I Wish I Could Vote

Honestly. I watch people line up at the church in my neighborhood, the one that volunteers its facility to enable convenient voting, and I long for a world where I could just go into a little folding booth every couple years and cast my vote to put some wise folks in charge of the society that I share.

It sounds so nice and simple, doesn’t it?

Just yesterday a woman running for Illinois Treasurer promised me that if given the power of that office she’ll reverse Illinois’ horrific unemployment problem by forcing banks that were recipients of government bailouts to resume lending to small businesses.

Hers was but one of dozens of promises I heard over the past week on the radio, all of them from earnest-sounding men and women intent on obtaining or keeping positions that give them access to some of the levers of power ruling our society.

Sadly, I cannot vote for her.

She’s a moron.

I hate to be that blunt, but who could be so stupid as to believe that it’s simply a lack of access to borrowing that limits small businesses from expansion and hiring? Is there demand for their products? Are business people desirous of loans competent? From where do the funds for loans come, and what are the unseen costs involved? TANSTAAFL.

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Answers to these questions are pertinent. She ignores them.


It could be that she is dramatically ignorant of economic principles. Given what I’ve read of elected rulers, this is probably a safe assumption. The fix for this might be to expect wise but uninformed rulers to recognize their limits and surround themselves with competent experts.

Nobel Prize-winning economists like Milton Friedman and Paul Krugman are often tapped to advise office-holders. One of the architects of tax withholding (Friedman) somehow does not, in my world, qualify a person as "expert" except in Machiavellianism, and readers of LRC are thoroughly familiar with Dr. Krugman’s "expertise." It seems to me that these examples are 100% typical.

I’m 50 years young.

I used to think 50 was getting pretty close to "old" but of course now that I’m here and I see how little I know, and how much I have to learn, I feel pretty young. I have more in common with a high school student than I do with someone who is really, really knowledgeable and wise.

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My favorite analogy is this: The sum of my knowledge is like a flashlight. I’m in a darkened warehouse, the sum of all knowledge, and I can tell from echoes and such that it’s really big, but my flashlight is obviously far short of illuminating to the walls and ceiling.

When I learn more, my flashlight gets brighter.

This creates a problem.

As I illuminate more space around me, my sense of the size of the total warehouse grows exponentially. I still can’t see anywhere near to the walls or ceiling. In other words, the more I know, the more I realize that the sum of what I know is pitifully small compared to the sum of all knowledge. The more I know, the more I realize that the sum of all knowledge is astronomically immense (and this doesn’t even address the likelihood that some of what I think I know just ain’t so).

This humbles me.

There are no experts, only students, some of whom are more advanced than others (all of whom undoubtedly are mistaken in some ways about what they think they know; some error is unavoidable, making the dogmatism of most supposed "experts" cause for considerable caution).

We all spend our lives in the immense dark, trying to increase the light around us a bit at a time.

Those who aspire to political office obviously do not grasp this axiom.

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A local TV station recently held a debate between the incumbent state senator and his challenger. He’s not a bad guy for a career politician (being a republican in a democrat statehouse meant he did less harm than most) but his challenger’s platitudes about how "we should create 21st century jobs" was so nauseating and insipid that I had to turn off the video.

Do either of these folks have the wisdom to see political office as it really is, or grasp the "seen and unseen" benefits and costs of every proposal they might utter?

Of course not. Who among us could seek office if we understood and grasped the complexity of the real world and our own profound and unavoidable lack of knowledge, that our dictates would be likely (if not certain) to be categorically wrong and do more harm than good?

I suppose a sociopath could. After all, political office is the Superhighway of Criminal Opportunity.

I guess I just answered my own plea. There are no political solutions to political problems.

I can’t vote.

Every candidate is one of two things, a profoundly ignorant fool, or a knowledgeable sociopath.

YMMV, I suppose, but I surely can’t vote for stupid or evil.

I must have better things to do, like acting to arrange my life so that the stupid, harmful, and just plain mean things political officials inevitably do 365 days a year burden me as little as possible.

David Calderwood [send him mail] a businessman, artist, and author of the novel Revolutionary Language, selected January 2000 Freedom Book of the Month at

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