If an election is held and no one votes, is there a government?

Watching Detroit eat itself is entertaining, for the schadenfreude as well as the phoenix like stories of rebirth (plus I keep waiting see a mention of Omni Consumer Corp buying up the whole place). One story that caught my eye was a recent report about the relatively light turnout in local elections. Elections which, by the way, will select the next Mayor. In the modern age of the state being the solution to everything, you would think that people would take the time to at least pick the next great man (or woman) that would lead them out of the darkness. Not so much it seems. And it’s not just in what was once America’s richest city – it’s all over America. When it comes to selecting our leaders we just don’t seem to care too much.
I’ve read a lot of politically active folks bemoan the apathy of the America voter. From both sides of the false dichotomy (that being the Left and the Right) there a gigabytes of bits spent trying to get people off their asses and into the polling stations on election day. I think this is dead wrong. We need more apathy – not less if we want to make better.
Imagine if people had the same apathy for paying taxes as they do for voting. Or the same apathy for following drug laws as they do for finding out more about a candidate than what letter is after their name. Or the same apathy for getting free stuff from the government as they do for holding the leaders they do elect accountable for their promises. Rather than reverse the wave of apathy, I hope it spreads beyond the things that are easy to not care about – the things its a little harder to not care about.
Perhaps we are all innately smarter than we give ourselves credit for and the apathy is a natural defense mechanism that is filtering out the noise: the things we know aren’t real. The Greek root of apathy, apatheia, has quite a different connotation that its English derivate. In Greek it means: a (desirable) state of indifference towards events and things which lie outside one’s control. It seems to me that we are realizing, maybe only subconsciously, that we can’t really control what goes on in government. The game changes as soon as we make the reverse correlation that the government can’t (and shouldn’t) really control what goes on with us, at least in as far as we aren’t trying to control what goes on with anyone else.
As budgets get tighter, governments of all sizes and jurisdictions will be less able to enforce their laws or deliver on their promises. As those laws and promises become less real, it’s my hope that the same mechanism that created apathy towards the inputs to government will create apathy towards the outputs like the law and the freebies. There are many paths that we could take to arrive at this expanded apathy towards government – and some of them aren’t pretty. Despite that potential, the trend of growing apathy towards government is one of the few things that gives me hope for the future.






2 responses to “If an election is held and no one votes, is there a government?”

  1. Dennis W. Kelley Avatar
    Dennis W. Kelley

    Well thought out and stated. Until the free stuff STOPS coming from both sides of the aisle – the apathy of voting will only get worse. When the free stuff stops- then the real trouble begins and I think you are well aware of what I mean. Keep up the posts.

    1. Chris Avatar

      When you say “stops coming” I think you are missing my point. That makes it seem like a supply side problem. I’m arguing its a demand problem. We have to stop asking for it – all of it: social security, Medicare, food stamps, etc.

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