Saturday, June 17, 2006

Voting guide: support the opposition

I've been meaning to write up a little "Guide for the common voter", to express my ideas on how regular folk should approach elections.

Basically, elections are a big waste of time and effort; no regular person has any hope of influencing the outcome of an election.

But regular folk should still vote. We should just get in, pull the lever, get out, and get back to doing the real work of the world (because we know that the politicians and lobbyists aren't doing anything useful).

However, an miscast vote is no better, and possibly worse, than no vote at all. Is there any way that we can quickly come to a decision on who to vote for, but still be confident that we will generally vote for the "right person"?

In this article, I propose two strategies for quick and efficient voting: vote for gridlock, and vote for change. They are both based on the observation that "power corrupts".

Vote for gridlock: When one party controls all branches of government, the government goes to shit. The opposition party is powerless to force accountability on the dominant party. Basically, the dominant party just uses its power to steal everything it can get its hands, and divides the spoils among its politicians, its campaign donors, and its voting constituencies. When power is split between the parties, each party will have the ability to hold the other accountable for any abuse of power, and legislation will only get established with near-consensus. So, if power is not evenly divided between the two major parties, vote for the candidate from the weaker of the two parties.

There's a nice piece on this from Reason: Vote for Gridlock: It's the patriotic thing to do

Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often and for the same reasons.

Vote for change: If it isn't clear how to produce greater gridlock, then just vote against the incumbent. Incumbency provides too of a re-election advantage, and too much power in Washington. A constant turnover among politicians assures that they don't forget what its like to have a real job, and also provides the people with a constant supply of ex-politicians who can openly debrief us on what they saw in the halls of power.

Before we end, I'd like to address one common objection to these strategies: both of these strategies decrease the power of the elected representative from the voter's district, but a voter should want his representatives to have more power to advance the interests of his district. Poppycock. This is a simple choice between advancing parochial interests or advancing the general interest. Voters are free to use their votes to support the interests of a narrow group in society, and many (if not most) voters do just that. However, a narrow approach to politics undermines the entire purpose of having a political union. If voters are acting out of selfish aims, we should just dissolve the government, and end this farce.

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