What if the Majority Voted for “None of the Above”?

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Lee Friday – October 18, 2019  

“Dreary as all get-out.” That’s how National Post columnist Chris Selley describes Canada’s 43rd federal election (October 21).  He says “None of the above” (NOTA) should be on the ballot, and he’s right. NOTA should be on the ballot. But what if NOTA wins the election? Then what? Selley doesn’t say, but I will.

The NOTA option allows voters to demonstrate their lack of consent to the election of any candidate. This is an excellent way to measure the legitimacy of candidates, and by extension, the government. Unfortunately, the countries and regions currently offering the NOTA option refuse to acknowledge a NOTA “win” in any meaningful sense of the word. If NOTA receives a majority or plurality of votes, government legislation usually stipulates that a runoff election(s) is to be held, or awards the “win” to the second-place-candidate. This makes a mockery of the idea of majority rule.

The Myth of Majority Rule

As per the Cambridge dictionary, majority rule is “the system of giving the largest group in a particular place or area the power to make decisions for everyone.”

Regardless of whether you believe the majority has a moral right to tell the minority – even a minority of one – what to do, the fact is that majority rule is a myth. Government policy, laws, and regulations are dictated by the minority (special interest groups), contrary to the wishes of the majority. As Professors Martin Gilens (Princeton University) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern University) wrote:

… As to empirical evidence concerning interest groups, it is well established that organized groups regularly lobby and fraternize with public officials, move through revolving doors between public and private employment, provide self-serving information to officials, draft legislation, and spend a great deal of money on election campaigns. Moreover, in harmony with theories of biased pluralism, the evidence clearly indicates that most interest groups and lobbyists represent business firms or professionals. Relatively few represent the poor or even the economic interests of ordinary workers …

… Clearly the median citizen or “median voter” at the heart of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy does not do well when put up against economic elites and organized interest groups. The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

The enormous power and influence wielded by the minority explains why a majority of citizens do not trust their government. It may also explain why many citizens choose not to vote. It is often the case that the total number of “non-votes” are considerably higher than the number of votes for the winning candidate. If NOTA was on the ballot, perhaps many non-voters would become voters, especially if a NOTA win was recognized as a genuine win, and not merely symbolic.

What if NOTA Wins

We have been taught that the government relies on the “Consent of the Governed.” As per Wikipedia:

In political philosophy, the phrase consent of the governed refers to the idea that a government’s legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised.

Article 21 of the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections …

“Consent of the Governed” is a ridiculous idea, but let’s accept it for this article. Let’s also accept that consent is defined as a majority or plurality of votes in an election.

Within this context, a vote for NOTA is unambiguous. It means that none of the candidates have the consent of the voter. Therefore, if NOTA wins a majority of seats, there is no basis for the authority or legitimacy of government. The government must be terminated. Any action other than termination of the government violates our democratic principles of Majority Rule, Consent of the Governed, The Will of the People.

If NOTA was a Genuine, Non-Symbolic Option

Historian Carroll Quigley wrote:

… there was clearly a period, about 900 [AD], when there was no empire, no state, and no public authority in the West. The state disappeared, yet society continued. … It was discovered that economic life, religious life, law, and private property can all exist and function effectively without a state.

The nineteenth-century French economist and statesman Frédéric Bastiat, author of The Law, wrote:

Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.

The real cost of the State is the prosperity we do not see, the jobs that don’t exist, the technologies to which we do not have access, the businesses that do not come into existence, and the bright future that is stolen from us. The State has looted us just as surely as a robber who enters our home at night and steals all that we love.

Wider acceptance of these observations would radically alter the nature of election campaigns if NOTA was a genuine, non-symbolic ballot option. Numerous NOTA supporters would be motivated not only to vote for NOTA but to actively campaign for NOTA. If a groundswell of support for NOTA develops, other candidates might be forced to make – and keep – promises to significantly reduce the size and scope of government.

The fact that NOTA is not a genuine, non-symbolic ballot option indicates that the ruling class, despite their propaganda, merely pays lip service to the democratic principles of Majority Rule, Consent of the Governed, and The Will of the People.

Image source: Wikimedia

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