Why I Won’t Vote

why i won't vote

I was asked this during my last Twitter Q&A: 

Bryan M. Smith ‏@bryanmsmith: Who are you voting for in the election & why?

Answer: I don't vote. I won't vote. I have no political anti-establishment reason for not voting. I'm not an anarchist. I just don't see why I should vote.

A vote is a choice between two elaborate theatrical productions. It's a choice between the aesthetics of Star Wars versus Indiana Jones. It's a vote to see which artist more cleverly evokes our mythological and unconscious responses to the perilous world around us.

We all die but "hope and change" properly demonstrated gives us a signal that our choices can help society live forever, that the small stain we leave behind has a chance of survival even after we are long dead.


Is it better for you or me if Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is President?

I wish Bush hadn't been President. Too many 18 year olds were sent to die.

I wish Bill Clinton hadn't been President and spent years wrapped up in impeachment litigation after lying to his wife and the country. It's great to have the entire past to look back on.

Essentially every President was bad. I can't think of a good one. They all wove dreams out of the fabric of their intelligence but when they left us we were lonelier than ever.

Heck, I would be bad if I were President. Unless I did absolutely nothing. Which is hard for the leader of the free world to do. He feels like he has to do something.

Like kill people ("intervention") or disrupt the way we trade with each other ("tarrifs", "immigration!"). Or disrupt the way we try to save for our futures ("money printing!").

People get very upset about this voting thing. I'm accused of being unpatriotic, for instance. Or my little 10 year old told me, "more people will run stop signs if we don't have a President." She associates a President with a magical parent.

Perhaps projecting her own sense that I don't give her enough boundaries for her to figure out where the edge of childhood ends and adulthood begins.

I let her run a Stop sign when I don't set a bedtime, or turn her TV off. She wants a President who will  tell her when to "STOP!"

So here are some reasons  for not voting. I'm not asking anyone to agree with me. Many people like to vote. Do things that you like to do.

A) One woman wrote: "Sara Manela ‏@MidianiteManna: Tell that to sick kids with no insurance. Yes, it will effect our lives, b/c we're not all rich like you."

Sara is very angry at me for not voting. Somehow I'm not only allowing children to be "sick" but she takes it personally: "we're not all rich like you". Most of my life, maybe even now, I've been pretty poor and without any health insurance. It reminds me of the head of Blackstone saying to a friend of mine, "Fuck Larry Page. Why does that kid have $18 billion when I only have $2 billion."

All the time I grapple with my own emotional issues around money. With the people who have more. With the people who seem to be an overnight success. With the 20 years of 100 hour weeks and the dozens of failures and the thoughts of suicide that will always remind me they were one staring me in the face. With the people who every day send me hate mail for reasons I'll never figure out. Three last night by the time I woke up this morning. What's the point?

In 2003 my dad had a stroke. If I hadn't lost all my money a year or so earlier I would've been able to provide him with experimental medical help he needed. Instead, his insurance ran out and he kept getting downgraded to worse and worse hospitals. At one point I felt for sure that he was trying to communicate and with just a little more therapy he could make it. But the doctors didn't believe me. "There's nothing there," they said and pointed at their own heads, supposedly as an example of "there".

I was convinced my dad was nodding his head in response to questions.

He was trying to speak. He mouthed the words, "I want to go home", to me. He would stare at the giant image of a chessboard I taped to his ceiling.

There were experimental programs I could've sent him to. But I didn't have any money. So he couldn't go. So he lay in bed staring at the ceiling for three years and then he died without ever moving again.

In terms of sick kids. It's very bad if sick kids can't get treatment. Fortunately the State Children's Health Insurance Program provides insurance for about six million kids right now whose parents don't already qualify for medicaid. And this insurance extends to long-term chronic illnesses such as cancer. Here's a link. 

I understand why the woman is angry at me for not voting. But it's a good thing she doesn't have to be angry at me. I hope her anger doesn't motivate who she votes for.

When you are angry it becomes an "us" versus "them" situation. The reality is, if we want society to work we all have to work together to find common ground. As corny as it sounds, Love will affect more change, create more innovation, than Anger ever will.

B) Another guy, @JohnTMadden wrote, " @jaltucher Way to respect our flag, our veterans, and our Constitution James. For a bright man, that statement was ignorant."

I get that one a lot. I don't like any wars at all. I can't think of a single war that can be justified when you look back on it with the microscope of history. But most importantly, I never approve of 18 year olds being sent off to be potentially killed. I have a 13 year old daughter. In five years would I want her to risk her life in order to protect "my way of life"? Of course not!

I'd rather spend the rest of my life in solitary confinement than have her risk hers. I'd rather be sent to be burned in a concentration camp than lay awake  for one night worried that she is risking death for a needless reason.

As far as being anti-veteran.

A) I think they never should've been veterans in the first place.

B) I'm actively involved in a company that is desperately attempting to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome and/or depression for returning veterans and the government is constantly attempting to squash these sorts of treatments by denying that the veterans are experiencing any sorts of mental illness at all for "serving  their country".

The reality is, we all know now that the war in Iraq was a mistake. There were no weapons of mass destruction. No Al Quaeda links.

And now the balance of power in the Middle East has been so upset (the tension between Iraq and Iran held that balance together) that Iraq will be little more than a colony of Iran. The US historical strategy is to create tension but not to engage.

We ruined that strategy in the Middle East with our failed attempt at "nation building" (code for destruction and the slaughter of innocents)  and now the media/government is even contemplating war with Iran, which is even more of a geographic impossibility than war with Afghanistan has turned out to be. Look at a map and tell me how troops can get in there?

On top of it, how many thousands of young Americans have seen their lives ruined in Iraq. How many American parents have been devastated? And how many Iraqi civilians, even babies, have seen their bodies and lives destroyed?

Well, some people say to me, what about World War II and the Jews. I'm Jewish. The one thing I want to know is: how come Roosevelt denied visas to Jews trying to escape Germany?

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And if the US was so concerned about Jews how come we didn't try to at least negotiate with Hitler ten years earlier when the oppressions began. By the time we got there it was too late for 96% of the German and Polish Jews who died.

Well, what about the Civil War that freed the slaves? Well, what about it? More Americans died in that war than any war before or since. Slaves were already freed in England 30 years earlier as a result of industrialization.

The same thing was going to happen in the US without bloodshed. And the rights of minorities are still in question to this day but minorities were certainly brutalized for 50-100 years after the Civil War ended since no laws were put in place (or enforced) to help protect the newly free citizens. Again, as opposed to other countries around the world that freed their slaves earlier.

And finally, the war was not fought over slavery but over the South's refusal to share cotton tariffs (why should they?) with the Federal government. Lincoln didn't free any slaves until he was afraid he was going to lose the war and needed the freed slaves to join the fight.

Finally, the above commenter accuses me of not respecting the Constitution. Does the constitution force me to vote? I don't think so. Freedom of speech allows me to say "no" when I'm requested to prefer one man, or one group, over another. I'm allowed to say "I don't care." I'm allowed to vote not to vote. Even that sends a message. A message of hope and change that we can move beyond two opposing but ultimately bland movies in favor of real discussions.

why i won't vote

(34% of veterans come back from Iraq clinically depressed)

C) Does the President actually affect anything in my life?

Maybe yes, maybe no. If taxes are raised, I'll pay more money. If regulations are put on how businesses hire, I'd probably hire less people. If my kids are required to go to war to protect our way of life, I'd probably move to another country and adopt a new way of life.

So the President does affect me. But for every action, as we learned from Newton, there is an equal and opposite re-action. Every bad President creates opportunities.

The Bush/Obama combination has created more opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs than ever before. Particularly with the mass bloodbath in employment thanks to both administrations. People have been forced to create opportunities and those opportunities will ultimately result in greater innovation in every area of life.

More opportunities to disrupt in healthcare, education, media, employment, energy, etc. Complain and blame will never make anyone happy or successful.

Let someone run the world if they want to. It's hard enough for me to just run myself. But I know that whatever conditions are, if I focus on the good then I will find opportunity. All I need to be able to do, at the very least, is to sit, stand, and lie down. So far no President has prevented me from doing any of those so I'm fine.

D) Differences.

We all know that there is barely any ideological difference between any two Presidents. We had no idea what Obama actually believed in before he was elected. We don't really know what Romney believes in.

Obama kept the same Secretary of Defense as Bush.

Kept Bush's taxes.

Kept Guatanamo Bay open.

Kept Geithner and many other financial officials in the administration as holdovers from the Bush administration. Continued all the bailouts started by Bush.

Kept us in the same wars as Bush and put us in a few more (Yemen, Syria, Libya, etc). I'm not saying Obama is bad. he might be the greatest President ever. History 100 years from now will be a better judge of it than we can be. But it ultimately didn't matter who was President. Just like it won't matter who wins this election.

It's all theater. Who can express the most confidence. Who can convince people through theatrics and campaigning and marketing that they would make the best leader.

So few people know the issues that voting is more an act of false egotism ("I know the issues enough to pick who the leader of the world should  be") than a conscientious decision on what is the right way to lead this country going into the future.

Just the fact that people think I'm anti-veteran or anti-patriot simply because I don't want 18 year olds to go to get their heads blown off always amazes me and shows me how many people are truly uninformed about the issues supposedly governing us.

why i won't vote

(theater at its best)

D) Someone wrote, "Don't get drawn in the mud by this discussion".

That person was right. I always defend myself too much on this issue. Everyone wants to be a hater, including me.

People hate the people who like Obama.

People hate the people who like Romney.

People hate the people who don't vote.

Or don't spend every waking moment thinking about climate change, or healthcare. But, as the first woman above (the "sick children" woman) is an example of, most people simply don't know the issues or the history.

And the election devolves (as most do) into a battle of conspiracies. It's the "birth certificate" people versus the "tax records" people. It's the Swift-boaters versus the election-fixers.

Everyone signs up for a tribe and then fights a war to the death without knowing why, without knowing what results they want to achieve to begin with.

In our modern age, the best way to make an impact on the world is to focus on our own internal health. Doing that has ramifications that will change the lives of everyone around you, and change the lives of the generation that will follow you.

The true purpose of theater is to help the viewer find their own identity in the midst of a story that reaches from reality into mythology.

Somewhere in the imaginary world created is our own steps towards uncovering our real identity.

Focusing on our own personal health is where leaders will be created and where the best decisions that affect the lives of those around us will be made. I vote for me.

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  • Nico

    I agree with your whole mentality on this issue. I didn’t vote in the last election and it’s crazy how much people will chew you out for it. I think there are even more reasons for not voting than you have listed.

  • Mike T

    Voters, candidates and elected officials should review the latest discovery about our “unalienable Rights,” a critical part of the US Constitution’s foundation. The following article covers a recent discovery having the potential to open new doors within the political and social sciences:

  • Shannon Gazze

    James, you are on my official list of people I want to have coffee with. I’m kicking myself for not inviting you last time I was in NYC. I’d love to set it up with A.J. and you one of these days. I’ll message you if I ever get to town from Pittsburgh and maybe you’ll take a stalker up on a free cup of Joe :) Have a wonderful day not voting. I’m planning to vote but some would not be happy that I will be “throwing away” at least a few of those choices with third-party candidates I personally respect.

  • John Lieto

    People who voted brought us Obama, so yes, votes do make a difference. Nonvoters are lazy whiners.

  • Veena

    Nice, the Health part is so true, We earn money only to donate it to Hospitals. Foolish philanthropy:)

  • Well this election is very important – Someone who believes in climate change and will work to stop it, and someone who doesn’t and will stop all clean energy research.
    This is why I founded http://www.EmissionsTax.org – to stop climate change by pricing pollution.

  • James – do you believe that climate change is man made and that inner city pollution causes health issues?

  • TGalpin-StrategicSci

    Yeah, you know, that one hour a year I spend voting makes no difference in the local politics like funding for schools, who’s on the school board, who’s sheriff, establishing Gay Marriage in my state, legalizing Pot. That one hour a year I spend voting prevents me from focusing on my health and changing myself for the better.

    And besides, there is only one election every 4 years, and the only choice I get is two different people for president that are not very different. It’s not like elections happen every year and are filled with pages of people running for local elected positions and local ballot issues that affect my kids and my community directly.

    Everyone, please don’t waste an hour every 4 years because it doesn’t matter who is president, and voting doesn’t accomplish anything beyond that. All voting will do is prevent you from doing all the wonderful self change and improvement that James Altucher encourages.

  • Tony Meade

    I don’t understand why people think that it’s a binary choice between voting, and making a difference in their own lives (and others) through their own efforts.

    Why can’t you do both? Voting takes almost no time if you vote by mail or vote early, and in most places on Election Day. Why can’t you take those few minutes to participate in that way, AND then spend the other three years and 364 days to participate in other ways? Why can’t you work with the government to make change AND through private efforts?

    Throwing out one whole part of public life out of spite or because it doesn’t give you absolute power is just snobbery and immaturity.

  • TGalpin-StrategicSci

    Yeah, totally. Because taking an hour out of my year to vote prevents self change. That makes so much sense.

  • Julie

    James, you said so few people know the issues that voting is more and act of false egotism rather than a conscientious decision on what is the right way to lead this country going into the future. Voting isn’t about other people. Your choice is not because of sick woman or angry veterans. It’s not because of wars, stop signs or slavery. And it’s not because you feel the President has absolutely no effect on anything in your life. Justifying your choice to abstain by deflecting blame on everything and everyone else is simply making excuses.

    Either you want to make a “conscientious decision on what is the right way to lead this country going into the future” and act on that decision or you don’t. If you want to abstain from voting that is your choice but don’t blame us for your decision. The choice to vote is about you and you alone.

  • KrsnaCandra Kris SalazarLopez

    This was a great article!!! Resonated with me also.

  • AG

    Great reasons. Now enjoy 4 years of misery