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Monday, 16 May 2016

How Should You Vote in the Upcoming Election?

Australia recently announced its federal election for 2016 and the moment it happened, the posters went up and the spam mail was sent out everywhere. On Friday I got this flyer in the mailbox. It was addressed specifically to me and it came from my local member of parliament Chris Pyne.


Somewhere it was on file that I'm 24 years old and am therefore classified as "youth". So Pyne's office sent out this targeted flyer proclaiming that the Liberal government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into a number of new programs that will help youth secure work or start their own businesses.

This is a timely initiative. From what I've heard, people my age are graduating from university, having slogged for four years or more through all the deadlines and grades, and yet are struggling to find employment in their chosen fields. However, this doesn't affect me at all. I chose not to go along the path of tertiary education, choosing instead to go straight into the working world and try to find a pathway about which I'm truly passionate. I've never struggled to find work. I've had periods where there's not a lot of work coming in, but that's just the nature of the jobs I pick. In fact, I often joke that the reason none of my peers can find jobs is because I've taken them all. So while I think that introducing programs to help youth find work is a great idea, it only benefits people who happen to not be me.

So then an interesting question occurred to me: Should we be voting for the party that best serves our own needs or the needs of the greater population? The whole point of our system of government is that a person is elected to represent us in parliament. Each member of parliament represents around 100 000 people and the assumption is that the member's desires and beliefs reflect the desires and beliefs of the majority of those 100 000 people. What if I've misread what's going on around me and it turns out that there really isn't any sort of youth jobs crisis? What if those hundreds of millions of dollars could have been better spent elsewhere but it's not, because the people have voted them in based on that policy? Could voting for the party out of empathy for my unemployed peers actually end up being detrimental?

Consider this:
Say for argument's sake that 60% of voting youth were finding work just fine. The other 40% are struggling. 40% of youth being unable to find work is a huge number. But the other 60% decide that they want to start families. There's only room in the budget to accommodate one of those groups. Party A is offering to assist the unemployed, while Party B wants to help start families. Everyone votes for the party that serves their own needs best, so Party B gets in. The 60% group get help starting the families they badly want and the 40% are still no closer to finding a job. Is this a good or a bad outcome? Is it good because the majority of people had their needs met? Or is it bad because finding work is a greater need than starting a family?

I tend to lean towards the former - that the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. But there's a huge flaw in that belief. What of those whose needs can't be heard? Here's Scenario B:
Party A wants to invest a nine-figure sum into programs that help the disabled and the elderly. Party B instead wants to put that money into roads and infrastructure. Everyone votes according to his or her own needs. But not only do many of the disabled and elderly not have the mental capacity to vote, but even the ones who do are far outnumbered by the rest of us that are able-bodied. Party B wins in a landslide and the lives of the incapable get worse and worse as each election passes. In this case, I believe firmly that empathy needs to be taken into account when voting.

Finally, consider Scenario C:
60% of youth find it hard to get a job. Party A is offering to help them with that. But also, 60% of the elderly are living in poor conditions, and are struggling to survive with their current retirement benefits from the government. Party A isn't willing to help them, but Party B is. The catch is if Party B helps the elderly, it won't be able to help the youth. One of the groups may have to give way to the other. Should either of them put their own problem aside? Or should they both be selfish and try and get their own dire needs met first?

This of course uses the unrealistic assumption that only one demographic can be helped at a time. But the question I feel is still valid. When voting in someone to represent you in parliament, should you be selfish or selfless? Is it possible to find a party that strikes a good balance between the two? Would ranking issues in order of necessity help you make a decision or just make it more complicated?

I hope you find it easier to make a decision than I do.

18 comments:

  1. It's hard not to universalize your own problems, I think. I know I tend to assume everyone has problems with the same things I do.

    But beyond that, maybe the importance of the services sought might have to figure in. You know, where, even if 85% of the population benefited from something, if it was being done instead of something very fundamental for the survival or quality of life of 20%, maybe the latter should come first.

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    1. It's very touchy because you have to weigh the requirement for empathy against the importance of the need.

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  2. I lean towards the 'good of the whole' end of the spectrum. With a particular focus on helping the disadvantaged. Particularly if that help can move them OUT of the disadvantaged category.

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    1. It doesn't surprise me that you lean that way, I've always known you to have a particular desire to help the disadvantaged. It's one reason I like you :)

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  3. At this point, I'm probably not even voting in our own elections.
    The good of the whole country should come before the needs of a minority group of people. Should, but rarely does...

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    1. In Australia it's mandatory to vote. You can get around it by not putting your name on the register when you turn 18, but if you're found out, they'll punish you anyway. I've thought about it and I like it better that way. I love the democratic process so much that if the choice were suddenly given to us, I would still vote anyway, no matter how disenfranchised I am.

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  4. Why a little for both is how I see things. I hate the way politicians try to polarize folks to get votes. Just in conversation, I have been told that in Australia there is not that huge gaping divide between political parties that we have in the United States. It is complicated in the states but we have always been very argumentative in our politics since the country's inception. It is part of our DNA.

    For young people just out of university, that is a huge maturation curve in finding a job and making choices. We all struggle in the beginning. In my experience, that struggle helped me. Some of it is luck or fate. But it goes back to what my father told me as a child. It's not how much you make but how you manage what you make.

    I do try to be an independent but with nominees like Donald Trump, you can call me a liberal, democrat, whatever.

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    1. I hate that too. It's obvious to see when a politician has taken up a contradictory position on an issue just to play the game. I think you're half-right about the difference between Australian and American politics. In Australia, there's still a battle between the conservative and the progressive, but the progressives are the only ones that make noise. The conservatives quietly go about their business making the laws and the money, owning the properties and businesses, for the large part ignoring what the progressives say. This is opposed to America (from what I can see) where the gun-lobbyists and bible-thumpers are yelling just as loud as the gay and the underprivileged.

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  5. I find that it's usually a balance between the two -- what's best for the country as a whole should be paramount so long as it isn't too bad for me personally. For example, I would never vote for a party that is going to take away any of my civil rights but who promise to improve the economy.

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    1. That's probably a key difference between conservatives and progressives.

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  6. I have no idea who I will vote for but it will not be Trump mainly because I am in a different country so not and option, although we have a couple of idiots leading out political parties here as well just saying

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    1. In SA where I am, we have independent senator Nick Xenophon. I'm a huge fan of his policies with very little exception, but some of his media stunts are cringe-worthy.

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  7. The question is, does anything ever change? Will one candidate really make a noticeable difference? I'm not convinced that any one candidate can change the system. I just vote for whoever has policies that align with my beliefs, and a candidate who seems to have decent character.

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    1. I think it's possible, but very rare. For example Lincoln made some big changes to the way the country worked. But I do tend to vote the same as you - who has the best policies according to what I believe.

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  8. As a person who doesn't have many needs, I'd look at the self-less options.

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  9. I always vote for the politics that will benefit the majority of the people. In parliament elections, I usually vote for the Social Democrats (living in Europe). In the town council elections I sometimes vote for the communist party, not because I want to be ruled by them, but it's good to have some rebels digging up the camaraderie that sometimes infects local politics >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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    1. I actually don't mind that as a tactic, but I wouldn't do it myself because only get one vote. I'd want it to count more than that.

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