Never before will the federal government be so large a part of your life, telling you what you can and cannot do, than after these November elections. Our next president will be the ultimate arbiter between the ever-increasing demands of special interests, vocal minorities and corporations to determine who gets to share the ever-growing pie of federal tax revenue.
The Washington mentality, as I learned over the summer, is that the American people are exclusively a set of special interest groups that all need to be satisfied or at least partially mitigated if you want to be reelected. The lessons of this are ambiguous. Those who just want to live their life peaceably in their own way have to nevertheless lobby ceaselessly to defeat measures that would harm them at the expense of some other vocal interest.
On the other hand, I’m very glad the ACLU is always on the lookout for my civil rights. I’m also glad that certain fiscally conservative pressure groups (like the National Taxpayers Union, for example) pressure to keep government efficient.
So when I look at a presidential candidate I am always asking the question: Is this the man who will the most let me live my life the way I want to, in peace with others? I don’t look at what he will do for others, I want to know what he will do to my life. When the poor or the elderly vote, I’m pretty sure they’re not taking my interests into account, so why should I do the same for them? I wish them no ill, but I’m not going to sacrifice my well-being to them. This may sound like an overly selfish attitude, but this seems to be the way everyone else votes. If I vote selflessly for the general interest, I will inevitably be picking up the tab.
It is also regrettable that the man who has the most influence over my life is sitting in Washington D.C., rather than in some place where my friends and I can talk to him. I mean, I’d rather have more power over my own life, but if someone else is going to be making decisions for my own good, it’s only normal that I should have some meaningful input. This analysis is of course contingent on a particular definition of democracy that emphasizes self-government over rule of the majority.
Centralized power means that people far away who know very little about your life or your job are making some of the most important decisions about your life. The special interest mentality that goes hand in hand with a centralized power structure is one that accepts some personal hindrances against some victories.
You are fighting to bend others to your will by force. You fight hard; sometimes you are beaten, and sometimes you win. But is there not something morally repugnant when the definition of victory is imposition of your will on an unwilling minority? In fact, isn’t this what they used to call tyranny? A victory for me is when the government doesn’t impose laws on me that harm my peaceful pursuit of happiness.
As those who will inevitably inherit from the mess Republicans and Democrats are creating in our country, we need to make our voice heard this election. As the youth of the United States, we also need to make our vote count for the issues we care about, our civil liberties and the social security debt both parties seem to want to let us inherit.
One of the main safeguards of democracy is that those who make the laws have to live with their consequences. But do the middle income fortysomethings of this world who will decide this election care about drug legalization, free speech in music and media, the environment a hundred years from now, police brutality or minority religious protection? By and large these are not issues that will affect them. Do the politicians now in office or soon to get there really care what happens when they are long gone and our generation has to face the consequences of their irresponsibility? They care about the short term, the few years they are likely to be in office. Things like individual economic and civil liberty make their benefits felt over the long term.
Don’t feel obliged to vote for the lesser of two evils. Show that you care and reject bipartisan politics. I, for one, will be voting for Libertarian Harry Browne. My vote is not cast to shape the way other people live; it is to send a message of dissent to Washington. You often hear that a vote for someone else than Bush or Gore is a wasted vote but your point of view will only be heard if you vote for the candidate you most support.
If you vote for Bush or Gore, you are sanctioning their political program. They will say you gave them your support for whatever they will be trying to do in the next four years, even if your support was qualified or begrudging or simply a vote against the other main candidate. I would say that on the contrary, your vote is wasted on Al Gore and George Bush because your vote means accepting their view of the world, one where you obviously don’t count.
If you vote Nader, you are clearly telling the Democrats to concentrate more on issues like the environment, genetic engineering, and consumer protection. If like me, you vote for Harry Browne, you’re telling both Republicans and Democrats to back off your drugs, your music, your money and foreign wars. You’ll be sending a clear message to sell those federally owned forests to environmental groups who actually care about them.
You’ll be asking to be treated like a responsible adult, not the economic and moral babies Republicrats think you are. Third Party candidates are important in making our democracy more representative. Reward these candidates with your vote and above all don’t let Al Gore or George Bush turn around and use your vote against you.