You can opt out of the process if it tickles your fancy; that's the joy of a free society–that you can choose to abstain as well as to participate.

I too find the overzealous "get out the vote" people to be a nuisance and overly moralistic in their tone. But this post, and much of what I have seen coming out of GMU, is just as overzealous, moralistic, and arrogant, in precisely the opposite direction.

The fact that I believe voting is the right thing to do is not a "myth".

Adam November 3, 2008 at 2:32 pm

If one is thoroughly inculcated in proper morality and thus has strong feeling about it, then feeling in such case is not opposed to morality.

In the end all of these discussions lead right down to this–voting is beneath us because anyone can do it even if they are not "inculcated" in the "proper morality".

This is the wing of libertarianism that begins to sound intellectually identical to socialism. Though many won't come out and say it, they express contempt for the democratic process because they think that they have their hands on the categorical imperative–the one, true morality–and it galls them that their vote has equal value to one who is not similarly enlightened.

Your example about voting on whether or not to go off a cliff is all well and good, but entirely irrelevant. I am not arguing that we should extend the scope of what decisions are made by voting. I'm not even arguing that voting solves any problem in itself, other than the simple procedural one of how to decide who is delegated authority.

I feel very strongly about the traditions of my country. When I argue against the expanding of the government's hand in private affairs, I lean heavily on the values that we have held, as expressed by the great figures in our history. I need not build some rationalist pulpit from which to beat down all those who do not buy into the Manifest Truth.

I stand with Edmund Burke:
"We are afraid to put individuals to live and trade each on his private stock of reason, because we suspect this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank of nations, and of ages."

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 2:34 pm

In fact, I did vote, but I can't say I felt big and strong about it. Mostly I felt, well, I didn't feel much of anything except a certain disgust: at the limited choices offered, the fact that some things are voted on at all, the fact that who holds office has such importance that citizens are divided over the offerings, the fact that I have to take a defensive strategy in voting, etc.

I understand that voting seems to be important, and that is the problem.

It is made important by the extensive role of government in our lives and our fates.

THAT is a problem.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Adam,

"you weren't exactly using the word "practical" in the sense that I meant it…"

True. You were speaking of the practical impact of voting on the actions of the state. But its not my state.

"The fact that I believe voting is the right thing to do is not a "myth"."

It is a function of a belief system. To me, it looks like a myth. My suggestion to the political class is that if it wants to change my mind it will first have to change its behavior.

Mcwop November 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I have to chuckle a bit. Here is the record of Muirgeo's necessary government during the Bush year's:

1) Iraq
2) Katrina
3) Fiscal recklessness
4) Patriot act
5) Federal Reserve and government created housing bubble
6) $600 billion in military spending
7) State budget spending based on windfall property tax revenues
8) Horrid bailout plan….

The list could go on forever, and keep in mind the Democrats rubber stamped most of this stuff.

So basically Muirgeo, if you support government, then you support Bush and Republicans, as they are government.

Me, I want government to be more limited in their powers so when bad politicians come along, it is hard for them to implement their stupid-ness. That is the difference between you (pro government micro-management of outcomes), and most on this site.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 2:43 pm

"We are afraid to put individuals to live and trade each on his private stock of reason, because we suspect this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank of nations, and of ages."

And what does this say about voters and politicians and bureaucrats all of whom are mere individuals. If people are bereft of sensibility, then what will their government be?

I didn't want to get into morality and I didn't specify what morality, though I have been of the impression that socialists discard the notion of morality in application to collective action. Indeed, most parties bend their morality when it comes to statecraft.

This is the wing of libertarianism that begins to sound intellectually identical to socialism.

Quite the opposite.
For libertarians, we only claim that whatever morality applies to individuals should also apply to collective action.

Do we need to discuss proper morality for individuals? Or do you think yours differs from mine in some significant manner?

Adam November 3, 2008 at 2:50 pm

My suggestion to the political class is that if it wants to change my mind it will first have to change its behavior.

Why on Earth would the political class want to change your mind?

But its not my state.

Whatever that means. Do you pay your taxes? Because I think that might be a little more consequential, in the eyes of those who work in the state you have disowned, than whether or not you vote.

It's easy to decide not to vote, and to throw around cheap words like "it's not my state". But unless you are willing to actually make some sacrifices to change the settled relationship that I can only assume (and correct me if I'm wrong of course) you, like most people, have with it–then all your position would seem to amount to is a lot of cheap talk with the occasional symbolic gesture.

Maybe that isn't fair. What exactly does it mean to say that it is "not your state"? How would you live your life any differently if you believed it was your state?

indiana jim November 3, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Why vote? Here is a poem a cousin of mine sent me; lets lighten up a bit (that means you too Metre):

"*'Twas the night before elections*
*And all through the towns*
*Tempers were flaring*
*Emotional outbursts with wild ups and downs!*
**
*And I, in my bathrobe*
*and my cat on my lap*
*Had just turned off the TV*
*Nauseated by all the political crap.*
**
*When all of a sudden*
*There arose such a sound*
*I peered out of my window*
*And saw Obama and his clowns*
**
*They had come for my wallet*
*They wanted my pay*
*To give to the others*
*Who had not worked a day!*
**
*He snatched up my money*
*And quick as a wink*
*He offered me snake-oil*
*But I gagged from the stink*
**
*Then he rallied his MSNBC buds*
*Who were out in front of the media-bias cart*
*They were out I could tell*
*To destroy the American heart!*
**
*"On Fannie, on Freddie,*
*On Biden and Ayers!*
*On Acorn, On Pelosi"*
*He commanded these pairs!*
**
*"On Barney Frank! On Father Flager! On Tony Rezko! On John Mutha!"*
*He and his cronies oozing hubris and spite*
*Mocking guns and religion*
*"Bankruptcy!' they shouted, "to all willing to "Stand Up and Fight!"*
**
*So I leave you to think*
*On this one final note-*
*IF YOU DON'T WANT SOCIALISM*
GET OUT AND VOTE!!!!*"

Author unknown to me.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 2:55 pm

For libertarians, we only claim that whatever morality applies to individuals should also apply to collective action.

Whereas I would claim that individuals are the only ones that can be judged on a moral basis.

This line of argument is not so different from socialism as you might think. How often, after all, are we told that people are poor because "society" has failed them.

The argument goes: a problem exists, and an abstract collective entity is to be held to blame.

Collectives cannot be held accountable for anything. The only right and wrong that exist are the right and wrong of the individual choice.

As an individual I choose to participate in the customs of my community.

Do we need to discuss proper morality for individuals? Or do you think yours differs from mine in some significant manner?

Certainly. Mine puts an emphasis on tradition relative to your apparent emphasis on criteria that have an explicit rational justification.

J Scott November 3, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Mr. Grove, good day. You said:

"I understand that voting seems to be important, and that is the problem.

It is made important by the extensive role of government in our lives and our fates.

THAT is a problem."

Mr. Grove, Concur, however the vote is the only peaceful tool available to have any meaningful influence. We deal in ideas and communicating ideas. We have ceased in any real sense (if we ever were) to be intellectual as a People. As Don points out in his Mencken remarks, emotions run high and thought takes a back-seat—-however, the predominance of emotion and the raw display of Marxist rhetoric spooned up to otherwise "normal" Americans scares the daylight out of me. If there is a peaceful rememdy to our national dilemma, then the vote is necessarily the tool first pulled from the bag.
————————-
I offer the follwing since I read Edmund Burke's name has been brought into this discussion, I'm sharing a exerpt from a email I sent my little network of right-leaning friends and family. The bailout has galvanized my attention, and my personal determination that regardless the outcome tomorrow, the national government be held accountable.
As most of you know, Burke wrote only one essay on economics and the essay was a quickly assembled position paper to William Pitt, called Thoughts on Scarcity (I’ve linked to an online version). Burke was detailing the perils of “interfering” between land owners and laborers and is ironically illustrative of the bailout and contracts between present day financial executives and their companies (see the an associated story from today’s WSJ copied below).
The class envy nonsense concerning CEO salaries drives the folks on the left apoplectic and further fuels the so-called liberal “populism” to some how take revenge on these executives in the wake of the market collapse, by denying them their contracted pay. I’ll let Burke address this issue, but it won’t surprise many of you. (I add any emphasis noted)

“Of all things, an indiscreet tampering with the trade of provisions is the most dangerous, and it is always worst in the time when men are most disposed to it: that is, in the time of scarcity. Because there is nothing on which the passions of men are so violent, and their judgment so weak, and on which there exists such a multitude of ill-founded popular prejudices…

The great use of Government is as a restraint; and there is no restraint which it ought to put upon others, and upon itself too, rather than on the fury of speculating under circumstances of irritation. The number of idle tales spread about by the industry of faction, and by the zeal of foolish good-intention, and greedily devoured by the malignant credulity of mankind, tends infinitely to aggravate prejudices, which, in themselves, are more than sufficiently strong. In that state of affairs, and of the publick with relation to them, the first thing that Government owes to us, the people, is information; the next is timely coercion: the one to guide our judgment; the other to regulate our tempers…

To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of Government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of Government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in any thing else. It is not only so of the state and statesman…

Nothing can be so base and so wicked as the political canting language, “The Labouring Poor. ” Let compassion be shewn in action, the more the better, according to every man’s ability, but let there be no lamentation of their condition. It is no relief to their miserable circumstances; it is only an insult to their miserable understandings. It arises from a total want of charity, or a total want of thought. Want of one kind was never relieved by want of any other kind. Patience, labour, sobriety, frugality, and religion, should be recommended to them; all the rest is downright fraud. It is horrible to call them “The once happy labourer.”…

The vulgar error on this subject arises from a total confusion in the very idea of things widely different in themselves; those of convention, and those of judicature. When a contract is making, it is a matter of discretion and of interest between the parties. In that intercourse, and in what is to arise from it, the parties are the masters. If they are not completely so, they are not free, and therefore their contracts are void…

But this freedom has no farther extent, when the contract is made; then their discretionary powers expire, and a new order of things takes it’s origin. Then, and not till then, and on a difference between the parties, the office of the judge commences. He cannot dictate the contract. It is his business to see that it be enforced; provided that it is not contrary to pre-existing laws, or obtained by force or fraud. If he is in any way a maker or regulator of the contract, in so much he is disqualified from being a judge. But this sort of confused distribution of administrative and judicial characters, (of which we have already as much as is sufficient, and a little more) is not the only perplexity of notions and passions which trouble us in the present hour…
Tyranny and cruelty may make men justly wish the downfall of abused powers, but I believe that no government ever yet perished from any other direct cause than it’s own weakness. My opinion is against an over-doing of any sort of administration, and more especially against this most momentous of all meddling on the part of authority; the meddling with the subsistence of the people.”
———————————————————————————————————————–
Folks, in this Cliff Notes version of selected out-takes are truths we could learn and pass around.

Resolved: The United States Federal Government should not “distribute” ANYTHING.

Resolved: The United States Federal Government in Congress caused 99% of the problems leading the credit “crisis” through wrong-headed (“foolish good-intention”—that’s being generous) policies that continued the mistaken notion of entitlement and corresponding supplicants at the Federal trough.

Resolved: It is the incumbent responsibility of men and women who love Liberty to hold the Federal Government in account and to dismantle the entitlement apparatus in full. If dismantlement proves impossible, then dissolution, for:

Resolved: Liberty trumps any party or any Government; this was the mantra of our Founders, and must become once again the clarion of men and women who value Liberty, who understand that with Liberty are inherent risks and inherent responsibilities. When the Government can no longer be held in account, the Government must be replaced.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Adam,

"Why on Earth would the political class want to change your mind?"

Because they need me. The political class cannot survive without the productive class – and they prosper the most when the productive class is operating at peak efficiency. There's that old saying, "what would happen if everyone did that?" Yes… what would happen?

"Do you pay your taxes?"

I pay rent. They own the country, so I pay rent.

"How would you live your life any differently if you believed it was your state?"

Interesting question that. To my knowledge, in all of recorded history there has never been a time when the political class did not own the state and force the productive class to pay rent. Your question asks about what I would do if I "believed" that it was my state. I suppose I would vote and all that. But it isn't, and it seems unlikely that it ever will be.

Martin Brock November 3, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Much more so than if I vote, I feel big and strong when I act consistently to be a loving father, husband, son, and brother – when I help my friends and neighbors – when I perform my job well – when I pay my bills – when I save for my retirement — in short, when I take responsibility for matters that are within my control.

Hear, hear. I would happily give up the "right to vote" if I thought that forcible proprieties effectively limited the authority of market capitalists, but I wouldn't really give up a right to vote in this scenario, because market capitalists are statesmen, and the decisions we make in markets are votes we cast for them, every day, not every other year.

The decisions we make as jurors are also votes. I'm much happier with these forms of democracy, and I'm happiest to make the decisions most relevant to my own circumstances myself.

The idea that we cast our most important votes in these biannual plebiscites, electing our nominal "representatives" in the legislature and executive, is incredible. I don't even know who I'm voting most of the time, and the rest of the time, all I know about my "choice" is a long list of lies he's told me.

I might as well flip a coin, so I convey no meaningful information to my rulers this way. No wonder they prize this "vote" so highly. It hardly limits their authority at all.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 3:13 pm

"Tradition" covers a lot of ground. I doubt that you hold to tradition per se, but because of certain values contained within that you hold to. You suggest we differ over source, but I suggest we agree on content. Which matters?

Collectives cannot be held accountable for anything. The only right and wrong that exist are the right and wrong of the individual choice.

That is the very problem of "collectives".
Collectives have collapsed because of the attempt to defer decision making to "everyone".

Collectives do not have an existence of their own but are comprised of individuals whose choices and actions may be referred to collectively.

I often take issue with headlines that claim "the County" decided this, etc. I know that some individuals made such decision. With or without the support of many other individuals.

And note that I did not refer to the "collective", but to "collective action" in recognition that individuals effect said action.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Mr. Grove, Concur, however the vote is the only peaceful tool available to have any meaningful influence.

If you mean influence on the state, well even then, I don't agree. It is well known that office holders respond to personal communication even if they only keep a tally.

There is a calculus involved. If you write a letter, it is worth perhaps a thousand votes in evaluating the sense of the electorate. (or perhaps it is a phone call)

If you persuade 100 people to write a letter in a similar vein, then you have effected a power equivalent to 100,000 votes.

Even more powerful than the vote, is to persuade many others to take a position, to hold a like opinion. Politicians do respond to opinion polls.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 3:27 pm

And of course, if you are a wealthy member of the political class, you can have great influence indeed.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Because they need me. The political class cannot survive without the productive class

Sheesh, and here I thought I was being extreme when I compared you to a socialist–now you're talking class identity!

The "political class" does not need you, because you are not a "productive class" or a "class" of any sort. You are a person. The category you call the "political class" is made up of individuals, none of which needs you–not what you produce, and not your vote–individually.

But if you want to play this game of class identity, we can always go back to the classic assumption that the bourgeois class will make sure that no laws are passed except those which further its class interest, right? I mean that's the sort of silly conclusions you can come to when you pretend a group of people is going to behave like an individual.

I pay rent. They own the country, so I pay rent.

And who might "they" be? Your political class again?

re:your remarks about whether or not it is "your" state.

So would it be fair to say that, since there has never existed a state in history you would call your own and you have not altered your behavior one iota from that of the average citizen (it's not like everyone votes after all), your declaration that this is "not your state" is simply symbolic?

I guess the only difference is that you get to look down your nose at those who believe in tradition and in participating in our democratic processes–but that doesn't distinguish you much, either. Certainly not amongst intellectuals.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Collectives have collapsed because of the attempt to defer decision making to "everyone".

My god, that sounds strangely familiar.

And note that I did not refer to the "collective", but to "collective action" in recognition that individuals effect said action.

But that's just the point, isn't it? The individual effects are infinitesimal part of an immense whole.

We cannot make our decisions based on how they effect the whole, precisely because that effect will be so imperceptible. Thus, it is just as absurd to argue that one ought not to vote because it doesn't make a difference, as it is to argue that you should because it can. It is an irrelevant standard.

I am not setting up a strawman here–I realize that participating in the process is not being criticized on instrumental grounds in this discussion.

But the only other criteria can be found in tradition–and I do "hold" to tradition, as do you. It is impossible not to. You draw on a rationalist tradition that I abhor and I draw another–along the lines of Hume, Smith, Burke, and Hayek. You state that the means by which we arrive at a conclusion is not as important as the content of that conclusion. Whether or not that is the case, in the issue of voting it would appear that the content is precisely what is at issue, not the method by which we arrived at it.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Adam,

"…your declaration that this is "not your state" is simply symbolic"

I prefer to think of it as a recognition of reality – losing my religion, taking the red pill, etc.

"…you get to look down your nose at those who believe in tradition and in participating in our democratic processes…"

Just trying to explain how I see it. I do wish there was less faith in government as the result is that my rent keeps going up. But hey, whatever trips your trigger.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 4:13 pm

I do wish there was less faith in government as the result is that my rent keeps going up.

And you believe that voting is an expression of "faith in government"?

Or that a lower turnout rate would result in lower taxes? Are you making some kind of argument here? I'm having difficulty fleshing it out.

I prefer to think of it as a recognition of reality

Stopping before you walk into a wall is recognizing reality. Making a meaningless declaration that this "isn't your state" and making no real decisions around that (other than little easy things like choosing not to vote and telling people why) is not "recognizing reality", it is posturing.

Of course you can call it what you want–everyone prefers to use words like "recognizing" and "reality" when referring to their own particular beliefs. But I hope you can acknowledge the difference in how you use the term from how I would use it in the example with the wall.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Whether or not that is the case, in the issue of voting it would appear that the content is precisely what is at issue, not the method by which we arrived at it.

I contend that voting, in and of itself, is amoral. It is what you are voting for or against where moral judgement may be applied.
As I stated, I did vote. Additionally, I have run for office three times. I find it hard to be impressed by the act of voting.

Collectives have collapsed because of the attempt to defer decision making to "everyone".

My god, that sounds strangely familiar.

The market does not defer decision making to a fictional collective. Decisions are made by all individuals. There are collective results, but there is no organized collective vote on what is produced.

But that's just the point, isn't it? The individual effects are infinitesimal part of an immense whole.

As a voter, yes, as "public officials", decisions by individuals are not so infinitesimal.

Going to the park now. Watch for the end when this blog entry no longer accepts comments.

Randy November 3, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Adam,

"But I hope you can acknowledge the difference in how you use the term from how I would use it in the example with the wall."

The harm caused by walking into a wall is only more immediately obvious than the harm caused by participating in a dishonorable enterprise. The harm from both is real. There are numerous examples in history, and we are not exempt.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 5:08 pm

As I stated, I did vote. Additionally, I have run for office three times. I find it hard to be impressed by the act of voting.

Hahahaha, you'll have to forgive me, I've been carrying on like three arguments at once. I agree wholeheartedly–voting isn't particularly impressive (though I do believe it to be a duty) and the substance of one's vote is not neutral.

As a voter, yes, as "public officials", decisions by individuals are not so infinitesimal.

You don't think so? How those officials end up where they are in the first place has a lot to do with certain pressures which they have very little ability to influence themselves.

Whether or not an official gets into office, and what is politically viable to do while they are there, are things beyond the realm of what they can control.

Adam November 3, 2008 at 5:11 pm

The harm caused by walking into a wall is only more immediately obvious than the harm caused by participating in a dishonorable enterprise.

Ah, so you won't acknowledge that difference.

I think we both know where the other stands; you can get in touch with me or visit my blog if you want to pursue this discussion any further but I'm beginning to feel a bit embarrassed by the volume of words I've filled this poor post's comment section with, haha!

Tim Fowler November 3, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Randy – "But if government is the legal manifestation of a looting political class, then voting represents my wish to participate in the looting."

Not if your tilting your votes away from those who support increasing the looting, either voting for the lesser of two evils in the major parties (if their is a clear lesser of two evils), or voting for a minor party candidate or independent who's campaigning against taxes, spending and regulation.

If libertarians stop voting, that only helps the government grow even quicker.

Sam Grove November 3, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Whether or not an official gets into office, and what is politically viable to do while they are there, are things beyond the realm of what they can control.

And beyond my control as well.

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