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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  2627 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Eat Your Ballot

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!