05/15/2014 12:53 EDT | Updated 07/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Why Should I Care About the Ontario Election? No One Else Does


I will vote if I want to, vote if I want to, and if I do vote, you would likely not vote if the same thing happened to you. So what happened to me? Like millions of Ontarians, I don't care about Ontario politics; Why should I? I care about tree politics and speed bumps. Have no doubt: the Ontario premier is an insignificant figure on the world stage. She should rightfully condemn what appears to be "hateful" racial intolerance, but that's, well, about it. She is globally irrelevant.

Scrap the photo ops, the constant glad-handing with sycophantic handlers, the media appearances in niche markets nobody under 30 ever watches, and journalists who go on jejune tirades about how it is our "moral obligation to vote" (are you listening Andrew Coyne?). CEOs really don't care about the Premier or her well-compensated Chief of Staff. This may sound surprising to MPPs and activists, but it is demonstrably true. With a government mired in outlandish per capita debt, government has lost moral suasion. Ask President Putin who Kathleen Wynne is. Kathleen who?

Voting is qualitatively different than jury duty or paying your taxes. First, it is not illegal to skip it. Second, to frown on not voting is to make fun of the intelligence of the voting population, a mockery born of vanity, insulting of most of whom don't vote since they rationally see the comparable benefit of e-petitions or calling their local city councilor as more valuable.

People vote with their feet more and more every day; they will make a complain to their kids' hockey or soccer association; they decide to lobby the school union; they decide to call the city councilor. Not voting is an accretive benefit to all voters. It is a Pareto optimal force of adaptive collective action, distributing energies dynamically and rationally where voters' desires are most intense and self-educated.

To force everyone to do something is the legal mandate of public health officials and police, not elections officials. The esteemed Professor Stephen Waddams taught me that in any real or social contract it is the underlying purpose of, or lack of, the law that matters in legal interpretation. The lack of a law forcing people to vote is guided by a collective interest in preserving the moral order of democracy.

Force everyone to vote, and people lose faith in public service. Goodness knows we have enough trouble trying to get qualified candidates to run as it is. If my high school forced everyone, through fines or dunce caps in the corner, to vote on whom the elected member was to be to represent all the boys in the graduating class, few pupils would respect the winner. That matters a lot more than the minority of people who may vote.

Compelling people to vote is a 1999 argument, pre-social media, when pundits mattered. The ugly secret to the motivations of many who rail against a minority of people electing a winner is that the antagonists tend to lean against the favourite candidate. Let it be repeated: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." The reason Churchill said this is because democracy is prone to human folly, both in terms of those entrusted with the right to vote and those who do vote. It is also incumbent on those who suggest a change to suggest an alternative to elected officials. Judges? Journalists? Times have changed. Government sits beside entities that eclipse it in terms of influence, from the #occupy movement to the Arab Spring.

Premier Wynne: Welcome to the new economy. CEOs and entrepreneurs with an outlook on the world don't care about your 'innovation agenda' to create jobs at home; they want to sell into a global economy. In the United States, the real influence of political initiatives occurs in political action campaigns to influence independents, not in messaging to the educated. Young people are more politically engaged and self-aware than older generations, who may be declared registered Liberals or Conservatives. Young people under 30 just participate in online political initiatives since, well, these matter more. Want to stop an election scandal or influence Senate reform? Don't write a letter to the editor of legacy print media. Start a YouTube channel.

In my undergraduate class on political science at Queen's University in Kingston, a friend made the convincing case that not voting was an exercise in democracy. "The wise man will choose peace rather than public involvement," wrote the Roman Stoic Seneca in his Letter 28 to Lucilius (Book III.7). This is not to scorn participation in the public square, but it is to recognize that it has been cheapened, where politicians of all stripes hide the fact from Ontarians that our province is a basket-case financially suffering from mass cognitive dissonance from the political sector, the economy shows no discernible sectors of financial resilience or growth. Just ask people who hire people. Mass layoffs are coming.

Tell us the truth and we might vote. We're smarter than you think we are.


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