Sunday, October 14, 2007

Phil Orenstein Opposes NOTA and I Respond

Phil Orenstein writes of NOTA:


"I am of two minds on this and I hesitated for a while to respond, but at least I owe you an explanation as a friend. While I understand and fully respect your commitment to ensuring the opportunity for a protest vote, I feel the "lesser of two evils" philosophy should remain the prevailing principle in elections. To take this to it's logical conclusion in the politics of the possible, I feel the presidential campaign would come down to a Clinton-Giuliani choice and any voter educated enough to grasp the real issues and the outright corruption of politics who would be a NOTA voter, would be one less vote for Giuliani, since I believe votes for Clinton come from the uniformed and brainwashed and 6-pack Joes of our country while votes for Giuliani would be from the more informed voters. That said, I deplore the corruption, deceit authoritarianism and utter lack of capable leadership today and especially the spineless Republican party which is now in the process of imploding, especially at the local level (i.e. Queens and NY State), and I understand the rationale for your proposal. In my other mind I would have to say, that many of the apathetic voters who don't show up at the polls, averaging 50% or more in many elections, who are turned off by the corruption and deceit in politics, might be convinced to participate in our democracy, if a protest vote could be registered. However my first mind now prevails as long as I continue to use the email signature below and still fighting for reform in the Republican Party, to which many of my friends and co-workers just shake their heads thinking I'm still tilting at windmills."

My reply to Phil:

1. The ability to offer true consent requires the ability to withhold consent. Voters do this now by remaining absent from the polls. I think it is worthwhile to permit those who want to participate in American democracy but have become convinced of its vacuity to voice their concern explicitly. At present, their views are unnecessarily suppressed by the absence of a "None of the above" (NOTA) option. NOTA increases the degree of choice, and the Republicans and Democrats fear it because neither party offers a meaningful alternative. Since democracy and utilitarianism means maximizing choice, inclusion of NOTA is the most democratic and utilitarian approach.

2. Disenfranchisement and disengagement is true on all sides of the political spectrum. I don't believe that NOTA would affect one candidate more than any other by very much. Many on the left as well as the right do not feel represented.

3. The two parties have more similarities than differences. For instance, I do not see Giuliani as significantly different from Clinton. In New York City, Giuliani failed to reduce the extent of government; catered to city's public sector unions; and oversaw a slight increase in the city's budget when adjusted for inflation. It is true that he is better on several key issues such as Iraq, health care and marginally on trade (although I don't believe that Giuliani has publicly stated that he would eliminate the sugar and other agricultural tariffs that are a national disgrace and that President Bush and the Republicans have supported).* However, these differences do not reflect a fundamental vision that is different from Hillary Clinton's.

4. Neither Giuliani nor Clinton address many of the key issues facing the nation. These include monetary depreciation and inflation, which no major candidate has chosen to discuss; special interest influence in Washington; excess government and regulation, to which both Giuliani and Clinton have been a party; the massive budget deficit that the Republicans have generated; the decline in public morality, most specifically the something-for-nothing mindset that has increasingly influenced Americans of all social positions and all ideological segments and motivated their support for the two political parties; the deterioration of the education system; the breakdown in the structure of democracy, to include gerrymandering and the increased ratio of population to congressional representation which serves politicians and special interests but not the electorate; and the steadfast resistance to clear financial information's being made available to the public through the Government Accounting Standards Board.

5. Neither Democrats nor Republicans propose a vision that reflects an underlying belief in liberty, in transparency, or in limited government. Although my personal opinion is that Giuliani is better than Clinton on issues like health care, Iraq and trade, both Clinton and Giuliani lack vision.

6. It is not clear that Giuliani's or Clinton's positions would translate into actual policy. President Bush did not tell the country that he favored big government. The differences between the parties are typically distorted by misrepresentation, special interest pandering and opportunism. There is no reason to believe that a President Giuliani would stand up to the health care lobby any more than President Bush stood up to the agricultural lobby.

7. Part of the ability of the candidates to mislead the public results from lack of choice. Such choice would be enhanced by NOTA

*See discussion on

The libertarian Cato Institute writes of ADM: The Archer Daniels Midland Corporation (ADM) has been the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent U.S. history. ADM and its chairman Dwayne Andreas have lavishly fertilized both political parties with millions of dollars in handouts and in return have reaped billion-dollar windfalls from taxpayers and consumers. Thanks to federal protection of the domestic sugar industry, ethanol subsidies, subsidized grain exports, and various other programs, ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM's annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM's corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30
Do you want to know who makes HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)? It's Archer Daniels Midland. Do you want to know who pays for HFCS? That's you and I, in the form of the taxes we pay to the U.S. Government. The government spent $41.9 billion on corn subsidies from 1995 to 2004, a trough of money at which ADM gladly ate. ADM buys 12 percent of the nation's corn at a heavily subsidized price from farmers, and turns it into high-fructose corn syrup and ethanol.

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