"Voting doesn't do jack."

That's a quote from the discussion last night, by Eric (a new intern here). There wasn't much discussion about voting, but the issue is close to home because it seems Heather and Katie (Eric's girlfriend) do vote while Eric and I do not.

Hmm. I was thinking of saving this for later in this election year, but what the hey. It's a section from my journal several years ago:

I found several interesting passages about government and voting in G.K. Chesterton's book, What's Wrong with the World. For example:
This is the first essential element in government, coercion; a necessary but not a noble element.
What's especially interesting is that Chesterton believes in government; he believes it's unavoidable. He may call political institutions ugly, or consider them the result of evil, but he takes them to be necessary evils. That makes his evaluation seem more fair and honest to me. And I think many people who understand politics and history would agree with him. Even I agree with him, in his critique of "ugly" government (it's the necessity I don't accept--if we could only get rid of the malicious fallacy of "necessary evil" maybe we would stop forcing that evil on others!).

As Chesterton continues to describe the ugliness of government, he also considers the unique ugliness of democracy (though he is a strong supporter of democracy, as the lesser evil):
All government then is coercive; we happen to have created a government which is not only coercive; but collective. ...in self-governing countries the coercion of criminals is a collective coercion. The abnormal person is theoretically thumped by a million fists and kicked by a million feet. If a man is flogged we all flogged him; if a man is hanged, we all hanged him. That is the only possible meaning of democracy.... In a republic all punishment is as sacred and solemn as lynching.
I've thought about the coercive aspect of democracy before. We usually see democracy as non-coercive, since it is "rule by the people." But "the people" are not all of one mind. The usual result is rule by the majority, with their decisions being forced upon all others. As Chesterton pointed out, the "abnormal person" is subdued or silenced by the mob--by collective coercion. We take that to be a good thing in the case of wrong-doers; but the same treatment is also given to saints and prophets, who are abnormal in the opposite way.

Another great line:
Voting is not only coercion, but collective coercion.
Through the process of voting, people in a democracy take responsibility for their own government. This is considered a "right." But is government something we want to take responsibility for? Are coercion and lynching what we want to take responsibility for? We allow people to govern themselves rather than having to obey the will of a despot, but then all the people gather together to become despotic.

Especially during this election time, I hear and read about "getting involved," "changing the system for the better." We're supposed to improve things by exercising our voting rights and using the power we've been granted. We're told we can make government better by being a part of it. But I don't see that happening. What I do see is people supporting political candidates they don't really believe in because that candidate is the "lesser of two evils" or the only one who has a chance to win. I see people manipulated by the media to support someone that those in power have selected (either of the mainstream candidates). I see people being dragged (or enticed) into a very ugly political institution. And they're told it's a right, a privilege, a sacred duty. Ugh. If people want to subject themselves to the coercion of government, fine. If people decide to take part in the governmental coercion of others, that's bad, but worse for themselves. But to try to convince other people to join the mob is the worst.

Joining government is not the way to make things better. Being better ourselves, and being a good example for others is the best way. And part of that is to stop pushing other people around. Stop trying to MAKE THEM be good. Jesus' life was a continual practice of non-coercion--turning the other cheek, not resisting the evil person, enduring death rather than calling down a legion of angels--so that people's hearts might be converted. That's love, that's goodness--not government.