a thoughtful web.
Share good ideas and conversation.   Login or Take a Tour!
user-inactivated  ·  2625 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Eat Your Ballot

Finally got a free moment, so I wanted to follow up, although this one is gonna be a little bit abridged.

I don't disagree with most of your first paragraph. Ultimately, our access to state-provided services, especially given that we pay for them with taxes, doesn't impose upon us any obligation to vote. I was more listing those services because you seemed to have some question earlier on about whether or not there was any benefit to living in America, as well as an assertion that America didn't do anything for you, personally. That you don't at this point need any of the potential services says less about America, though, and more about you as a healthy young adult in a relatively stable situation, right? Besides that, I totally agree. Basic social contract = I pay for a service (taxes), state provides that service (any/all of discussed). Voting never necessarily enters into it.

Only point that I'd debate in that paragraph is the following:

    What say you to the argument that it is the duty of a state that imposes its will on its citizenry to render those services?

Now, I'm not going to totally refute this- I will say, however, that it is a highly controversial idea, and one that's only really taken as a given in functioning liberal democracies. There's an interesting book by this dude Mancur Olson called "Power and Prosperity," dealing principally with the issue of the state's role in economic dealings. Essentially, he suggests that governments could be viewed as little more than well-estabilished organized crime syndicates- "stationary bandits." They set up shop in a place, establish a monopoly on power (military might, biggest stick in the room and all that), and then slowly squeeze the natives for cash and resources. In return, they provide protection for those natives from other outside actors, and may even set up infrastructure to encourage economic stability. In so doing, they shore up their power twofold- 1) inhabitants are more likely to play along if they can, on a basic level, count on all their stuff to still be there in the morning, and 2) can, with a stronger local economy, in turn squeeze more resources from their victims, er, constituents.

What's the point of this diatribe? Not much, other than A) you strike me as the kind of guy who would like that book, and B) if you go by that argument, your original point- "duty of a state to render those services"- is a little off base. It's more like "a really successful/devious state will find it in their best interest to provide these services in order to raise a fatter, tastier herd to eat at its leisure." Duty never really enters into it. A state isn't defined by its duty to the citizenry, that's more of a liberal democratic invention. A state could simply be defined as the regional actor with the biggest claim to legitimized violence, and the ability to use that violence more effectively and with wider scope than all the other guys.

But I'm getting way off track- sorry, I haven't wanked political since I got my degree, and I forgot how fun it is.

Bottom line: your first paragraph is sound, although I'd question the whole "duty of the state" thing. And come to think of it, that you might believe that of a state is a huge point in favor of how great it is to live in America. That we accept that definition of statehood so readily means that certain expectations of comfort are so ingrained in our political psyche as to render other versions of statehood- think Yemen or Iran- pretty inconceivable.

As for the second half of your last post- a little more clarification. I wasn't suggesting that voting gave "the right to criticize." We all, by virtue of being citizens, hold that right. It might give one the right to criticize our system without tipping towards hypocrisy ("I'm so unhappy with this state of affairs that I refuse to do anything that might make me happier about it, and I refuse to stop the people who are making me so unhappy"). In fact, I wasn't trying to touch on our rights at all. More on our duty to advertise our personal culpability through voting: "I grant that America does terrible things so that it can keep on being America. I grant that America's continued existence benefits me as a citizen of America and (possible future) recipient of American privileges. Given these premises, it is my duty not only to grudgingly accept these American privileges, but to help select the Chief Bad Guy and thereby own up to my complicity in all of the above."

I agree, it's a fun argument, and I also agree- not necessarily convincing. I'm not even sure I find it convincing yet, I'm still chewing on it. So I can't really begrudge you for not being convinced yourself, especially given that you're living a heavily gerrymandered existence. Austin, wasn't it? Being a progressive in Texas sounds like a great way to ensure an early stroke. I'm still gonna stick to my earlier suggestion, though- even if you don't want to vote for either of the sanctioned choices, vote Mickey Mouse, or Frank Zappa, or your best friend. Just put something on the ballot- if not only because it's louder to voice your non-compliance with a nonsense vote than it is to just drop off the grid, which, after all, is exactly what those assholes are counting on.

I'd be careful with Canada- it seems like all wine and roses from down here, but I've got it from a few reputable sources that their economic/environmental policy is despicable. And given the events of this past week in Toronto, I'm not so sure that their politicians are any less infuriating than ours.

PS- I don't understand, Flag. Should I be "sharing" your comments or not? Goddammit, you keep on sharing mine but you put a fine point on being selective in what we share. I want to keep hitting "share!" Why can't I hit "Share?"

PPS- I am incapable of abridging any thought.