I was flipping through the channels on Sunday and stumbled upon a tape of the recent Libertarian Party Convention in Portland, OR. They were showing a speech by Andrew Neil of the BBC. One of the interesting points he’d made, which I’d never considered, dealt with a common conclusion people make in elections with low voter turnout.
In the UK they went through a period of declining voter turnout during elections. It caused many to conclude and report that people aren’t interested in politics or social issues. Simultaneously (and unceremoniously), membership in various social groups and charities was on a rise all around the UK. He went through some numbers, many of which were quite dramatic. The point he was making was that election turnout isn’t a reliable indicator as to how much people care about their country, their fellow man, or how involved people are in their societies. His hypothesis is that people don’t participate in national elections because they don’t feel like they’re incredibly affected by the outcome. They involve themselves in areas that they care strongly about, and where they believe they will really be able to influence change.
Speaking at the Libertarian convention, he of course regarded this as a good thing. A population that doesn’t regard the federal government as a provider of everything they need, and a solver of all of the nation’s problems, demonstrates strong libertarian tendencies.