Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Oregon Trail

In the very merry month of May, Team KPC took a road trip. I bundled the JR up into the station wagon and we headed down to Durham to grab Meat Mountain Mungowitz for the trek west. When our feckless trio hit the Sooner State, I handed driving duties over to Robin. Our freshly-minted quintet hooked a right turn on our way to the fabled land of the Great Beaver. Here's a partial transcript of the cabin conversation as we approached Wichita for the  evening's respite.

Robin: Okay guys. I see a... I see a McDonalds and a Burger King. Where should we eat?

Angus: McDonalds, of course. Slainte!

MMM: Uh huh, I don't think so. Home of the Whopper, please. Please and thank you.

It's difficult for me to adequately convey the kindly imperiousness in Mungo's voice here. As the father of two grown men (and a chaired professor at a major university), he's developed a certain rhetorical style that manages to be both charming and compelling at the same time. Search the Econtalk archives if you don't believe me.

JR: <snore>

Jeff had been asleep for the past hour and a half.

Me: I don't like hamburgers.

I could feel perplexed contempt just starting to boil off my traveling companions. How is it even possible to "not like hamburgers?" Is this guy a Communist or something? Luckily, we had a peacemaker in the car.

Robin: Okay, well, there's also a Five Guys and a Whataburger. How about that, Sam?

Me: I don't like hamburgers. At all.

Kevin had heard enough.


I did my best to suppress a smile. I probably wasn't all that successful, judging by Mike's follow-up.

MMM: Okay, we'll settle this like adults. Jeff's asleep, so Robin, Kevin, and I will vote on where to eat, and we'll watch as you enjoy our democratically-chosen hamburger. We don't want you to starve, after all. it's for your own good and the collective good of the car.

Here's Reuters. Here's the Oregon DMV. Full text of HB 2177 here.

I keep company with many folks who are naturally skeptical—if not outright contemptuous—of choosing via the ballot box instead of in more spontaneous, natural agglomerations such as professional, neighborhood, or social clubs. Politics, they say, make fools of us all, forcing upon private citizens a certain telescopic morality that is both unseemly and unnatural. I don't disagree, but I also don't see a lot of damage done in reducing the costs of voter registration. It's not like it makes voter participation any more salient for disaffected, alienated, or apathetic voters. At most, Oregon's HB 2177 adds a little more noise to the voting process, and it's very likely that the noise will be centered pretty much on mainstream beliefs. It's the nasty biases in the mainstream beliefs that cause so much havoc. Noise in large systems tends to cancel out. [citations available in any standard Public Choice textbook, esp. Mueller]

The party registration bit in there (seriously, check the language in the third link) reflects the typical ambitions of the sovereign: "we're just gonna go ahead as sign you up as a voter here. And oh, by the way, have you heard of the Democratic and Republican parties? Would you be interested in some literature?" It's got some grim humor to it, I must admit. After all, how can we even have a republic if constituents run about all willy-nilly identifying as independent or with another party. Maybe this is only funny to me, having spent so much time with these specific GSS variables. Eh, whatever.

Governments are duly organized by constituents to serve the interest of the public. Elites who interpret that mandate as "the public exists to participate in the political process" reveal a curious sort of political philosophy. Authority is being exchanged here for sure, but I'm not convinced it's all that euvoluntary.

"Vote or die" is not the slogan of a free society, people.

1 comment:

  1. Did you not see the last section of the bill??? An emergency has been declared in Oregon--normally euvoluntariness is fine, but the republic is at stake!!!

    I say we dub superautomatic voter registration as "Fast and Furious Motor Voter."


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?