The Outstater

April 18, 2023

The Power of Voting ‘No’

COULD IT BE SO SIMPLE as to elect people who will vote “no”? Not about everything, of course, that would be naysaying. And not about faux social and sexual bizzareries that are best worked out by society over time. But about those things that — right at this very moment — endanger our families and our ability to protect and care for them.

Such things are going unaddressed, you know, even as they are easy for politicians to identify, even solve, were they of a mind. You don’t tax and regulate people to ruin in order to do things that don’t need to be done. You don’t borrow to fund pipe dreams. You don’t allow government to grow so large that nobody knows what it’s up to. And how hard is it to condemn mobs of resentful, errant youth shooting tourists and gutting pharmacies?

Visit Review the voting records. See if you can find someone who voted no to something critically injurious, that is, something infringing on your daily life. You should hope there are a few such votes — but maybe not, or at least not enough.

We are talking about easy solutions that anyone raising a family or running a small business would recognize as common sense. The obvious stuff: You don’t spend more than you have; you don’t squelch enterprise or opportunity; you don’t negate individual responsibility.

Socrates spoke of an “internal no” that tells us unerringly when we are tempting disaster. (Interestingly, he recognized no “internal yes.”) 

The British historian Arnold Toynbee found in his four-volume study of 60 civilizations that those that prospered were the ones with a “creative minority” able to say no to the several ways societies decide to destroy themselves. Allowing borders to break down was one of them. Abandoning successful internal norms for inferior external ones was another. Simply put, if what you are doing isn’t working the first step is to quit doing what you are doing.

Helmut Schoeck, the Austrian sociologist, warned us that societies unable to say no to the human impulse to envy, that pursue the impossible ideal of perfect equity, cripple themselves. Enterprise and skill are discouraged, opportunity is limited. The lights go out. The trash isn’t collected. The sewage backs up. Hello South Africa. Hello Venezuela. Hello California.

And yet, we have raised a series of generations now that believe everything is relative, that nobody is ever really wrong. Here is the late Paul Johnson in his masterwork, “Modern Times”:

“At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.”

With two sides to every story there was never a need to definitively say no. But after a century of policy failures the chickens are indeed coming home to roost. The economist Thomas Sowell makes the point in his book, “Is Reality Optional?” Here is the defining paragraph:

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area — crime, education, housing, race relations — the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.”

And finally, the historian Victor Davis Hanson has done us a service by listing his no’s:

There are primary elections around the corner in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. We can start there. It might not be too late to say yes to no. — tcl


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