Voting: Don’t Buy the Guilt Trips

“Elections have consequences,” then-president Barack Obama reminded House Minority Whip Eric Cantor in 2009. Obama was correct. Elections do have consequences.

On the other hand, those consequences aren’t necessarily predictable.  As an old saw concerning the 1964 presidential election went, “I was told that if I voted for Goldwater we’d end up in a war in Vietnam. And I did vote for Goldwater. And we did end up in a war in Vietnam.”

As the 2022 midterm campaigns heat up, we’ll no doubt find ourselves subjected to the usual “MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN HISTORY! GET OUT AND VOTE!” campaigns. Not to mention the “dirty hands” counter-argument from some radicals that voting is immoral because it props up a bad system: If you vote you have no grounds for complaint; since you willingly participated in that system, the outcomes are on you, not on non-voters.

Yes, elections have consequences. Your vote, on the other hand, mostly doesn’t.

First of all, the chance that your vote will materially affect the outcome of any election of significant size — for example, that your vote will be the one vote that puts your presidential candidate over the top in Florida, or that Florida will then cast the decisive electoral votes, let alone both —  is almost nil. You’re more likely to buy the single winning Powerball ticket for a record-high jackpot.

Secondly, even were that to happen, it’s unlikely that you’d get the results you expected from the victory of the candidate you chose.

Voting is a weird variant of the “Trolley Problem,” an ethical thought experiment: An evildoer has tied three people to one set of trolley tracks, and one person to another set. You’re at the lever controlling which set of tracks the trolley goes down. If you throw the lever, the trolley kills the one person. If you don’t, it kills the three people.

In the voting version of the “Trolley Problem,” your options are:

To throw the lever to the left (vote Democratic).

To throw the lever to the right (vote Republican).

To put a sticky note on the lever (bearing the name of a third party or independent candidate).

Or to do nothing.

As to outcomes, you have no idea how many people are tied to which set of tracks, or how many of them will be killed or injured, or in what ways.

And you also know that there are millions of other voters/levers and that what you do with YOUR lever is unlikely to have any real effect on the outcome.

There’s no particularly compelling argument for or against voting. We should just treat voting as what it actually is.

So, what is voting?

Voting is speech.

It’s a statement of your beliefs.

Ditto non-voting, if done with intent to express unwillingness to affirm the system’s legitimacy.

Voting is neither a moral duty nor a moral crime.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you must, or mustn’t, vote. That decision is, and should be recognized as, a matter of personal preference.

Written by Thomas L. Knapp

Tom has worked in journalism — sometimes as an amateur, sometimes professionally — for more than 35 years and has been a full-time libertarian writer, editor, and publisher since 2000. He’s the former managing editor of the Henry Hazlitt Foundation, the publisher of Rational Review News Digest (2003-present), former media coordinator and senior news analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (2009-2015) and also works at Antiwar.com. He lives in north central Florida.

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Alex Knight
5 months ago

No mention of the glaring fraud committed in 2020? You ought to have at least touched upon the fact that elections are completely corrupt, on top of the other points made.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

There’s always fraud in elections.

So far, the evidence publicly provided for the fraud in 2020 having been particularly “glaring,” or having affected the outcome, is: Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nil. Bupkes. But I did in fact touch on the topic in <a href=”https://thegarrisoncenter.org/archives/16888″>my last column</a>

Alex Knight
5 months ago

You’ve got to be kidding me:

https://frankspeech.com/content/mike-lindells-absolute-series

https://2000mules.com/

If you call all of the above “Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nil. Bupkes.,” then you’re nothing short of absolutely delusional. Wake up, for Chrissakes,.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

I haven’t seen 2000 Mules yet. I’m planning to, despite even a consummate scam artist like Dinesh D’Souza admitting up front that the data he uses doesn’t imply or allege, let alone prove, the casting of so much as a single ballot.

As for the other link, no, I wouldn’t call that “Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nil. Bukpes.” I’d call it a not very well done scam that can only be believed by people who believe it because they really, really, really want to believe it SOOOOOOOOO bad that fact and reality just don’t matter.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

Correction, first paragraph: “Single fraudulent or otherwise illegal ballot.”

Alex Knight
5 months ago

I have only 2 things to say: 1.) Your clarified position now very much calls into question both the veracity and competence level of any and all research you include in your own articles. I will certainly be bearing that in mind when considering whether to continue reading anything you write. 2.) I would love to see you debate D’Souza, the folks from True the Vote, and any of the individuals like Dr. Frank, etc. included in Mike Lindell’s Absolute Series, and see how well your contentions hold up on video and audio, uncensored and uninterrupted. On that 2nd scenario,… Read more »

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

Well, as to point #1, the conclusion is mutual.

As to point #2, we all have our skill sets. Mine is writing, not ad hoc speaking and I doubt I’d do well against accomplished con artists like those guys. But with sufficient preparation time, I guess I’d try, if invited and compensated.

Alex Knight
5 months ago

I’d be very careful about who I branded a “con-artist,” were I you — it leaves you WIDE open.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

Agreed. I’ve always been very careful about who I brand a con artist. Only con artists need apply.

Alex Knight
5 months ago

Coming FROM one, that’s a statement of exceedingly little value.

Last edited 5 months ago by Alex Knight
Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

I’m probably shouldn’t be surprised at how similar the “2020 election was stolen” crowd is to the “t!THEM RUSSIANS! threw the 2016 election to Trump” crowd in terms of reacting to people who point out that they were sold, and bought, a load of horseshit.

Alex Knight
5 months ago

Well, certainly no one else should be surprised, at this juncture, at your own inability to distinguish between fact and fiction — but of course it actually runs deeper than that, doesn’t it? You’re a lying disingenuous piece of shit. And you at least know that to be true for sure. And so does most everyone else. You’re a con-man — and a very small-time one at that.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

I’m genuinely sorry that you find fact, reality, and truth so hurtful that you reject them and attack anyone who won’t go along with your delusions.

But your rejection/attacks probably won’t change many minds, and certainly won’t magically alter reality to conform to your wishes. Have a nice day.

Alex Knight
5 months ago

Yeah, I guess all the people involved in making 2000 Mules and Lindell’s Absolute documentaries, the hundreds of sworn affidavits, the findings of True the Vote now presented at public hearings…those people are all delusional. All liars.

But noble, righteous little Knapp is the real deal — and has all of his ducks in a row.

You’re a pathetic little asshole to whom very few people are listening…unlike the aforementioned groups and media. Guess who’ll win?

Fuck you.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago

I don’t have to guess who will win.

Sorry that bugs you so much.

Alex Knight
5 months ago

Nice evasion, but it won’t work. D’Souza, Lindell, True the Vote — Trump himself — those are the movers and shakers winning hearts and minds out there in the world.

Unlike a nonentity shitstain such as yourself whose hardly a blip on the fucking radar screen, and of zero actual consequence. And that will be the sum total of your pointless and meaningless life’s efforts. And deservedly so.

Again, I reiterate: Fuck You.

Thomas Knapp
5 months ago