Monday, February 2, 2015

Voting: By Needs or By Ideals?

I had originally planned to write this back in November around election time, but I didn't have the motivation to sit and actually write it out. But the ideas are relevant year-round, I think.

I've seen plenty of commentaries focus on various groups, astounded at the group's minorities who vote for a different party or against a measure that goes against their needs.

But should we be voting just based on what we want? What about the role of sacrifice? Of doing what's right even when it's "not in our best interest"? In my view, doing what's right is ultimately in our best interest.

A couple of concrete examples:

Back in undergrad, the University of California system was talking about raising tuition for the first time in many years. Students were up in arms. Of course I didn't want my tuition to go up. It wasn't in my best interest (at least from one perspective). However, I supported the tuition hike because it seemed reasonable.

Similarly, we have lived in our little city for several years now, loving the small town feel and a variety of amenities, like it being a clean, safe city with nice parks. Like many cities, ours had some financial problems, so there was a measure proposing a temporary tax hike in order to keep these services going. After hours of reviewing arguments on either side, my wife and I decided to vote against our best interest and for a tax increase in order to keep what we loved about our city.

Shouldn't voting be about looking at the big picture and not just about my short-term desires? Why are we so quick to judge others by assuming what is in their best interest? And assuming what motivated their vote?

If we want thoughtful voters (I guess not everyone does), then we also need to recognize that not everyone votes based on what they think is best for themselves, but actually consider society as a whole. And there can be honest disagreement about what falls into both categories. But stopping assuming what is in other people's best interest may be a good start.

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