"Whenever I meet people I always approach them from the standpoint of the most basic things we have in common...All of us want happiness and do not want to suffer." – The Dalai Lama

Suggested Reading

  • "The Art of Happiness" by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

In a democracy, it's impossible to consider eliminating suffering without considering voting. Voting reflects your interests, whether you're voting for candidates or issues. It would certainly be convenient if it were possible to vote based on one issue, but this is seldom the case.

Consider the inflammatory topic of abortion. If you want to end suffering, it might seem fairly straight-forward to vote pro-life; after all, ending a developing life certainly brings suffering to the baby. In an ideal world, that might be enough to settle the issue. Further reflection on reality, though, makes that quick answer less certain.

One facet of the reality of the situation is that regardless of the legality of abortion, women will seek it. Considering history, it is certain that illegal abortion guarantees that some portion of the women who use it will die. In that case, we've lost two lives – that of the baby and that of the mother. We also know that some of the women who die this way will already be mothers, meaning that their existing children will be left without a mother. From the point of view of trying to end suffering, it's no longer completely clear as to whether ending legal abortion increases or decreases suffering.

But let's assume that you've reasoned out the pros and cons of voting pro-life and have decided that outlawing abortion is consistent with ending suffering. Therefore, you vote for candidates and ballot measures that support your position. This also seems fairly straight-forward; pick a position and support it. But is it so simple?