Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vote For Info

If you don't vote, you can't complain.
You've heard that, probably from a coworker or friend. Voting is usually touted as the primary democratic right. And it is. But it is not the primary democratic responsibility. Your primary responsibility in a free society is to be informed.

Dictatorships are easy. You don't have to make any decisions. But when things get too bad for you to bear, then action is required. It is like getting out of a rut in a muddy path. Dirty and violent.

Change in democracies should be easy. They are a paved road; switching lanes should be as easy as turning the wheel. A wheel with 24 million hands.
Democracies require continual vigilance and Dictatorships require occasional violence.
The problem in democracies comes when people say, "I'm not into politics." That's like saying, "I'm not into oxygen." You're lungs are into it, whether you are or not. Politics affect every part of your life, unfortunately. You don't need to be an expert, but you do need an understanding of facts. Where do your tax dollars go[1]? What is the difference between debt and deficit[2]? How much of the gasoline price is taxes[3]? What industry emits the most greenhouse gases[4]?

The reason democracies required an informed population is so bullsh!t doesn't rise to the top. If someone says they are going to lower taxes, increase services, and reduce the deficit, you know they are lying. You won't vote for them. You'll vote for the guy who says, "We are spending more than we take in so, unfortunately, we will have to cut back."

The US recently had presidential debates, which is basically Presidential Idol. Some questionable "facts" were spouted that night (see this Mish article). This type of fact checking should be big news, not page 6.

People want it both ways. They want the convenience of a dictatorship, with the freedom of democracy.What happens is they get politicians whispering sweet nothings and bribing them with someone else's money. They get the US, where you can vote for a big liberal government or a big conservative government. Where a "liberal" president has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

I had a conversation with an American who thought state-run health-care was some communist plot. I pointed out that health-care in Canada is not only half[5] as expensive, per person, than US health care, but also has better outcomes. I did agreed with some of what he was saying (e.g., we could privatize some of our health care), but facts were clearly getting in the way of his argument.

I shouldn't get off-topic. I'm fiscally-conservative-socially-liberal[6], but I can be swayed by a good argument, backed by facts. Facts are what matter. Facts shame and correct democratic governments when they spout nonsense.
If you don't care about facts, don't complain if you get a used-car salesman for a leader.[7]

[1] Can you believe $9.4B per year goes to "Public Safety"? That is 3% of your taxes!
[2] Debt is what you owe, deficit is the difference between what you earn and spend.
[3] 32%.
[4] Coal-fired electricity generation. Or maybe cows. Or electric cows.
[5] Halfish. Or something. It is less, for sure.
[6] Code for: I'm a type-A first-born of hippie parents.
[7] There is no way that quote deserved to be in italics, but its the best I could come up with. Come on, man. I have work to do. I can't spend all my time coming up with quotes you can put on matchbooks. Damn.