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A Real Say Is Better Than A ‘Say’ So Diluted That It’s Imaginary

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 12:49
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(Don Boudreaux)

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Elections bring out from pundits saccharine and absurd warbles about popular government.  No warble is more saccharine and absurd than that which goes something like the following: to vote is to “have a say” in government.

Although the romance-encrusted mind denies it, the fact is that in all but the most local of elections in all but the smallest of burgs, no one person’s vote stands a meaningful chance of determining the outcome of an election.  Regardless of whether your preferred candidate wins or loses the election, the “say” that is your vote no more affects the outcome of the election, or the stream of subsequent government actions, than does the “say” that is your cheering at a telecast of a game played by your favorite football team affect the outcome of that game.

Whatever merits democratic voting has, giving each individual a say in how his or her life will be affected by the state is not among them.

Nevertheless, unfazed by reality, “Progressives’” incessantly blather on about the importance and sacredness of each vote – and of how a venal sin is committed by any citizen who chooses not to exercise his or her right to vote, and of how a mortal sin is committed if anything prevents someone who wishes to vote from actually doing so.  (For the record: Although I myself, for ethical reasons, refuse to vote in political elections, I do not advise people not to vote.  And I emphatically oppose anyone or any group obstructing any citizen’s or citizens’ access to the polls or otherwise intimidating voters.)

This “Progressive” blathering about how voting is each citizen’s opportunity to “have a say” is doubly annoying given that “Progressives” are so steadfastly opposed to ordinary people having real says.

Consider, for example, the minimum wage.  Such legislation strips from each individual worker the right to say to an employer “I’ll work for you for $7.00 per hour.”  (Looked at from the other direction, such legislation strips from each employer the right to say to a potential employee “I’ll employ you for $7.00 per hour.”)

Suppose there were no minimum wage.  An individual – an actual flesh-and-blood-and-breathing person – wants a job and is willing to offer her labor services to another actual flesh-and-blood-and-breathing person at a certain wage.  No one forces this person to make such an offer; no one forces the employer to accept such an offer.  Yet if the offer is made and accepted, an outcome happens that would otherwise not happen: the person has a job with that employer at the agreed-upon wage and that employer has a new employee who, it is hoped, increases the employer’s net worth.  Both employee and employer believe themselves to be made better off.

The say that each person has in this setting matters; it is effective; each person’s say is real.  Had that one worker not said what she said to the employer, she would not have the job.  Had that employer not said what he said to the employee, he would not have a new employee.  The outcome of this exchange depends upon no one else going along with it.  Each ‘say’ is individually decisive.

Yet “Progressives” are so opposed to people having such a say that they endorse the use of coercion to prevent each and every individual who might otherwise choose to do so from saying to another individual “I’ll work for you for an hourly wage below $7.25.”  A say that matters – a real say – an effective say – a say through which each person individually and actually affects what happens in his or her life – is stripped away.  And the professors and pundits who most loudly applaud such stripping away of this sort of real say for individuals – the professors and pundits who exert prodigious amounts of intellectual energy in describing rococo scenarios in which allowing individuals in such situations actually to have a say might redound to these individuals’ benefit – sing hosannas about the “say” that each individual allegedly has as a voter in a political election.

Of course, “Progressives’” hostility to real ‘says’ extends far beyond minimum-wage legislation.  This hostility to real ‘says’ is on display when “Progressives” mandate other terms of labor contracts (such as the Obama administration’s new overtime-pay diktats).  It’s on display in support for occupational-licensing restrictions.  It’s on display in FDA and other government prohibitions on the substances that individuals are allowed to ingest.  It’s on display in government prohibitions and restrictions on employing non-Americans, and in immigration restrictions.  (I am not free to say to whichever non-American I choose “Come work for me in the U.S.” or “Come live with me in my home in Virginia.”)  It’s on display in nearly all that the state does.

The fiction is that if you exercise your fake say in each election, then the state is ethically cleared to strip you as it fancies of your real says.

I say that that’s wrong.

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