By Tibor Machan: Freedom New Mexico columnist
I wrote a column for the Chicago Tribune in 1992 that is even more pertinent now, with the recent publication of George Mason University economist professor Bryan Caplan’s book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter.”
Here is the gist of my column, only slightly edited:
From various celebrities to the radio announcer at the station to which I listen, everyone urged me to vote this coming November. But, in fact, it isn’t always such a good idea to vote.
I did, actually, fill out my absentee ballot but decided not to vote in a bunch of the races I had a chance to make a choice. I did record my choices on most of the ballot measures. When it came, however, to the folks who wanted to be judges and members of city council and such, I decided I had no idea what they stood for, and voting for them would just be irresponsible.
And I bet that is so with nearly all of us — many of the people we have a chance to vote for or against are unknown to us. This is especially so when it comes to their ideas on the various issues they will have to address once in office.
That is very troubling, since these days politicians address nearly every issue under the sun. Government isn’t limited to keeping the peace so one could keep abreast of its activities fairly simply.
No, in Congress the men and women serving must decide about everything from how many tanks should go to NATO forces to what percentage of alcohol must be in imported beer. Municipal, county, state and federal authorities have their noses into millions of issues, and very few citizens they serve have even a clue as to how they will decide on them. It would take innumerable full-time jobs to keep tabs on today’s issues facing Congress, the state assembly, the county supervisors and the city council.
So those who urge us all to vote need to temper their enthusiasm with a little dosage of reality. Most of us are ignorant about the issues and, moreover, this is unavoidable. We cannot possibly keep up and still have a life of our own.
It is plainly impossible these days to educate the public about all of what politicians and their appointed bureaucrats need to know to do the right thing.
One reason the American Founders wanted a limited government is they were aware of how much of a war of all against all the politics of a democracy could become unless democracy is severely checked. Government was supposed to secure our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and elections were to decide only who we hire to do this job.
By now, however, the job has gotten way out of hand — politicians and bureaucrats have taken over supervision of nearly all parts of our lives.
In such a climate it is no wonder that people begin to yearn for a simplified process, one whereby perhaps a great leader provides us with political guidance.
I say, vote only if you have a clue.
But, of course, the real answer is to reduce the scope of what politicians can vote on and keep them worried about just a few matters, mostly how best to defend our individual rights.
Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at: TMachan@link.freedom.com