Mises Wire

Canadians Should Be Able to Vote “None of the Above”

Canadians are heading to the polls on September 20, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s questionable ethics are under a microscope, with Chris Selley of the National Post suggesting that Canadians “could do a lot worse than choosing whichever leader they judge the most eager and likely to govern with integrity.”

Okay, I’ll bite. Let’s assess the eagerness and integrity of the leaders of the three main political parties:

Justin Trudeau – Liberal Party

Erin O’Toole – Conservative Party (farther to the left than US Democrats)

Jagmeet Singh – New Democratic Party

There is no doubt that all three of them are very eager to govern, so eagerness is not an issue.

But What about Integrity?

A person of integrity does not break promises, but Trudeau has broken many promises.

A person of integrity is not a hypocrite, but Singh violates covid protocols that he professes to support. He also criticized Trudeau for calling an election during a pandemic, yet he enthusiastically campaigned for his NDP colleagues when they called an election in British Columbia last fall.

A person of integrity does not change his policies when it is politically expedient to do so. But O’Toole has reversed himself on gun control, as well as access to abortion and MAID (medical assistance in dying).

All three candidates are guilty of other transgressions, too numerous to list.

Selley writes, “O’Toole insists he has lived his life as a principled man, and would hold himself to those same principles as prime minister.” However, a principle, by definition, is not open to compromise, and Selley ignores the flip-flops of his favored candidate. Thus, Selley himself lacks the integrity he is seeking to promote.

Is Political Integrity Even Possible?

The lack of political integrity is a standard feature of democracy, not a flaw. This is because politicians are not, in any meaningful way, held accountable for their actions, so they make and break promises at will. Their actions become arbitrary, allowing them to serve whichever interest groups they please, which means that regular citizens—regardless of election outcomes—have virtually no influence on government policy.

Does this mean that all politicians lack integrity? No, but those who do are few in number, because human nature dictates that the lack of accountability will be a magnet for those who lack integrity. Furthermore, people with integrity do not usually want to surround themselves with people (other politicians) who lack integrity. This paves the way for a large degree of immoral uniformity within the political class. As F.A. Hayek wrote in his book The Road to Serfdom, in a chapter titled “Why the Worst Get on Top“:

[T]he higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their tastes and views are differentiated. If we wish to find a high degree of uniformity in outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive instincts prevail. This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means that the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards.

Low moral standards. Hayek is referring to people like Trudeau, O’Toole, Singh, and others of their ilk in the political class. That is why Canadian voters will not find integrity on the ballot.

However, if the will of the people is to be genuinely expressed through a majority or plurality of votes in an election, then perhaps a degree of integrity can be restored by adding another name to the ballot.

None of the Above

Add None of the Above (NOTA) to the ballot.

Article 21 of the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that

[t]he will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections.

Within this context, a vote for NOTA means that none of the candidates appeal to the voter. Therefore, if NOTA wins a majority of seats, it logically follows that 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 principle of the will of the people.

If NOTA Were a Genuine, Nonsymbolic Option

We must become critical thinkers, and question the idea that the government provides the indispensable glue that holds society together. As historian Carroll Quigley wrote:

[T]here 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.

Wider acceptance of Quigley’s historical observation would radically alter the nature of election campaigns if NOTA were a genuine, nonsymbolic ballot option. Numerous NOTA supporters would be motivated not only to vote for NOTA but to actively campaign for NOTA. Let’s not forget that one-third of eligible Canadians don’t even bother to vote—does this reflect their distrust of government? If a groundswell of support for NOTA developed, 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, nonsymbolic ballot option proves that the political class merely pays lip service to the concepts of integrity and the will of the people.

Image Source: Alirod Ameri via Flickr
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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