I keep running across well intentioned individuals who seem to think they are achieving something by abstaining from the political process. Other Peoples Politics and Madness of Voting are two of the more recent examples of articles that I’ve read; however, there is a long standing tradition of not voting amongst anarchist and hard-core libertarian types that dates back to the days of Lysander Spooner. Just wander by the Voluntaryist some time, and have a look at the amount of work that’s been put into justifying non-participation in the current political process.
I got a kick out of the Voluntaryist statement of purpose; “Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society” Politics is the process by which groups make decisions. That is the definition for the word politics. Apparently they advocate a society that makes no decisions, which is an oxymoron. A society that makes no decisions is not a society.
This approach amounts to nothing more than sour grapes; I’m not playing until the rules are the way I want them to be. In the world the way I think it should be, a simple majority would be a meaningless political concept. Rights would stand inviolable by ignorant voters, who simply believe what the school board tells them and raises taxes for everyone because “The schools need more money”. In a properly set up government, every citizen would be pre-qualified to hold office. At election time, a name is drawn for each office that needs a new occupant, and the person attached to that name gets that job for the duration. None of these popularity contests, no owing favors to your backers once you gain office. The only thing binding you is your oath to uphold the constitution.
Unfortunately that isn’t the world we currently live in. The process outlined above is another form of democracy known as sortition; a process we should have adopted from the Greeks (rather than going with the beauty pageant, the essence of election) but did not.
I’m no devotee of elections (as the above should show) but the game stands as it was set by the people who preceded us here. Either you play the game before you, or you don’t play at all. You can pick and choose which parts of the game you will take part in; but the game will be played the same way it always has been.
When the major parties pay lip service to getting out the vote, while all their ads are clearly slanted towards convincing their opponents core constituency to stay away from the polls, it seems foolish in the extreme for the average libertarian to hand them precisely what they are asking for. The protest non-voters are simply lost in the shuffle, 10% (at most) of the roughly 50% to 60% who simply don’t vote in any given election.
However, if that 10% voted Libertarian, someone would notice. And imagine what would happen if the other half of the country showed up and voted LP at the same time? It might actually make some changes around here.
Jim Davidson (of Indomitus, linked above) has other things to say on the subject of voting. Like this bit of amusement that he titled “Head Shots“ over at The Libertarian Enterprise. Other than his confederate sympathizers reference to Lincoln, I think it’s an excellent proposal. Perhaps I should get in a bit more silhouette practice.
Unfortunately a good many of his arguments refer back to the issue he has with Lincoln and the Civil War as his objections to this blog entry also make reference to the behavior of Lincoln in relation to the Constitution and what a proper society looks like.
I’ll leave the discussion of what a proper society is to another blog entry, as well as the subject of the kinds of confederate folly that Jim Davidson engages in, and address the points on voting that this entry is about.
I’ll beg Jim’s leave to reprint the salient points here:
I’m not a libertarian, RAnthony. I have signed the covenant of universal consent, so I am not average. I’m a propertarian and a free marketeer. Which is precisely why I cannot consent to a process that defrauds many and imposes force on all.
Those who choose to vote have given their consent to be governed by whomever has been chosen in the polls. As George Carlin explains, if you vote, you shouldn’t complain. The guys who counted the votes told you who won. You agreed that whoever the guys who counted the votes said was the winner would govern you. Carlin also noted that he doesn’t vote because he doesn’t consent to be governed.
Except for Carlin’s comment, granted on the above. I take the opposite tack from Carlin. Those who govern do so whether you consent to it or not. We had a discussion not so long ago concerning the nature of property (also a subject to be discussed elsewhere) where Jim took me to task for holding positions, and how that behavior was self-defeating. I submit that standing on the idea that you are refusing to consent to be governed, and so do not vote, you are in fact defeating yourself by holding an indefensible position. Those who govern will exert their authority whether you will it or not.
There is nothing that is right about this, it simply is.
I maintain that those who do not vote have no room to bitch about government. They have forfeited that right by refusing to participate in the process (rigged as it is) and should simply accept whatever raw deal is handed to them in consequence. Since Genghis Khan (and every other dictator in history) didn’t even bother with the trouble of a popularity contest before doing as he wished, I’m inclined to accept the (ridiculously) limited avenues of political expression available to me in exchange for my intention to rant on incessantly about every little thing that pisses me off in the current state of affairs.
The majority of people who don’t vote (and yes I know, the true majority voices no opinion at each and every election. It’s one of the things I find amusing when pundits talk about how “the majority has spoken”. Clearly they don’t get it) don’t bother to get active in the political process, and take no interest in politics, are the ones who enable the charade that we call government in the US to continue.
While the above description probably doesn’t apply to Jim and other activists that I correspond with, it definitely does apply to 90% or more of the non-voting public; the apathetic non-voter. Will voting change anything? I sincerely doubt it. But it beats sitting around doing nothing while the the current government destroys what little is left of the country.