By Alexander Chrisostomou
Here’s a scenario: Somebody knocks on your door, you grab your Satanic Bible in attempt to scare off who you can only assume will be Jehovah’s Witnesses, but you’re instead greeted by a mysterious man in a grey suit. You’re told that a plan has been put forward by his company, and that you must obey them. Puzzled, you continue to listen as you’re told they’re offering you a few services, for which you’re set back a percentage of your wage. Every five years, you get to choose between sticking with the service provider you’re with or switching to their friends, but if the majority of people that surround you don’t agree with you, your wishes cannot be met. This would sound strange, and you’d probably try to decline the service because the nature of it remains unclear, it seems to be that company policies can be changed without your consent and the ‘hidden prices’ as the money is subtracted from your wage before you even receive it is not preferred by you. You try and decline but you’re told that this is democracy, and that it’s needed to achieve the ‘common good’; you’re a selfish monster if you wish for any voluntary alternative.
After some thought, you decide that this is a great thing and that because you prefer it, everybody ought to prefer it. Problem is, two years have gone by and you’re fed up with the current monopoly; they used your money for wars, for bailing out reckless bankers, they imprison people for victimless acts and they protect some big companies from competition by restricting access into the market. After 5 years have gone by, you’re happy to be able to vote for the other company that has yet been tried. To your dismay, it turns out that the people around you voted to stick with the current regime, so you’re forced to as well. You’re distraught, you alongside the other people that agree with you take to the streets to protest, a few people vandalise property, some attempt to take on the company’s security guards, whilst some just remain peaceful and voice their opinions.
It’s an injustice! You didn’t successfully coerce a large group of people into your preferred monopoly, and as Ed would say, that’s just wrong! It doesn’t take the most educated mind to comprehend what I’m saying; it’s quite strange that people claim to be keen supporters of democracy yet don’t want to play by the rules that they supposedly consent to. Then, they take the moral high ground, blaming people that don’t agree with either of these companies/ parties that realistically have a chance of obtaining power, and claim that those who agree with the opposition are monstrous elitists who care not about ‘ordinary people’, despite the fact that most of them are ‘ordinary people’.
You call these people selfish, but the value of control over the disposition of more resources does not necessarily suggest a monomaniacal focus on oneself. People act in self-interest, as long as their actions are voluntary ones, but altruistic actions are also self-interested actions. A self-interested individual is one whom wishes to act upon their desires; these desires are subjective thus aren’t known to anybody else unless they’re told by that individual. Thus, if a wealthy individual decides to give to charity, they’re acting in self-interest, as they made a conscious decision according to their will. If a person actually only cared about themselves, then it may make sense to equate that person’s self-interest with selfishness. It makes no sense however, to claim that a believer in an economic system is ‘selfish’, if you know nothing about the personality of that person. It’s merely a political tactic to do so; an example is the obsession of the political left with claiming the moral high ground. Ironically then, it’s a showcase of their own self-interest; self-interest that can be rationally argued to be ‘greed’, for the claims are made to demean others with differing preferences, with the hopeful end of seeing a monopoly on force impose their preferences on unwilling individuals.
It could be said that the act of imposing your will on others is an obvious display of greed but in all honestly, all you get out of elections is a binary choice that probably equates to whether you wish to have coke or a diet coke. I know that people tend to have their hearts in the right place, but they are often misguided, especially when those who have little or no understanding of philosophy or economics vote. This is because those voters tend to simply vote against the candidate they most dislike, or solely follow the herd. Some have problems with FPTP, favouring the Australian-styled alternative vote system, based on preferential ranking, but the BBC argued it is a result of the problem of marginal seats that the number of people voting in British general elections has been steadily falling since the 1950s, because marginal voters become apathetic. I think people are just aiming at the wrong target. If there is high consumer demand for an idea, why is it that this idea must be forced on others who would prefer a system that’s slightly different? Why do people lack the ability to voluntarily organise how they wish? I do witness politics becoming a less relevant means for many people to accomplish the ends that they value. Essentially, as individuals become frustrated with the sluggish actions of political entities, the need for voluntary, more effective ways of initiating social change becomes more apparent.
As a supporter of no political party due to my holding of a completely different set of beliefs, I chose to sit back and merely observe how this UK election process panned out, and it didn’t surprise me that the ‘shy Conservatives’ came out in force to vote. Being a student at a University where ‘the left’ seem to have a monopoly on campus life, I knew that people would have thought a Labour victory was inevitable. It just goes to show how out of touch you can be whilst being surrounded by only students. My attitude towards politics isn’t liked or shared by many, which doesn’t surprise me as people wish not to let go of their strange belief that they’ll one day make major changes through voting.
Nevertheless, I shall be even blunter than I have been: there will never be a day where people will completely and permanently adopt the ideology of any given individual, hence there will always be bickering. I can liken the effectiveness of voting to the effectiveness of praying; the ongoing tug-of-war with no end that is politics is pointless. Changes are only ever marginal. You can’t vote your way to happiness, as happiness is up to you. If you can ignore government, do so to the best of your ability. Only you can improve your life, as politicians aren’t going to. Politicians are often only destructive, and people will never collectively be satisfied. Let them keep screwing things up; there is nothing you can do to change it. The truth may hurt, but you can’t combat human idiocy.