Although I usually vote, I sympathize with people such as Bruce Charlton who regard voting as a bad system. There is no good reason to think that the masses will choose well, and only if all the candidates would do a good job can we give full approval to an election.
It seems to me that one basic reason we choose our leaders by voting is that we (meaning the zeitgeist and the average person of the West) don’t trust any other method. In ancient times the next leader was chosen because he was the son of the current leader, or because his tribe defeated the current king in battle, or because he was selected by a council of elders, or, rarely, because he was divinely appointed (as was King Saul in the Old Testament.) Because we don’t trust these methods, we resort to voting.
This is an indication of the disorder of our society. If we cannot, or will not, trust our leaders, then something is seriously wrong. We acknowledge that there is something profoundly disordered about a family in which the children do not trust their parent, and the same is true about a nation in which the people do not trust their leaders. Regardless of who’s responsible (whether the parents are too wicked and cruel to be trusted, or the children are too wicked and rebellious to trust), lack of trust indicates a serious disorder.
In a family, relatively trivial issues can often be settled by voting. But if the question at hand is important, the parents must not abdicate their responsibility to choose rightly. If a society decides most of its important questions by voting, then it is, in effect, a nation without leaders.
At present, our leaders would choose radical leftism if not occasionally restrained by voting. Voting therefore serves as a short-term brake on destructive leftism. Being functionally leaderless can be, if not good, at least not as bad as having leaders dedicated to destruction. Randy Alcorn has said (HT Sola Sisters) that voting for the lesser of two evils is voting for less evil. And since less evil is better than more evil, I’ll go ahead and vote for Romney.
Another basic reason we decide important questions by voting is that we don’t believe in a stable order. For more than a hundred years now, we have believed in Progress. Change is the only constant. Expect the unexpected. In such a chaotic world, it would be absurd to expect that traditional authorities can rule wisely. Better to hold elections, so that the masses can officially express and ratify the latest truths.
[Bureaucracy serves a similar function. Bureaucrats translate the latest “research findings” into the official rules of the land, without the inefficiency of either having to convince the rulers or to subject the latest findings to a vote of the people.]
It would seem, then, that there is only one solid argument for voting: It is the way of our people, and has been for several hundred years. The best argument for voting is this: Since one ought to respect the traditions of his people, one ought to vote. Call it the traditionalist argument for voting.
But voting in itself remains highly suspect. As I said, I sympathize with those who refuse to vote.