One day I just got bored.
I started to see the whole thing as one giant circle jerk.
I’m saving myself for a better world.
Someday when I find it I don’t want to have to explain how I gave myself up to George Bush. Then John McCain. Then to Donald Trump.
I want to be pure for it. So I took a vow of abstinence.
I stopped voting years ago. I’ve been frequently challenged to provide lengthy explanations for my decision. It never ceases to amaze me how affected others are by the news. Like I’ve betrayed them. Like I’ve committed some kind of Grand Treason.
Sometimes these conversations lead to realization that I share many of the same frustrations as voters. I hate taxes. I’m repulsed by war. I don’t trust politicians. Prohibitions and licensure laws are tyrannical. Government should stay out of ____________ (everything). Blah blah blah.
I participated in these conversations for years (as a non-voter and as a voter). I punched my ticket at each election. Which was maybe 3. I stopped voting not long after I was “of age.” One day I just got bored.
I started to see the whole thing as one giant circle jerk. A new guy would come up for election. He’d make promises. He’d secure some votes. He’d be stonewalled in office. Nothing would change. Repeat. That’s not progress. It’s madness.
When I began reading more broadly into political philosophy and economics I found I wasn’t alone. There were tons of theories about why voting isn’t particularly useful. There were as many about the incentives politicians face for acting in their own interests over the interest of ‘the people.’ None of this surprised me. It simply abhorred me.
I never stopped hoping for a better world. I just couldn’t buy into the fairy tale that voting would accomplish this any longer. I had new information. But my experiences and observations had confirmed the same.
It inspired me to empower myself to eliminate my frustrations. Voting seemed too passive. I wanted to be active about making my world better.
I started by educating myself. I wrote a lot about what I read. I engaged others. I challenged. I argued until I was blue in the face. It didn’t matter. Other people couldn’t envision the world as I saw it. They didn’t want to.
That no longer bothers me. Everyone should do what makes them happy I think. If voting has value to you, then vote. If it doesn’t, then don’t.
I think a greater issue is at the root. Every person is an individual actor in his or her own universe. We’re all just trying to go out and get what we want according to what we know and believe.
This idea was revolutionary to me. It made want to stop changing others and start by changing myself. Hoping 51 percent of people agree with me was disempowering. Voting for that world was just not enough. If there was a better world to be had and I wanted it, then I must take action.
A great explanation of this comes from Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action. To summarize he posited three requirements must be present for individuals to take action: 1) unease or dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs, 2) a vision of a better state, and 3) belief that they can reach the better state.
The three requirements are contingent upon one another. The first two conditions are nearly always satisfied for me. Yet, in the context of the political establishment the third criteria ceases to be satisfied for me.
I abstain from politics not [only] because I hate politics and not because I’m apathetic. One significant reason stems from the third criteria above. It would be illogical for me to cast a ballot knowing I don’t believe it will effect any desired change. Why should the burden of proof be on me anyway? Make the political system prove that it’s invaluable to social progress. It hasn’t yet.
My belief that a better state can be reached rests on the creation of that better state. Not by governmental mandates but by individuals who set their vision into motion in the world.
It is not through handmaidens of the political establishment with their waving pens and crummy rhetoric that the standards of living across the globe have ever been raised. It’s by the sweat, blood, and commitment of men with a vision for a better world and a bias for action to create that world.
If you’re dissatisfied with the present conditions of the world; and you possess a vision of a better world; and you believe that world can be achieved…it’s time to act.
Don’t rely on the ballot box to create a better world. Just go build it.