Today I voted in the cafeteria of a neighborhood elementary school. I selected my candidate for president cheered by crude crayon drawings of fantastic animals. I won’t reveal my choice, because this isn’t a political blog — and because, in the great scheme of things, my vote is a small turn in a great drama, a whisper in the gathering voice of the electorate.
Some make an issue of such smallness. My eldest, the Sophistpundit, tells me that there is a school of economists who call themselves “libertarians” and sneer at us ordinary citizens for voting.
Their reasoning goes as follows. Individuals always work to “maximize utility”: that is, to get the biggest return for their efforts. A single vote gets lost among the tens of millions — it can alter nothing. Voting has no utility. Even the short drive to the elementary school, the few minutes’ wait in line, are therefore a stupid waste of my time. The intellectual elite, probably identical to the set of libertarian economists, are more profitably employed — one presumes, by sneering at us.
This, of course, is bookish nonsense. Leave behind the land of the lotus-eaters, enter the cauldron of the world, and ask a Cuban or a North Korean whether a single vote matters. Don’t bother to talk utility to these oppressed peoples: they, far better than academics, will know the difference between a mathematical calculation and an assertion of human dignity.
Where libertarian economists, if Sophistpundit is correct, see “homo economicus” forever maximizing profit, I find endless varieties of “American citizen” pursuing divergent paths to happiness. They consider voting to be a duty. They were there in large numbers at the school where I voted, having come early in the morning so they could make it to work on time — peaceable, serious-minded, smiling-faced, efficient, informal, nonutilitarian.
In a few hours, their voice — our voice — will gather to a great sound, and speak a name. That is a sacred moment to those who love freedom. It used to bind us and heal the wounds of political combat. I hope it does so again. A tremendous burden, literally the weight of the world, will fall on the shoulders of the person whose name the people have spoken, and we who have placed it there should wish him strength, courage, and great success.