This past Tuesday was Election Day for the midterm elections in the United States, an event that got me thinking about the purpose of someone’s vote. Specifically, I realized that there are two methodologies that people may choose to use when they vote, and in many cases, they conflict with one another. What I view as one method of voting is purely based on personal interests. This would be when an individual looks at how a candidate impacts them personally, whether it’s through taxes, a specific policy initiative or an issue that people feel particularly passionate about. The second method people may utilize is voting based on the candidate that will do the most good. Instead of looking at themselves, this vote is based on the candidate’s impact on society.
Thinking about these various voting mindsets brings questions about the intent of democracy to the forefront. Is the intent of giving everyone a say in government meant to create choices that people feel will benefit themselves, and because most people benefited from it, such a decision is made? Or is the intent more focused on allowing the people to choose who they feel would make the best decisions for society as a whole? These two trains of thought directly contradict each other when examining certain issues. For example, it may be objectively better for society if more money is allocated to education, yet an individual without kids may feel that they personally gain no benefit from this, while presumably still having to carry some of the tax burdens. This person can either vote for a candidate who will help society at large, or will help them personally. Admittedly, there are arguments that the advancement of education as a whole helps the entire population, but for the sake of simplicity, this analysis only examines the direct benefits and costs.
I would argue that everyone should vote like a hypocrite, and always make decisions that help the people and advance society as a whole. It’s okay to complain about taxes but then vote for candidates who will raise them to fund essential projects that benefit society. It’s okay to benefit from a government program and enjoy such benefits, but then vote for a candidate who eliminates the program because of inefficiency. Voting shouldn’t be a selfish choice; it should be an informed choice about how the government can help the most people. These choices may be the same, in many cases. For instance, one may believe that a government program is wasteful, and therefore will vote for a candidate who will eliminate it, and that individual may also benefit due to tax cuts. Yet this may not always be the case.
One can examine many examples of times when a minority needed government action. This is likely one of the biggest arguments in favor of voting against one’s personal interests. When a minority group is unfairly having their fundamental rights taken from them, or a subsection of the population has an urgent need, the only way such issues can be resolved is through people using their vote to help the common good. Using one’s power through their vote to help society at large is essential, as in many cases those directly affected by an issue are powerless to do anything about it. Unfortunately, in many cases, it doesn’t benefit the majority to help the minority, regardless of what is morally correct to do.
Whenever Election Day comes around, there are many factors that go into making voting choices. However, considering what is best for society at large, regardless of our own personal interests is essential to the welfare of everyone.