Over the past couple articles I’ve started to build up to what will hopefully be this post. I discussed the faux differences between the Right and the Left with a little Libertarianism sprinkled in, and later I got into something I like to call Principled Non-Voting.
In this article I want to develop some answers to the questions I posed at the end of the Principled Non-Voting. In order to do this, we need to start from scratch and attempt to develop, from a foundation: the morality of voting, if it succeeds as a means to our ends, where a line can be drawn to vote for the “lesser of two evils”, and so forth.
So before we get into the particulars, let’s dive in deep to the very foundation of things. For the purposes of my own life, I use Christ’s Great Commandments:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And he said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Like Martin Luther stated, no matter what I write or read, if it is true then it needs to be still true when help up to examination by the Holy Scriptures and reason guided by the Scriptures.
“I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant. All other writings I so read that, however learned or holy they may be, I do not hold what they teach to be true unless they prove by Scripture or reason that it must be so.”
Thus, we start from Christ’s own words and hopefully build a foundation for the morality and efficacy of Voting. Both of these Laws can be used to judge the morality of Voting. Christ’s first law deals with our relationship to God, and thus our treatment of ourselves. This will be a useful law to examine voting with for certain purposes, but as voting is dealing directly with our human authority and relations between other humans it is the perfect commandment to develop the Morality of Voting upon. Christ then even states their suitability for use a foundation, as the whole Law and the Prophets are grounded in them.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Purposes and Ends
So now that we have a foundation (love), we have a means (voting), what about the ends? As in Means and Ends. Why do we vote? What purpose are we seeking? What are we seeking to change by doing so? We all want the same general things right? A wealthy, intelligent, moral society where the poor are better off than prior and the rich are model examples. I think the left and the right can both agree there. A “better society” or one at least more suited to improve themselves. I don’t mean “better society” in the socialistic planning sort of sense, but in the general sense that we all want to live better lives. This goes for Democrats, Republicans and others. The ideas may differ on what that words means, but we all essentially want the same thing. The purpose for voting for a specific person (president, governor, mayor, secretary of state, local and federal, …) over another specific person is because we think that person has a better chance at bringing about the “better society”. Voting for a specific law is the same, we are determining from majority consensus if people think a given law will improve society or degrade society.
Desired Effects of Voting
Let’s examine the means. If the means is done to bring about the end, in what way does voting have an effect on society? I see two strong categories here:
1st, voting people in office allows those persons to act as a teacher. We can be seen as effectively firing one teacher and hiring a different one to expose us to ideas and methods we want to be exposed to, or feel others should be exposed to. An example is easily seen in the differing ideas of republican voters and the democratic voters. Each side obviously wants “their guy” in power to expose the nation to their ideas.
2nd, voting people in office allows government to implement policies that follow their ideas. Or better said, to put up barriers and take down existing barriers in an effort to “guide” society towards the “better society”. Much like a parent will put up boundaries for their children to guide them towards proper behavior. An example can be seen in the prohibition laws, regarding both the drug laws of today and alcohol of past. Those laws, or barriers, were implemented because people and politicians began to view such behavior as immoral and dangerous, and understandably then wanted to guide society away from that immoral behavior.
Voting to Instill a Teacher
To the 1st “Desired Effect” I would refer the reader to Hayek’s Road to Serfdom where in Chapter 10 he discusses why the worst get on top. Reprinted below is the condensed version available for free through Mises.org, from iea.org.uk
There are three main reasons why such a numerous group, with fairly similar views, is not likely to be formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society.
First, the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their tastes and views are differentiated. If we wish to ﬁnd a high degree of uniformity in outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive instincts prevail. This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means that the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards.
Second, since this group is not large enough to give sufficient weight to the leader’s endeavours, he will have to increase their numbers by converting more to the same simple creed. He must gain the support of the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are ready to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party.
Third, to weld together a closely coherent body of supporters, the leader must appeal to a common human weakness. It seems to be easier for people to agree on a negative programme – on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of the better off – than on any positive task.
Hayek’s point can be joined with the commonly used quote from Lord Acton, which he expressed to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Great men are almost always bad men.
If the 1st desired effect of voting is to instill a good teacher, a good example, or one who has better ideas, the issue is that instead of a race to the top of ideas theoretically and historically it has been a race to the bottom. Maybe at the countries foundation people were voting between a couple top 10 idea proselytizers – say between Hamilton (monarchism) and Jefferson (classical liberalism) – but over the course of time the vote becomes between the sludge and the slime of idea makers. Even as Carrol Quigley stated, as Democracy proceeds, the intent of the powerful is to remove any real distinction between the major parties. Therefore, it is not in the nature of Democracy to provide a leader who is solid in his ideals and a good teacher of them.
The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.
— Carrol Quigley, Tragedy and Hope (source LRC Blog)
Voting for a “Better Society”
Voting for the legislation that a candidate will implement (or hopefully implement) is probably the more common reason for voting. I don’t think that most people assume the left/right political candidates are “Idea Machines” who proselytize ideas as given above. Maybe I am just pessimistic but the political candidates of this generation don’t discuss ideas as philosophic ideas, but instead discuss actions as morality. The difference is discussing the nature of theft and whether or not taxes can be considered as such by theft’s nature and definition, or just talking about how the Rich have a moral right to pay more in taxes. Without even discussing what a moral right IS, or why it would exist for the rich to begin with. Very different ideas, but not even close to the same level of philosophic discussion.
Rather than examining this “Voting for Legislation” mindset in the overall voting “means” through historical methods, let’s bring this back around towards the “morality of voting” as this is the primary target of this paper. In order to examine the morality of an action, we need to determine what that action is. Could voting could simply be considered the amoral action of filling in a blank circle on a piece of paper. A child playing with a pen and paper is an amoral action; but an adult – who is fully capable of understanding that this simple action has lasting effects on themselves and others – fills in a circle he is doing three things: Stating his preference, endorsing a candidate/legislation hoping to help him/it be in the majority, and thus hoping to force him/it on the minority of voters.
Simply stating your preference for a leader, or particular legislation, there is no real moral action being done. Stating a preference is simply stating a relative valuation “Of these two choices I would prefer this one”. If a prisoner has two keepers, he may very well prefer one over the other depending on how badly each one treats him. Preferring a candidate is not the same as endorsing a candidate, but voting for a candidate is also an endorsement. An endorsement is defined as “An act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something.” A prisoner may prefer one keeper over another, but his preference doesn’t imply support or approval of the keeper.
Giving an endorsement of a political figure who is most likely not an idea proselytizer or a principled individual; but is simply a power-hungry individual seems morally dubious. Theoretically could one endorse a candidate while not hoping to be in the majority? This option seems unlikely as having a preference for a leader generally means to hope that the majority of people, if not all people, will “come to the light” and endorse that leader as well. Voting for a candidate that you don’t relatively prefer, and thus don’t want to win seems to be an implausible choice for the average person. One of the biggest issues with giving an endorsement of a political figure is the moral ground of the individual. If we are to Love God – wholly and completely – is it a loving action to then endorse an unGodly individual for political leadership? Are we loving God by endorsing increased power to an unGodly individual? Are we loving People, by hoping, with our endorsement and vote, that our choice of a leader will win the majority and thus be able to overrule the minority of voters? Should we endorse and accept power and overrun people’s free choice just because we think it is right? Shall we endorse evil because we think good will come of it? Let it never be so.
Is Majority Rule even a Christian idea? There is a distinct difference between voting and accepting majority rule, and voting and being forced to accept the majority rule. To illustrate the matter, there is a difference between voting among a group of friends to see a movie and voting nation wide on increasing taxes. Regarding the movie, I might prefer to see Movie A over Movie B and thus vote for it, but if the majority of friends vote for B then I’ll go along, but I do still have the option to still go see Movie A by myself and am not forced to see movie B. Versus nation wide voting where if I vote against a tax raise, and the majority vote for, I have no recourse but to pay that tax. Sure I could leave the country, but what kind of choice is that? What kind of loving choice forces individuals to go against their will, or to be forced to sell all they have and leave?
Crossing the Line
Now that we have discussed the foundation (love), a means (voting), and the ends are clear (better society) let’s discuss some extremes of voting to illustrate how our foundation can be applied.
Using the 2nd greatest commandment, is voting for the extermination of a minor race in one’s country morally okay? This is a question that has pertinence in history as many minorities have been persecuted by people and the governments. In the US alone we have a history of persecution against the minority native American population, against blacks (slavery and post slavery), Catholics (1920s), Jews (during WW2), Japanese (WW2 concentration camps) and Muslims (post 9-11). There are probably many other cases of more local minority persecution by the established local majority (It’s not my understanding that Irish persecution and fear were nationalized). These are just examples from the US which has been one of the top 20 free countries over its history, the persecution is typically worse in less-free countries.
To get back to the original question, is voting for the extermination of a dangerous minority morally correct? Some could argue that it is fulfilling the love commandment because it is better for the majority and so is most loving to the most people. “Society is better off without blacks/Jews/Muslims so it is justified for society to be rid of them.” I believe this application of the foundation is not only wrong, but evil to its core. It doesn’t follow Christ’s commandments of love but instead turns to greed and love of self only. Even Christ as a shepherd left the 99 to go and save the 1. We are called to love our enemies, our friends, our family and ourselves. There is no ‘removal of minorities’ in love.
Yet we are obviously okay to use discrimination for our better judgement. If approached by a person (say a black Jew who practices Catholicism, three minorities in one!) who obviously is a risk to your safety – brandishing a weapon fiercely at your direction while telling you about what he intends – your judgement that this minority is okay to flee from or defend yourself against is seen as justified and proper.
So where is the line according to Christ’s commandments? Why is it okay to harm the attacker but not okay to harm all Black Jewish Catholics?
It is quite simple as it is still a question of love. Is it loving to anybody to allow yourself to be killed by the attacker? Is it loving to respond by exterminating all Black Jewish Catholics? Is it loving to ever respond in generalities for an individuals actions?