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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  2630 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Eat Your Ballot

I don't understand why so many people are advocating for not voting. Of course, voting doesn't do much, but it can't hurt to vote for the fringe candidate. Not voting does nothing.

"Eat your ballot" has a nice ring to it, though.





user-inactivated  ·  2630 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    but it can't hurt to vote for the fringe candidate.

Why not?

    Not voting does nothing.

Nothing can be a pretty powerful form of dissent; history proves that time and again.

Latch  ·  2630 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I feel like not voting out of protest will just be seen as apathy, giving the ones with money/power even more of a chance to stuff the ballot box in their favour (less overall votes they have to try and obtain).

user-inactivated  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That's the point of things like voiding your ballot or doing some sort of weird protest like eating it. As events at the polling locations become increasingly absurd, the government will seem less legitimate.

humanodon  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I feel like a more powerful message would be to write something on the ballot, like "no vote" or something to express no-confidence in the available candidates (if that is the case). I really think that a lot of people feel like they have to choose one of the candidates when they are in the voting booth, as it is heavily implied. Voting is a freedom and a civic duty and making one's dissatisfaction known so that it may be accounted for is something that I think is something that is necessary.

Destroying a ballot destroys feedback and while it might be pleasurable or fun for some, it strikes me as passive aggressive when assertive action is warranted.

Meriadoc  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This is absurd. I'm tired of seeing this argument of not voting as an act of revolution. All it does is remove dissent from the system of representation. You don't like who's representing you? You don't think there are any options for you? Why is the response to that 'I'm not even going to participate'? You know goddamn well who will continue to vote, the entrenched believers in this garbage system, the extreme elements who already have power, and people who have vested interests in the system as it is.

At no point are people going to see people behaving oddly and think 'well how strange. Maybe I was wrong and this government ISN'T legitimate.' And even if they did, then what? Suddenly the government will dissolve itself? Corruption will cease?

If you think something is seriously wrong with our government-- and there sure as fuck is-- passive protest is going to do absolutely nothing. It's less than marching or making speeches or being a presence, it's being non-existent. Do you want the system to change? Then tear it the fuck down. Find a way to systematically destroy the corruption through their own games, organize constructively, create something new to replace it.

user-inactivated  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This is an issue I've never been quite sure where I stand on. But keep in mind that it's not about tearing the system down (for me anyway). It's simple: the current system is an ineffective joke. My vote doesn't matter beyond at best the county level. So, I refuse to participate. Period. Rational egoism does not necessarily dictate that I take the next step and fight for change -- that's where your critique fails to apply.

So, when you say that "passive protest does absolutely nothing" ... well, not to me. If you insist that not voting has to be an act of protest, I can only say -- fine. The system is stupid and voting isn't at the moment compulsory; thus I will live out a few more years and then move to a better country. My country has no claim on me at all. Voting stopped being a 'civic duty' long before I was born.

Meriadoc  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I agree to a point. I don't feel voting beyond local elections has a major effect on much, mostly because the larger and more distant the government figure, the further removed from effects on my life they are, and the more open to corruption they are; however, their choices have massive power as a country and on the world as a whole, and they need to be held responsible for their actions and their actions need to be more in line with what the people desire, and not just of their own countries, but of the entire world, especially those they are going to directly affect through war or economical means.

There are two ways out of that situation that I can reasonably see:

1.) As a people they create new forms of legislators, either in forms of parties (or write-ins or another alternative to parties, preferably) that are held massively accountable by the people through mass demonstration and as threats to the current power who, over the course of years and legislative processes can remove the elements that cause the corruption and pass laws that are untouchable and capable of producing realistic change.

2.) The people abolish our form of our governmental system and salvage the workableparts in the creation of a new form of government that is focused on small communities, possibly smaller than states where the people have a more direct say. I can't say how that would be accomplished or what needs to happen to make it occur because the incidentals are limitless.

Of course, voting should never be compulsory and you certainly should feel a duty to fix things if you plan to leave. I have conflicted issues on that matter as well, as I fully plan to leave at some point as well, cutting all ties entirely to my home country, and yet I still feel that I need to do all that is in my power to change what is currently happening, perhaps out of nostalgia for my home, or a naive hope for a utopia, or just a simple logical progression that my home country has enough power that everything they do will continue to affect me no matter where I live, but I personally will never feel (and this doesn't necessarily apply to you, flagamuffin, but this movement) that if I'm not voting I'm somehow fixing the problem.

user-inactivated  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Okay. I'm not sure about your solutions -- I'm not sure about any solution. Sometimes, maybe, there's not a solution at all...

Anyway, I question two things you said -- a) why shouldn't voting be compulsory? That's not an idea to be dismissive about; there are good arguments on both sides. And b) why should I feel a duty to fix that which I am abandoning? Just curious. I couldn't name offhand anything that America as an entity has done for me. I'm glad to live here, because the standard of living is high, but that doesn't have much to do with the current system. (If the answer is, as you mention third, rational interest, then never mind.)

--

Not voting isn't fixing the problem. But voting implies buying into the system -- yes, even writing in Bob Dole -- and that is the opposite. And hell, who are we kidding? My vote's been gerrymandered out of existence. I'll happily vote in the next City Council election, I vote at the neighborhood and county level -- but that's where I draw the line.

user-inactivated  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Please forgive if this comes off as stilted/awkward- typing it out from an iPhone. Wanted to get in on he action before this conversation disappeared. Specifically wanted to address point b) ("why should I feel a duty to fix that which I'm abandoning?")

Just because you can't immediately identify anything America has done for you lately doesn't mean that you haven't actually benefitted from living here. Trade agreements? Food and drug regulations? Educational grants? And then there's national security. Ugly, underhanded, over-reaching... Effective. Like it or hate it, the US Iis still, for the moment, one of the world's primary powers. Which brings all kind of heat on us, not only as a nation but also, potentially, as individuals. You benefit from living here. The state provides some definite services for you as a citizen. It also does some nasty shit in your name.

So why should that count as an argument in favor of "buying into the system?" Well, way I see it, it's less about condoning a reprehensible political structure, and more about taking some amount of ownership of that structure. Yeah, we benefit from living here. And that benefit, your comforts, we're built and are sustained on the backs of he less fortunate. Abstaining from the vote, in my opinion, isn't just kind of a passive-aggressive gesture (although I agree with humanodon- it's that too), it's incredibly hypocritical. To say something along the lines of "I'll continue to live here and accept all the wealth and security that American life affords, no matter the cost to other world actors... But I won't vote for the guys who help make the decisions that help secure my wealth and safety..." I mean, that's a denial of culpability, isn't it? That's accepting the service without paying the tax.

Almost didn't vote last national election, because I was feeling the way you do (presumably). Two things changed my mind. First was the above thought process, more or less. Second was the following: yes, national politics are nasty. Yes, it's hard to see tie direct benefit from the guy on top to you personally. Yes, national office is defined more by its strictures and limitations than it is by powers for change. But. National office exists, as do the shitty choices that have to be made every day by those who inhabit those offices. That being he case, I'd better do everything in my power to make sure the most qualified guy is in office making those decisions. Even if they're shitty decisions. No, especially if they're shitty decisions. Because the alternative is allowing just any schmuck in office and make those decisions for you. As you sit back and talk about how you want no part of "the system" while at the same time reaping the benefits of that system every day. So: a) tough decisions have to be made on a national level whether you like it or not. Better make sure the people making those decisions are qualified. And when they make decisions that can generously be described as the lesser of two evils, better make sure you've accepted responsibility right along with them, rather than buried your head in that soft, expensive American sand.

That was my thinking, anyhow. And don't read all those "yous" as me pointing the finger at you personally. More just inner dialog stuff.

user-inactivated  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This is really interesting, and I have some things to say -- specifically about how I was trying to get across a subtle distinction between America as an ideal and America as a practicality (I failed), but I'm a bit swamped tonight. I'll keep this in my inbox for later.

Quickly, though, a general caution to everyone reading this thread: hubski is not reddit. Clicking "share" next to comments is not upvoting. I understand that the majority of you (all, in fact, except myself and minimum_wage) disagree with the stance that voting is fruitless. However, that disagreement shouldn't be reflected in the number of shares each post has. Don't forget that the purpose of sharing is to acknowledge depthful posts -- not to agree. This phenomenon isn't playing out to a huge extent here, nor does it matter at all in this instance, but I've been seeing this more and more on hubski lately and it worries me, because it's one of the forerunners of site decline. As hubski's average comments per post rises, we simply cannot stop clicking share for all depthful posts and only continue to promote the ones we agree with. That way lies centralization and failure of the site's purpose, eventually.

user-inactivated  ·  2628 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Just because you can't immediately identify anything America has done for you lately doesn't mean that you haven't actually benefitted from living here. Trade agreements? Food and drug regulations? Educational grants? And then there's national security. Ugly, underhanded, over-reaching... Effective. Like it or hate it, the US Iis still, for the moment, one of the world's primary powers. Which brings all kind of heat on us, not only as a nation but also, potentially, as individuals. You benefit from living here. The state provides some definite services for you as a citizen. It also does some nasty shit in your name.
Okay, I'm back. This is what I wanted to partially address, although I don't have the same thoughts in my head I had yesterday. I am the first to acknowledge that, cynical though we all are now, America is still the foremost land of opportunity. A disdain for the things many of us take for granted wasn't what I meant to get across at all. But the things being born in America has done for me don't equate to the things America has done for me. That's the difference, to me. America isn't a country that sets out to do things specifically for its citizens anymore, except for a very few with money and those over the age of 65. You can also, maybe, flip the argument around -- that a certain standard of living is America's duty to provide to those who live within its borders, pay its taxes, follow its laws. The truth is somewhere in the middle no doubt.

    So why should that count as an argument in favor of "buying into the system?" Well, way I see it, it's less about condoning a reprehensible political structure, and more about taking some amount of ownership of that structure. Yeah, we benefit from living here. And that benefit, your comforts, we're built and are sustained on the backs of he less fortunate. Abstaining from the vote, in my opinion, isn't just kind of a passive-aggressive gesture (although I agree with humanodon- it's that too), it's incredibly hypocritical. To say something along the lines of "I'll continue to live here and accept all the wealth and security that American life affords, no matter the cost to other world actors... But I won't vote for the guys who help make the decisions that help secure my wealth and safety..." I mean, that's a denial of culpability, isn't it? That's accepting the service without paying the tax.

Hmm. Well, I do deny culpability. I'm getting out as soon as I financially can (and if I'm still here, it's because so is the best higher education in the world -- which also has its price; there's always a price). In the meantime, I'm politically efficacious. I help the less fortunate in far more direct and useful ways than voting. In short, I do what I think I can to help -- voting doesn't help. Abstaining from the vote can be a gesture, and is for some people, but I've said elsewhere in the thread that it's not for me; it's just acceptance and rationality. I do vote locally. If there was ever a presidential candidate or congressman whose views dovetailed with mine to a high degree of correlation, which finally happen in 2050, he or she'd probably get my vote, pointless as that would be. But I refuse to vote for the lesser of a few evils, as someone above said. That's tacit acceptance of the shitty public servants we have today.

The last thing I guess I have is a response to your post in general -- the system that benefits me that you keep referring to ... I'm not seeing it, really. Everything in America has a cost (yes, even security -- America is not uniformly the extremely safe place you make it out to be, and living in one of the safe parts costs more), and I pay that cost, whether through taxes or what have you. I owe this country taxes for its public infrastructure and access to utilities, of course (although as an environmentalist in Texas I could talk your ear off with horror stories of toll roads, reservoirs and eminent domain). Beyond that ... it's a contract, we each fulfill our sides, and I don't see where voting comes into the picture. I pay the cost to live here, I accept the benefits, and I leave as soon as a reasonable opportunity arises to do so. Thoughts?

user-inactivated  ·  2627 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So! A few things.

    But the things being born in America has done for me don't equate to the things America has done for me. That's the difference, to me. America isn't a country that sets out to do things specifically for its citizens anymore, except for a very few with money and those over the age of 65.

Not entirely sure what one might reasonably expect from the state in terms of services rendered. I mean, if you're waiting for the president or your local congressman to come and buy you a coffee, maybe rub your back, ask you how your day went... no, that's probably not going to happen. Not much your local or national government will actively "do" for you personally. But, I mean, there's plenty of stuff the American gov't attempts to do for its citizenry, right? Besides the examples I already listed, there's public works projects, there's health benefits for those who need them (and now there's the increasingly dubious addition of the ACA). There's workplace discrimination laws. There's airline subsidies that, sure, help Big Airplane insofar as it keeps airlines from being entirely unprofitable and therefore unsustainable. That's national infrastructure. There are farming subsidies that not only help Big MacDonald, but also keep milk and grain prices stable for you, Joe Shopper. There are divisions of government set up to make sure that monopolies don't give corporations unfair advantages, there are food stamp programs, WIC, social services, uh, public schools. And by security, I meant security on a national level, not a local level. I meant more along the lines of "when was the last time there was a home-grown, nation-wide splinter movement that specialized in kidnapping randoms off of the street for political gains or big profits on a daily basis" type thing. Or a "how often do car bombings happen in America" type thing. Or "When did the Aum Shinrikyo last unleash a deadly cloud of Sarin into American Subways" type thing. Not really a "how much crime is in your particular community and how does that correlate to that community's socioeconomic standing" thing. Which is really up to state/citywide funding, isn't it? And a problem inherent to most nations above a certain population level.

And I'm still gonna give a shout out to federal loans, which helped my wife, who came from a less financially stable background, get through college and post-grad. Now, you could argue that a lot of these government-funded programs are getting worse and worse, but ultimately that depends on whose ideologies are driving state policy, and I'm pretty sure that goes back to voting, and making sure those ideologies are balanced.

So what could the government do for you personally that would convince you that America is providing you opportunities rather than just being the place you were born? Or is your main quibble that you have to pay for those services?

As for your second point- interesting! Where are you thinking of moving? I think that this, ultimately, is the only way to follow through with the whole "I reject this state of affairs" mindset. That said, however, you haven't left yet, and so the onus of responsibility still lies on you to help determine and, yes, take ownership of our political narrative. And by that, I might not have been clear enough in my definition. I didn't just mean, "voting helps or hurts our national community and you need to own that." In that case, yeah, you could do some service work in a limited capacity and kind of take culpability that way. I meant more on a global scale. The decisions that have to be made every day on that level in terms of economic policy (trade deals, supply routes, sanctions, etc.), security (who do we drone today?), diplomacy- these are all executed with our national well-being in mind. Which doesn't always equal out to your or my personal well-being. But without the one, the other is much less guaranteed.

So let's say the state makes all these nasty decisions, and then we sit all cozy with our property rights and basic freedoms and, yes, relatively strong national security and we say: "I can't condone this, so I'm not voting." Do you see the problem with that? There are so many world actors that are hurt by America's self interest (although, if we're being fair, all actors are hurt by every other actor's self interest when you're talking about the superpowers), and there's fuckall we can do about it. You're not going to fly to Pakistan and help re-build their shelled communities. Or at least I'm not. So anyhow, by not voting, it's not that you're rejecting the system that makes all of this possible. You're just refusing to put your fingerprint on it. After all, you're not voting those offices or those bad decisions out of existence, or willing those offices and bad decisions out of existence by not voting- you're just refusing to choose the name of the guy who is going to make your decisions for you whether you like it or not. Meanwhile, you're still reaping the benefits of those decisions, right up to the point at which you leave. Which means you ought to pay for those decisions- not only in tax dollars and opportunity cost, but in moral culpability as well. In my mind, that equals out to voting, although I'm willing to grant that maybe there are workarounds.

    the system that benefits me that you keep referring to ... I'm not seeing it, really. Everything in America has a cost

I mean, yeah, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a place where provided services don't have a cost. Just because you have to buy into national benefit doesn't mean that America is suddenly worse for your state of existence than, I dunno, Russia or Brazil or Saudi Arabia. You're not blessed to live here because you don't have to pay for services. You're blessed to live here because those services exist at all, and if you require them they'll work more or less as promised, and because if you don't like any part of it, you can complain about it and you won't disappear. We're so wealthy here that we don't even know how good we have it.

None of this is to say our system is perfect. In fact, my above philosophy on voting is based less on starry-eyed "you have it perfect and if you dont, gosh-darn-it yes you can change things" naivete and more on a deep, deep cynicism: "the state does horrible shit so you can live the way you do, so vote in order to help bear the moral brunt of those decisions."

If you're hung up on voting for one of the two yutzes on the ballot... that's not really a good reason to abstain from voting altogether. Write in. Hell, if you think somebody out there can do it better, jot their name down. Vote third party. I had a friend who tried to start a national movement wherein local liberals and conservatives could join up, go to the ballot box together, and verify that each of them voted third party, thereby depriving both large parties of an equal number of votes and doubling the third-party turnout. Neat idea, hasn't yet gained ground. Ultimately though, what I'm getting at is that it's not about validating the two cronies on the ballot, as you suggested- it's about taking ownership of the political infrastructure that makes it all possible, warts and all.

Does any of that make sense? Curse this little text box, so hard to review what I'm writing for consistency.

user-inactivated  ·  2627 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You can make the text box larger! Slightly. Bottom right dot arrow thing.

So. Your first paragraph is basically a list of services America renders. 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? There's one potential counter-argument. Another is simply that I pay taxes for those very things; like I said, I consider paying taxes a social contract for which I am rewarded with public works, stable food prices, all your other points. So on. Fair? The third argument, the one that seems slightly selfish no matter how I endeavor not to make it thus, is that I simply don't use almost all of the services you mentioned. Health care, public schools? There are taxes for that, paid in full. Food stamps? Nope. Governmental health care -- well, Aetna is an MCO, so kind of, but certainly not by choice. Public safety along the lines of what you mentioned? Expected, in my opinion. The baseline shouldn't be Iran. Agriculture subsidies, corporate subsidies -- definitely use those indirectly, good point. But I've read a few too many books on the American political process to think that those were put together for the common man.

So in the sense that I take part in the American economy, I owe my country that it is stable. I don't want to come off as a) ungrateful or b) oblivious to the difference between growing up in Equitorial Guinea and the US, as many anarcho-capitalists etc do. No. By far the stronger of the arguments are the former two, in my opinion. But I refuse to feel guilt about not voting because I am offered the opportunity to use many services which I do not need.

    The decisions that have to be made every day on that level in terms of economic policy (trade deals, supply routes, sanctions, etc.), security (who do we drone today?), diplomacy- these are all executed with our national well-being in mind. Which doesn't always equal out to your or my personal well-being. But without the one, the other is much less guaranteed.

    So let's say the state makes all these nasty decisions, and then we sit all cozy with our property rights and basic freedoms and, yes, relatively strong national security and we say: "I can't condone this, so I'm not voting." Do you see the problem with that?

Okay, what you're getting at makes perfect sense. But ... I'm not convinced that voting for the sake of the "right to criticize" is any nobler than abstention. Especially because before I moved I lived in one of the most gerrymandered areas in the history of the country. Does that ridiculous train wreck give my abstention the moral high ground? Does having the high ground even matter? I do lean pro-government, politically -- far more so than many on hubski -- so it's not like I go around waving a stick in the air (at least no often, and only when I get really mad). But I find it fascinating that you keep equating voting with responsibility, with morality -- when it's not clear to me that voting gives me either of those. It's a wonderful argument and I'm not not convinced -- but the ironclad fact remains that people beyond my ken have basically taken voting on a national level away from me. I don't even really begrudge them that, because I want to avoid the hypocrisy; they're just furthering their own interests.

    I mean, yeah, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a place where provided services don't have a cost. Just because you have to buy into national benefit doesn't mean that America is suddenly worse for your state of existence than, I dunno, Russia or Brazil or Saudi Arabia.

We agree this far, we're just hung up on what the cost should be. I wonder. Anyway, I spent last summer backpacking around western Europe; I'd like to live somewhere there, or Canada, or Australia, or anywhere really. My primary motivation for moving is less "get out" than it is to explore, but the "get out" is an underlying current.

user-inactivated  ·  2625 days ago  ·  link  ·  

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.

user-inactivated  ·  2624 days ago  ·  link  ·  

All right I too will do my best to pare this down just a tad.

    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?

Yeeees, but I still pay taxes equal in some ways to a person who -- well basically the system of taxation has no way of distinguishing between who is paying for something they use and who isn't. Obviously. That's fine, that's how a social democracy works. But I'm still paying taxes and getting less back than many citizens, so there's an argument to be made that I'm going above and beyond there (as is any healthy non-criminal citizen). There's also the idea that as a larger and larger portion of America becomes overweight or obese, those of us who aren't will be essentially funding a giant fucking eating problem. I wonder which politician will have the nerve to make that point in 20 years. Anyway, yes. Yes, you can more or less write off my argument about not needing certain services -- with caveats.

    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.

This I love. If you look at all of recorded human history, from around 3000 to about 1700, nearly every single empire entity was exactly this. Kautsky called them traditional aristocratic empires. They, of course, saw it as the duty of the "citizenry" to provide to the elites. Now, I've been playing the devil's advocate sort of with the "duty of the state" argument for the most part, but I certainly like it better than the alternative, coerced "duty of the peasants." Why? Well, it seems better, doesn't it? And you bring up the traditional way empires formed and governments played out, but Kautsky's whole point in that book up there is that something has clearly changed since 1700 when most of the traditional empires died out, so why are we basing our expectations on the archaic past. I don't know. It involves the (extremely controversial of course) idea of a sort of manifest destiny of democracy, which everyone believed in 1955 and no one believes now (and, like you point out, couldn't even be conceived of Iran -- although they've come closer than most realize!).

There's also the middle ground, duty of no one to anyone, which is basically what we have in America, where people and government are locked in constant cold war. Whatever.

    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."

Ha!

    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.

They are. I hold out a forlorn hope that if ever we hit a presidential election where, say, only 30 percent of eligible voters vote, or less, (and every county goes 80/20 or steeper because of political pinwheeling) someone will realize that we must have election reform. However, I admit that not voting when currently more than half of eligible voters still vote is just the signal fading in the noise. That's why I'm extremely reluctant to call my apathy here "making a stand" etc. Increasingly I believe there's no solution. You're the voice of reason in this conversation and you just told me to vote for Mickey Mouse.

PS: I share any comment on hubski that looks like it took effort to produce and isn't overtly rude.

user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I gotta read me some Kautsky.

Just read this yesterday, it seemed appropriate to this discussion. There's an awkward conclusion tacked onto it to relate it back to NYC, but other than that, quick, good read:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2013/11/18/131118taco_...

user-inactivated  ·  2622 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    The Times columnist Joe Nocera predicted these dismal results, and he proposed a number of reforms to pump some healthy, less toxically partisan blood into American democracy, such as moving Election Day from Tuesday—an agrarian anachronism from the mid-nineteenth century that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution—to the weekend; opening primaries to all voters; matching small campaign donations with public funds, a system that greatly benefitted both Bill de Blasio and his Republican opponent; and ending gerrymandering by having nonpartisan commissions, rather than highly partisan legislatures, draw up congressional districts. Nocera even implied that it might be a good idea to make voting mandatory, as it is in Australia, where failure to vote is punishable by fine.

In my opinion we've hit a point where trying some of these ideas for the hell of it can't be any worse than the current system.

b_b  ·  2622 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Tuesday voting is certainly silly and really not all that justifiable. But the big fish is gerrymandering. Until that problem is solved, there will be no justice in the voting system (and probably not then either, but at least it would be a start). Look at a state like PA. They have 18 congressional districts, only 5 of which (according to the Wikipedia article I just read) are represented by Democrats, despite the fact that more total votes were cast for Democrats in PA in 2012. What kind of madness is that? And it will be that way until at least the next census, unfortunately. If that is democracy, I don't think I want to know how bad an oligarchy would be.

user-inactivated  ·  2626 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not ignoring this/haven't forgotten about it! Just swamped with work, maybe until tomorrow. But there are some great points that I want to follow up on if you're willing to wait a while.

user-inactivated  ·  2626 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Course!

OftenBen  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

"If voting changed anything it would be illegal" has a certain flavor I think you'd enjoy. I happen to agree with you. I believe that voting for anything beyond a city millage has no value, and in fact helps maintain the myth that our democracies are functioning. When people bring up protest as well, I start to laugh, because if you look at the Civil Rights movement, or those who opposed the Vietnam war, if anyone did some of the things they did today, they would be instantly incarcerated. This is not our parents America, or Canada, or anywhere else that is considered 'western' or 'civilized.' Those in actual control of things have realized the mistakes of allowing a near-free society that feels capable of enacting social change, and they are correcting for it, one Patriot Act, or bogus NSA-limiting bill at a time. They might not even be doing this consciously, they might think they are doing it for some quasi-religious/racist/idealistic goal, but the result is the same. More power to national governments and international corporations, less rights and powers to the individual. This isn't a matter of opinion, it is a fact that Americans today are less free, less in control of their government and it's agencies than ever before. (I use the US as example because it's all that I have an understanding of that isn't anecdotal.)

humanodon  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Are you addressing what I wrote? It doesn't seem that you are. If you read it, it does not say that I am advocating anything. That's a pretty accusatory "you" and I'm not fond of it, particularly when it seems like it's coming in response to what the commenter thinks my post is about rather than what is written, all while throwing out attributions left and right.

    If you think something is seriously wrong with our government-- and there sure as fuck is-- passive protest is going to do absolutely nothing.

Again, I do not advocate passive protest; in fact I wrote against it by making a suggestion. I get that this is an issue you take seriously and it's one I take seriously too. The fact is, that voting is a choice. That we must choose between candidates, to select what we may know is simply "the lesser of two evils" is a fiction. If you read between the lines, you will see that what I am saying is that we have the right and the civic duty to demand candidates that will best represent us.

Meriadoc  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No no, I agree with you a ton. I'm disagreeing with the article. It just seemed like the appropriate place after this particular thread of comments. Apologies if it seemed directed at you, it certainly was not.

humanodon  ·  2629 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ah, I see.