Voluntary Society - Action - Stop Voting
No Such Thing As Majority Rule
Backup for http://c4ss.org/content/1036
Posted by Thomas L. Knapp on Sep 6, 2009
Government claims, as its source of legitimacy, “the consent of the
governed.” Its most sacred ritual for for demonstrating that consent is
the periodic election of public officials and, in some areas,
referendum voting on particular issues.
In a recent column, I examined claims of elections as a basis for
claims of representation and found them wanting. Buried within the
information upon which I based that analysis was the core of a far more
damning finding upon which I’ll now elaborate. Simply put, not only do
elections not provide meaningful representation, they also fail to make
the case for anything approaching universal consent to accept
representation at all.
My data set last time consisted of statistics on the election of a
particular congresswoman. This time, I’m going to use focus on an
American county — the county in which I live, St. Louis County,
Missouri (not to be confused with the city of St. Louis, which in
Missouri’s political scheme is treated as a county in its own right).
I’ll use numbers from 2000, the latest year for which I can easily
compare different variables.
Per the 2000 census, the population of St. Louis County was 1,016,315.
Of those more than one million inhabitants, only 726,325 — 71.5% — were
registered to vote.
Of those 726,325 voters, only 488,400 — 67.2% of those registered, 48%
of the county’s population — turned out to participate in the ritual.
To put it a different way, 28.5% of the county’s population boycotts
elections entirely by not registering to vote, and 52% (including
nearly a third of registered voters) boycotted the 2000 election in
From this fact we can derive two conclusions, one indisputable and one
debatable but reasonable.
The indisputable conclusion is that because a majority of the
population didn’t vote in that election, neither a single politician
elected to office nor a single measure put up for public ratification
can be honestly advertised as having secured majority approval.
The debatable but reasonable conclusion is that in declining to vote in
the 2000 election, 52% of the population withheld consent to be bound
by its outcomes or ruled by its winners.
The conventional wisdom has it otherwise: Refusal to participate in an
election, we’re told, constitutes consent to be bound by that
election’s outcomes and ruled by its winners. Silence is consent —
especially since non-voters make use of “public services” delivered to
them through the whole process. Non-voting is a sign of “apathy” or
“laziness,” not of alienation or opposition.
This is akin to saying that by slamming my door in the face of a
magazine salesman, I’m consenting to pay for subscriptions to Time,
Scientific American and Playboy … and that proof of this claim may be
drawn from the fact that when those magazines begin to arrive, I read
them rather than sending them back or throwing them away.
There are, of course, two flaws in this analogy, neither of which
reflect well on the electoral system.
The first major difference between the state’s ritual and my
hypothetical magazine subscription experience is that any small claims
court would likely reject a frivolous a suit by the magazine salesman
claiming that I owe him money for subscriptions I neither asked for nor
consented to pay for. Any tax court, on the other hand, would likely
find that a non-voter owed payment for those “public services” that
some portion of 48% of the populace outside his door had voted to
purchase for him without his consent.
The second major difference is that when it comes to magazines, my
choice of titles and vendors is limited only by the market’s offerings.
I don’t have to buy Time, Scientific American and Playboy from the
door-to-door guy. I can go to the newsstand or log onto the Intarweb
and buy Newsweek, National Geographic and … well, something a bit more
righteously smutty than Playboy, if you know what I mean … or for that
matter I can eschew magazines entirely. For the most part, I’m
forbidden to buy (or not buy) my own road system, postal carrier, army
or navy. Not only do I have to pay for the brands chosen by some
portion of that 48% of the populace, but I can’t buy my own on the side
and use them instead. There are exceptions (private schools, for
example), but they are exceptions. The rule is “one size fits all,
cough up and pipe down.”
One objection I’ve encountered in this line of thinking is that many
non-voters are non-voters because they’re not allowed to vote. They’re
under 18, they’ve previously been convicted of a felony and barred from
voting, or they originally came from elsewhere. My reply: Bollocks! If
they’re not allowed to participate, they can hardly be said to have
consented to be bound by the outcomes. Exclusion, like boycott, negates
claims of consent.
The question of whether or not majority rule is a valid measure of
consent is an interesting one, but one we don’t have to reach here. The
dirty little secret of “majority rule” is that it’s no such thing.
Rather we are governed by (usually) “representatives” chosen by a
majority of a minority, in most cases plausibly representing no more
than 25-30% of the population.
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