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January 31, 2008
A recent DVD purchase spurred me to follow up my first column "When Voting Is Defensible ." Director Chris Nolan's 2001 thriller 'Memento' is an excellent launch point. I recommend the superb movie review  of The Mises Institute's Jeffrey Tucker as background for one of my main points (I also strongly recommend the movie). Even if you have not seen and do not plan to see the movie, his review contains enough information to clarify the ideas I'm asserting. In a brief recap, the movie protagonist suffers from a brain injury that makes him unable to retain long term memories beyond the date of its occurrence. We watch him continue to live his life in dramatic fashion as he attempts to try to solve the murder of his wife using 15 minute length short-term memory and hastily scrawled notes and photo snapshots.
Tucker makes the observation that the movie illustrates the dual nature of reality: the objective reality of the world of physics and human action, and the second reality that the protagonist perceives based on his own impaired ability to process his sensory input. In a feat of original storytelling, we watch from the protagonist's point of view his violent environment and personal actions. At the end of the movie, the viewer is left to figure out the actual "truths" of the story. Clearly, the protagonist has a set of rules for fashioning his reality that get him through the days and weeks. The fascinating part we're left to determine is the morality of this impaired man. There are parallels to the morality of voting.
On voting, three of the lines of debate can be condensed to 1) whether it is moral, 2) whether it is efficient, and 3) whether it is effective. The first will be debated ad-infinitum, but I place those debates in the subjective worldview category. Like the Memento protagonist, these arguments belong in the "whatever gets you through the day" category. I want to commend Lysander Spooner and those other anti-voter commentators for helping me make this progression in my thinking (from annoyance with libertarian nonvoters). The other two points are connected to objective reality.
Clearly, voting is almost always a colossal waste of time and resources. A single vote is virtually insignificant, and history (e.g., Florida ) shows us that if an election comes down to a single or small number of votes, then the decision will be seized and acted upon by the powers-that-be. However, cases also show us that a mass of votes is undoubtedly effective self-defense. For example, a similar political revolt to today's "Ron Paul Revolution" occurred in California in 1978 in the form of , a property tax cap movement which swept the country. I live on the opposite coast in Prince George 's County, Maryland and a manifestation of that movement passed here in the form of TRIM (1% rate increase cap) which was voted into law in 1978.
TRIM has worked here to a degree for 30 years. Our local politicians rail against it. They try and repeal it every two or three election cycles. They've tried (and have been occasionally successful with) alternative means of state-sanctioned theft. But much like the Constitution with its uneven working life of 70 years, TRIM has reduced the rate of property tax theft, and I've been the happy beneficiary. TRIM hasn't stopped theft, but it's capped it, and we have our neighboring Maryland counties sitting alongside us for factual and not speculative comparison of what happened in the absence of the cap. In the meantime, there has been a voter turnout in the state reflective of the nation as a whole -- some number less than half of those eligible vote. Whether these are moral protestors, people choosing better uses of their time, or people who've abandoned the system is unknowable. What is true is that everyone here who participates in our 'above ground' state economy is affected by TRIM independent of their moral stances on voting.
To return to the thrust of my earlier column, voting is a tactic and mostly irrelevant. When it works as self-defense -- a rare occurrence such as in the case of Proposition 13 or TRIM -- voters and nonvoters alike receive the benefits. As a parallel example, John Lott shows statistically in More Guns, Less Crime that unarmed people benefit from the same criminal deterrence as their concealed handgun carrying neighbors. However, to individuals who find it necessary to reject it categorically and preach its rejection, I say "Fine--whatever gets you through the day." That attitude is consistent with libertarianism, and we each need to piece together our personal jumble of thoughts and feelings into a coherent view of the world. For those of you who are enjoying participation in the Ron Paul Revolution as I am, I say 'Fantastic. I hope you're having as much fun as I am.'