George Bush declared that "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror" (source), demonstrating that the political system is built upon an assumption of involvement. It should be deeply disturbing to realise that being apathetic makes you a terrorist. For some, apathy is a right.
When Janos Kador (Hungarian leader from 1956-1988) took to the streets of Budapest during the Hungarian revolution he said "All those who are not against us are with us", which (according to The Economist) is "turning Leninist logic on its head" (source). In that case silence was implied consent, and when people are afraid to speak out it should be. But what about when we have a free press. How should apathy be dealt with then?
I want to claim that people have different belief systems, and it's very hard for us to understand this. We're hardwired to assume that other people think like us, and that disagreements are solely down to mis-communication. The problem with this is the nature of these belief systems: some systems need to control non-members, some systems are happy left alone.
Take, for example, the simple distinction between the political left (socialism) and the political right (fascism). These two extreme results of democracy are both based on a prior assumption that collective choice is the best means to organise society. An alternative - individual choice - is libertarianism, and absent.
This week's Economist reports a new CATO study:
That is easily enough libertarians to tip an election. And their votes are up for grabs
Greg Mankiw demonstrates his own naivety about classical liberalism (source), but it's a naivety that underpins much political debate. Libertarianism isn't right wing. It isn't extreme conservatism. It's the opposite of both left and right. The reason so many people fail to grasp this point - I believe - is due to the availability bias that pervades the media.
Today is bullshit because it's interpretation of "balance" is hearing from both Labour and Tory MPs. Fox News claims to be "fair and balanced" and in one sense it is - it's guests are split 50-50 between the Democrats and Republicans - but these guests are all politicians, and this feeds into the myth that the two sides of any debate are to be found in the traditional political spectrum.
Why on earth should we assume that a balanced political debate = a balanced debate? Why must someone be political to count?
Sadly the great crimes of modern collectivism - socialism and fascism - have neglected the apathetic people. They present policy as solutions to those who aren't paying attention. And they refuse to let those people not pay attention. If we respected apathy (and the individualism that creates it) the c20th would have been more peaceful.
Only a collectivist would think it worth their time to engage in public debate - only someone who cares what other people say, and feels part of a common community. An individualist has no interest in contributing, they feel apathy toward politics, and consequently get trampled on. A fair political system would listen to all voices, even silent ones.