"It is the continuing decline in faith in the politicization of society that has, for well over a year, made the 2008 presidential race the preoccupation of the mainstream media. The media must continue to advertise the products and services of the establishment owners, just as it does for the sellers of prescription drugs and other nostrums. Still, the outcome of the 2008 election will confirm the truth of the proposition that it really doesn't matter for whom you vote. Regardless of whether Obama or McCain prevails, the government will be re-elected, and will continue to increase its powers over you. Should you remain dissatisfied with the behavior of the system, the media will be right back to begin its campaign on behalf of 'Election 2010,' urging you, once again, to continue supporting the process that continues to frustrate your expectations. In the words of Emma Goldman, 'if voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.'''
~ Butler Shaffer from the LewRockwell.com Blog
There are some questions that tend to recur whenever one talks to almost anyone outside the realm of radical libertarianism. Actually, these questions seem to recur not only in debates with statists, but also in debates among those who share a radical libertarian, i.e., market anarchistic, point of view. One such question is the sanctity of the democratic process, voting and all that.I love this position, and it makes me have less faith in voting than ever. It also makes me more convinced that voting itself in not only ineffective, but immoral, and I thus can not use such a method to inflict my will upon others without their consent.
Is voting a necessity for a free society or simply busy-work for the unwashed proletariat, completed while the rulers continue to do what they've always done? Russell Langcore's recent column reminded me that this question has, thankfully, pretty much been decided among radial libertarians. However, he also reminded me of a couple of issues that almost always come to the fore when one discusses voting.
A Really Short Answer for a Relatively Short Question
Here's the question: Do I vote? Here's the answer: No.
While some folks would argue that he's no philosopher, I'll still take George Carlin's argument on non-voting as excellent justification. (I realize that I may be in the minority on that.) I cannot think of a single scenario whereby I might vote in a national election such as that for president. Not one.Voting is immoral in that the act of voting is empowering individuals to act our our behalf, yet those representatives tend to act in their own interests, using the force of the state to direct their will. I can not condone using force against any individual, hence I can not support a system which uses force against anyone where I would not do so myself. Funny, I never heard this bit by George Carlin, yet it is the correct position regarding the failure of electoral politics.
I don't care who the candidate is. I don't care what issues to which he seems to gravitate. I don't care about his record, his leadership qualities, the apparent first-lady-ness of his wife (or her husband), his insider-ness or his outsider-ness, his race, his height, his weight, how well he speaks, how wonderfully he photographs, the nation of his birth, how likely it might be that he's fun to drink with, or his appreciation for unique uses for a fine cigar.
They're all aggressors, despite any misconceptions and media bias
More importantly though, given two other observations, voting strikes me as an incredible waste of time for anyone who is ultimately interested in two rather vital issues: personal liberty and personal responsibility.
First of all, under the U.S. "first-past-the-post" electoral system, one is assured of only two viable parties. Secondly, with the use of a secret ballot, one is assured that no one will assume personal responsibility for the actions of their ostensible candidate or his party. Every voter is automatically absolved for doing that which his vote suggests that he is doing: selecting the implementer of the policies he supports.We get to cast guilt onto those who we vote for, so or hands are clean when our government bombs the innocent residents of some foreign land for opposing American empirical policies. It's not our fault, but we'll vote those crooks out next election and vote in others who probably won't do anything remotely like that again. I'm sure of it.
When I say the U.S. system guarantees only two viable parties, I'm simply citing Duverger's Law. While there may remain debates about whether or not there are exceptions to Duverger's Law, the U.S. system seems not to be one. (This is a striking irony given how rarely the resulting pseudo-kings obey any laws after they are elected!) When I say that there will be no responsibility for the action of either party, I am referring to two other phenomena.I believe that Duverger's Law distills down to less than the likely two-party system, but to a single party which eventually collapses and leave a stateless society. I think it's an eventuality, as no population chooses to remain oppressed indefinitely. It is simply a matter of time before the common people rise up against tyranny, no matter how colorful and pleasant it looks, and strike down the idea that government is necessary in any regard.
One, the inherent incentives of a coercive state virtually assure that only those who ascribe to either megalomania or theft-is-good as a paradigm will survive the electoral process. The overwhelming bulk of the money necessary to elect a candidate is given with 'strings' attached to it. Lobbying is widespread because it works. But much more importantly, everyone who contributes to a candidate hopes that their candidate will enact their version of control over everyone else, and everyone knows it! There is no other alternative for a coercive state.At least the likely eventual dollar collapse will help bring an end to electoral politics, at the unfortunate cost of productive markets which will have to go through a transition back to a trade system using tangible goods and items of value, which do not include fiat currencies. Every fiat currency eventually devalues to the level of zero. It's another unavoidable eventuality.
Two, people who vote are quick to distance themselves from the guy to whom they gave their support. It seems to me that if your candidate lies, cheats, steals, or gets a whole bunch of people killed, you--the voter who supported him--might share some blame. (I also realize that with the amount of graft in the U.S., even if no one voted, the 'elected' cretins would probably still find a way to keep spending money and killing people.) With the secret ballot, everyone can claim to be disappointed with the guy they actually helped elect!I think that the candidates distance themselves from the campaign promises that helped them achieve public office faster than their supporters lose faith in those for which they voted. George Carlin was right on this point as well. Imagine that...
Becoming president is a viable quest only for those too stupid to know better or too smart to not realize the availability of responsibility-free power and plentiful stolen cash to the holder of the office and all his friends. Notice I said 'viable' quest. There may be those who would use the incredible power of the office for good. Frankly though, I rather think the Presidency of the United States is rather like the One Ring from Tolkien's classics. It eventually corrupts all who possess it, even if they were initially pure of heart. I won't comment on my own cynicism regarding the existence of any such person. Let's just say that 40-plus unrepentant rights infringers and counting is enough evidence for me.
While I have conveyed my view, better erudition than mine is available. There is a plethora of non-voting--both pro and con--and general free market prose already out there. A rather awe-inspiring (although still somewhat incomplete) bibliography in testament to that fact, put together by Johan Ridenfeldt, with some additions from yours truly and others, may be found below. (Please note that some of the essays listed are "answers" to others. The listings are in alphabetical order, regardless of intended target.)
More: I Don't Mind If You Keep Voting, But Do You Mind If I Keep Laughing While You Do? | Strike-The-Root: A Journal Of Liberty