I know, I know, the Good Government Nannies are already reaching for their beta blockers. Curtis is being unpatriotic! He’s a lousy citizen! He’s setting a bad example for the children!
Baloney. The great thing about living in a free society is, you’re free to vote and you’re free not to vote. True, there are ten countries that have compulsory voting laws –you’re fined for not voting – and which enforce them (there are other countries that have such a laws and are smart enough not to enforce them). The list of enforcers includes such paragons of civic excellence as Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay. Give me a break.
When I whine about the absurdity of voting, people often say to me, “Hey, if you don’t like the system, why don’t you run for office and change it?” Excuse me, but have you actually met any politicians? Besides, when people whine about the health care system we don’t tell them, “Hey, if you don’t like the system, why don’t you go to med school?”
Like most Americans and Cubans, I labor under a one-party system. Mine happens to be the Democratic Party, as in most large cities – Pittsburgh last had a Republican mayor in (I’m serious) 1934 – but there are certainly one-party Republican jurisdictions. In these oppressive places, where by far most American citizens live, voting is a joke. The party machine decides who’s going to run and who’s going to win. Very, very occasionally a non-machine candidates squeaks through, but in 99% of the races you will ever get to vote on, the results are in long before the general election has been held.
But it’s worse than that. I can’t even vote in the primary, where everything is decided, since I’m a registered independent. Unless I agree to sign up with one or the other of the appalling political parties in my city, I’m disenfranchised: it’s illegal to vote in the primary and the general is a travesty. In other words, I maintain, I didn’t abandon the ballot, the ballot abandoned me.
Consider the recent general election held on November 4. Like any busy citizen, I squeezed voting in between dropping my kid at school and rushing off to a meeting. I endured the hordes of party stalwarts trying to burden me with their propaganda, entered the polling place (a synagogue), and stood in line. Unfortunately for me, the powers that be had decided to move another precinct into the synagogue, so after making my way to the front of the line I learned that I was trying to vote in Precinct 1 when I was registered to vote in Precinct 2.
I sighed, stood in a second line, waited again, and was finally escorted to a bizarre voting machine that looked like it was about to give me a mammogram. The poll worker fired the thing up and there was the hallowed ballot – all of three races.
First, there was the race for the Pennsylvania State House seat. I say “race,” but, as usual, the Democrat was running unopposed. Then there was the US House race where, again, the Democrat was running unopposed. True, I could have written in a name – say, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn – but why bother?
Finally, there was the gubernatorial contest. Unfortunately, in this “race” the Democrat was ahead in the polling by twenty percentage points and the Associated Press called the race the moment the polls closed. (The AP would have called the race at 8 a.m. if the public would have stood still for it. Then we could all have avoided this empty ritual.)
As I left the polling place, thoroughly disgusted and vowing never to cast another vote, a fresh-faced young woman stuck a red, white and blue “I VOTED!” sticker on me. I threw it in the trash.
Instead of wasting our time voting when our vote obviously doesn’t matter in the slightest, I suggest that we mount a voting boycott. If, say, only 8% of people voted in elections (most of them fanatical party hacks), maybe something would change. But, “No!” you say, “That way the tiny minority will elect their own goons!” Hello? If you imagine it could be worse than it is, you’re not paying attention.
The long and short of it is, as long as we all trudge to the polls every year like lemmings, we’ll continue to get the governments we deserve.
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Poetry, anyone? Several of you have written in to ask if I’m the Gregory Curtis who recently published a small volume of poetry. Given the low repute in which poetry is held in America today – sort of the literary equivalent of Congress – I’m tempted to deny it. Alas, it’s true. For those of you with a taste for this sort of thing, the book is called Working for a Living and it’s available on Amazon.
Next up: We’re All Retail Investors
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Please note that this post is intended to provide interested persons with an insight on the capital markets and is not intended to promote any manager or firm, nor does it intend to advertise their performance. All opinions expressed are those of Gregory Curtis and do not necessarily represent the views of Greycourt & Co., Inc., the wealth management firm with which he is associated. The information in this report is not intended to address the needs of any particular investor.