But my principal reason for declining to take part in elections is moral. It involves, I suppose, a private objection to democracy itself.
I believe that the burden of choosing leaders has been psychologically taxing for those upon whom it has been placed in the relatively brief period in which this arrangement has been common. The pace of modern communications has made it all-consuming. We are invited to witness the failings of politicians, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable, for 24 hours a day, every day of the year. For most of history men and women enjoyed the luxury of knowing that the sovereign’s rule was a brute fact about which nothing could be done. They went about the ordinary business of life — laboring, raising children, worshipping their creator — untroubled by futile expectations of change. Some of us continue to aspire to this happy ideal.
Popular elections are a recent phenomenon in human affairs. I do not expect the illusion that there is something nobler about choosing leaders than inheriting them to hold sway over our imaginations forever. The neoliberal economic consensus that has united both of our major political parties, and indeed most politicians in the industrialized world, is a more powerful force than democracy. So long as the supply of cheap consumer goods and crass entertainment continues without interruption I think the majority of Americans would not mind terribly if universal suffrage gave way to a more emphatic type of oligarchy. The Chinese arrangement of one-party capitalist tyranny probably lies somewhere in our future.