After Penn Jillette‘s recent article for CNN, I said I disagreed with his views and that not only should we vote (as opposed to sitting out the election like Penn), but we should also support government intervention in some instances. I feel that Democrats would be the lesser of two evils for sure, but a Barack Obama administration would make things better for many Americans.
Afterwards, I received an email from a reader, Paul, who felt otherwise:
Long time reader first time writer. I’m a mite more militant in my atheism than you, but I read your blog in part because I aspire to be nicer. I applaud your unfailing levelheadedness in infidel/believer relations and your Net activism for causes like teaching Elizabeth Dole manners.
However, I take issue with your recent dismissive post regarding Penn Jillette’s CNN commentary.
Like Jillette, I swing libertarian. As such, I shuddered at the notion that “many” of our problems can be solved only with government. I think government is necessary for some things (legal and often physical infrastructure, collective action on climate change, …). But government action simply mucks up “many” problems where it might seem indispensable to some (the drug war, immigration, or say, airport security). For Obama-specific government messes, I point to his support for corn ethanol subsidies and the monstrosity known as the Farm Bill ($300 billion which the ideologically disparate Wall Street Journal and New York Times united to condemn as misspent).
I admit I prefer Obama to McCain, but I caution against suggesting a democrat won’t want to interfere with your personal choices. As a libertarian I think most of my economic decisions should be my own. But even in personal matters democrats interfere with consumption choices, like food and smoking (tobacco, even in private establishments). And it was Hillary Clinton and now-maligned Joe Lieberman who teamed up to condemn violent video games. Abortion and creationism aren’t the only issues.
Perhaps like Jillette, I don’t actually swing the lever. It’s taken as self-evident (gospel?) truth that voting is a civic duty. I disagree. An individual’s vote only actually makes a difference when there’s a tie, which is unlikely when you have, say, 100,000 voters. Abstention is then hardly idiotic. And it’s less idiotic when you disagree with the policy proposals of both major candidates. Voters bear some responsibility for the actions of the elected. I won’t confer my approval upon a politician I largely disagree with just to satisfy a bogus sense of duty.
I certainly don’t intend to persuade you politically. I just want to let you know that I (and I know of others like me) exist among your readership and I don’t wish to be dismissed.
I remain a happy reader,
As I told Paul, I certainly don’t want to dismiss Libertarian ideas. But I do think those individual votes matter and a few votes (combined) can make a difference in certain parts of the country.
I’m not sure, though, where the boundary lines should be drawn in terms of government intervention.
Feel free to add in your two cents.