The Voting Conundrum

Today is election day in the United States. Throughout the web, Americans are being told to go vote; how it’s one of the great freedoms, etc. Being that I’m a “does it have to be a box” sort of thinker, I’ve long struggled with how important voting is. Is majority rule actually the best way to do things?

Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.

–J.Whedon (attrib.)

Voters at the voting urinals voting machines.

I think about so much of our life as consumers: we want and want and want. For the most part, these aren’t expansive, altruistic wants, they are selfish. I want. Give me. Let me. There isn’t a lot of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. All to often our wants are transient. They are easily and quickly supplanted by more wants. Our needs, though, those are longer lasting. While we might want the end result of having our needs met, all too often our more impatient wants get in the way. As a group, it’s all too easy for us to be distracted.

Much of modern society is based on majority rules. Often the only refuge for the minority points of view are the courts, and even they can be swayed by the tides. If you look back in history, you can’t help but wonder if the majority isn’t wrong more often than it’s right. On the other hand, history is also littered with the bodies of the victims of those who gained power in a less than democratic way. That seems to bode even less well for the minority than popular voting.

It’s perhaps for this reason that the founders of the U.S. opted for the electoral college for presidential election [personal note: I’m no fan of the winner-take-all selection of state electors practiced by most states; I’d rather it be proportional based on winners of voting districts] and legislative appointments for Senators (which was changed to a popular vote in 1913). It’s sort of a middle ground system that gives the people an indirect voice. When we override the wishes of our founders, who as a group were more concerned with what the country needed for all Americans than most elected officials today, I wonder about the wisdom of disputing them on matters such as these.

The only solution I see is having a learned and compassionate association–which can be an educated public, but we almost never seem to have one of those lying about–selecting leaders based on ability and an eye toward posterity. Yeah, I’m not seeing that happening, either.

And so we vote. I’d love to say that I have a better system to propose; a system that takes majority opinion into account, but doesn’t make that the prime motivator for doing the things that are difficult in the short term but advantageous in the long-term. Wants are about short-term thinking and electorates are about wants. When long-term needs are met, more often than not it seems that it’s quite by accident.

So…vote, don’t vote, I don’t really care. If it’s a freedom, you can do either. I just loathe the fact that with no matter who wins, it will be a politician representing my interests. A politician. Ugh. Being that I’m not interested in what motivates a politician, how is it that only they are the ones selected to represent my point of view? Can’t we at least get better people on the ballot?

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