Vote on the Issues? Why?

You hear it all the time: people should vote on the issues, not on the minutiae of the history of an individual running for office. You seem to hear it a lot when the speaker’s candidate has some skeletons in their closet.

Not that I recommend voting, or democracy, anyway, but let’s think about this for a second.

Even if you particularly know something about a particular field, like economics or political science, the average voter does not. It’s a specialized world. Do you really know enough about energy policy, infrastructure, education, military policy, finance, or simply the values of your culture to make these kinds of decisions?  WHY should your vote on the issues count? You never have the necessary information.

As an economic action, voting shouldn’t make sense given the paucity of data that can be justified. The epistemology of anything outside our immediate environment is terrible in this world, not to mention our complete lack of good data about the future. Keynes saw this decades ago when discussing the actions of entrepreneurs and investors. His explanation for why people took such risks with so little data?

He called it “animal spirits”. In Nietzschean terms, the mind seeks power and will take somewhat serious risks to get it. Having power is like having food, water and air.


I’ve made it clear in the past that I don’t think people should vote on their gut perception of character:

The issues are no better. Democracy has to assume the people have information that is honest, clear, and well-prioritized. So once again, the people are in a state of raw dependency on an institution, and that institution is the media. The media, by the way, is not elected.

As the principles of choice work out in the field of information, then naturally, people prefer to listen to the information they want to hear. There is no objective standard about what data should be prioritized where; the media decides it, based on their values and the desires of the consumer. The further away we get from the small, parochial community, the worse this dependency gets.

The calculus behind democracy is a moral calculus, made with Judeo-Christian assumptions. It assumes those with power are bad and the people are good. It assumes that the powerful must be made accountable… to a people who get its information from unreliable sources.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone when those with power try to control the information. By the rationale of democracy itself, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not doing so is begging for their enemies to control it. Nowhere in this can truth be assumed or even be likely.

Can we just admit that democracy is garbage? That egalitarianism is ridiculous and the myth of the well-informed voter is just that and nothing more?

No, probably not.


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