Why don’t I vote? Because politics is, at its core, immoral solutions to problems which are exaggerated, non-existent, or caused by politics themselves.
I’m optimistic about the present and the future. I see that the world is richer, safer, more peaceful, and better educated than ever, and is getting better overall. Politicians feed on pessimism and fear – fear of foreigners, fear of other “classes”, and especially fear of freedom. They see the human world as a hostile place and getting worse every day. This is not limited to one group, nor is any group free from it.
What problems do I think are exaggerated or made up? Let’s take for example fear of foreigners, usually manifested as fear that jobs will be lost to cheap foreign labor or immigrants. Prophets of doom have been pushing this fallacy for decades, yet as globalization has spread, Americans’ material well-being has only gotten better. Where would the state of the electronics industry be if America had blocked imports from Japan and Taiwan. Today we don’t fear losing jobs to those places, because they are as rich as Americans. The same will happen for China, India, Vietnam, and other places where productivity and wages are currently low. This is one of the central theories of economics that has been proven over and over: trade, including trade in labor, is beneficial to both sides.
So the problem of foreigners reducing Americans’ job prospects is at best exaggerated and at worse completely fabricated. If that weren’t bad enough, politicians and their advisers want to implement immoral “solutions” to it. Yes, blocking people from entering the country is immoral. When a non-citizen comes to America, they don’t kick a family out of their house and take it over, and they don’t go to employers and demand jobs at gunpoint. Just like anyone already here, they must trade what they have – a willingness to work – for what they need. If a major city were to say, “People from the rural areas come here and work for lower wages and live in tiny apartments, and bring down our average income, therefore we are imposing quotas on how many people can immigrate from poor rural areas and will punish anyone who employs them or rents them an apartment”, everyone would be rightly horrified. Moving to a big city is a dream for many people, and even if they have to start out living in a studio apartment eating ramen every day, it is worth it for the opportunities it holds for the future. And cities are not made worse off by allowing people to move in – the large population is part of what makes a city what it is! Why should the case of a person from the countryside moving to the city be different from a person from a poor country moving to a rich one? Just because the latter is crossing a different kind of artificial boundary? To keep poor people from moving to rich countries where they are wanted as employees and as customers – as producers and consumers – is to condemn them to poverty for no other reason than being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is no different, morally, from Jim Crow, and I hope that my descendants look back on this period of anti-immigration sentiment with the disgust with which we consider state-sponsored racism.
That is just one example of many: fear of capital (such as robots) putting people out of jobs, fear of poorly educated people harming the morality of a nation, fear of wealthy people, fear of poor people, fear of drugs, fear of guns, fear of terrorists, fear of spies. To the extent that any of these fears are justifiable, there is no political action that will be both achievable and ethical.
That, in short, is why I don’t vote. I have no desire to put my name to anyone’s awful propositions. I don’t need to feel like I’ve played for the right team, or demonstrated my credibility to the right people, or shown my undying faith in democracy. Besides that, I don’t live in a swing district in a swing state nor do I vote for one of the major parties, so my vote has no effect. My life will be made richer by looking at pictures on Facebook for 30 minutes rather than spending that time voting.
One last soapbox speech: Politics is not the answer. Loving your neighbor – which in part means giving him or her the respect you want others to treat you with – is the key to a good society. Treat adults like adults, be generous and gracious, be slow to speak and slow to become angry, and you will do more good in a single day than a lifetime of casting ballots.