Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Even Anarchists Should Vote

Noted and highly influential individualist anarchists Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard weep at the 'logic' of the non-voting anarchist population...

"In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having ever been asked, a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former. His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself." -- Lysander Spooner, 'No Treason'
"Many anarchist libertarians claim it immoral to vote or to engage in political action--the argument being that by participating in this way in State activity, the libertarian places his moral imprimatur upon the State apparatus itself. But a moral decision must be a free decision, and the State has placed individuals in society in an unfree environment, in a general matrix of coercion. As Lysander Spooner pointed out, in an environment of State coercion, voting does not imply voluntary consent." -- Murray Rothbard, 'Ethics of Liberty'
"I'm interested to talk about that. This is the classical anarchist position, there is no doubt about that. The classical anarchist position is that nobody should vote, because if you vote you are participating in a state apparatus. Or if you do vote you should write in your own name, I don't think that there is anything wrong with this tactic in the sense that if there really were a nationwide movement – if five million people, let's say, pledged not to vote. I think it would be very useful. On the other hand, I don't think voting is a real problem. I don't think it's immoral to vote, in contrast to the anti-voting people. 
Lysander Spooner, the patron saint of individualist anarchism, had a very effective attack on this idea. The thing is, if you really believe that by voting you are giving your sanction to the state, then you see you are really adopting the democratic theorist's position. You would be adopting the position of the democratic enemy, so to speak, who says that the state is really voluntary because the masses are supporting it by participating in elections. In other words, you're really the other side of the coin of supporting the policy of democracy – that the public is really behind it and that it is all voluntary. And so the anti-voting people are really saying the same thing.
I don't think this is true, because as Spooner said, people are being placed in a coercive position. They are surrounded by a coercive system; they are surrounded by the state. The state, however, allows you a limited choice – there's no question about the fact that the choice is limited. Since you are in this coercive situation, there is no reason why you shouldn't try to make use of it if you think it will make a difference to your liberty or possessions. So by voting you can't say that this is a moral choice, a fully voluntary choice, on the part of the public. It's not a fully voluntary situation. It's a situation where you are surrounded by the whole state which you can't vote out of existence. For example, we can't vote the Presidency out of existence – unfortunately, it would be great if we could – but since we can't why not make use of the vote if there is a difference at all between the two people. And it is almost inevitable that there will be a difference, incidentally, because just praxeologically or in a natural law sense, every two persons or every two groups of people will be slightly different, at least. So in that case why not make use of it. I don't see that it's immoral to participate in the election provided that you go into it with your eyes open – provided that you don't think that either Nixon or Muskie is the greatest libertarian since Richard Cobden! – which many people, of course, talk themselves into before they go out and vote. 
The second part of my answer is that I don't think that voting is really the question. I really don't care about whether people vote or not. To me the important thing is, who do you support. Who do you hope will win the election? You can be a non-voter and say "I don't want to sanction the state" and not vote, but on election night who do you hope the rest of the voters, the rest of the suckers out there who are voting, who do you hope they'll elect. And it's important, because I think that there is a difference. The Presidency, unfortunately, is of extreme importance. It will be running or directing our lives greatly for four years. So, I see no reason why we shouldn't endorse, or support, or attack one candidate more than the other candidate. I really don't agree at all with the non-voting position in that sense, because the non-voter is not only saying we shouldn't vote: he is also saying that we shouldn't endorse anybody. Will Robert LeFevre, one of the spokesmen of the non-voting approach, will he deep in his heart on election night have any kind of preference at all as the votes come in. Will he cheer slightly or groan more as whoever wins? I don't see how anybody could fail to have a preference, because it will affect all of us." -- Murray Rothbard, 

Source, here.

You will be oppressed by a president and his government. His vision of morality will be imposed on you, whether you like it or not, regardless of your ideology. You might as well support someone who will try his darndest (with the limited extent of his power) to remove as much oppression and maximize as much individual liberty in your lives as possible.

Here's a hypothetical to illustrate my point. You're tied down. A criminal points a 44 magnum at you at point blank range and says... 

"Choose. I am going to either shoot your hand off or shoot you square in the chest. If you do not choose, I am going to shoot you in the chest anyways."

Based on the circumstances surrounding this situation, there is no question that he will end up shooting you. Are you going to tell him, "Fine, shoot my hand off." - or will you instead tell him, "I will not choose, because either choice is advocating you do evil."? Or not choose simply because you don't like either of the choices available to you? 

Do you realize how counter-productive if not completely self-destructive such mentality is?

At the very least, Ron Paul as president can end the wars and militarism in one fell swoop - as the President has ultimate control of military forces. He would also be a major facilitator that would be needed in passing certain legislation (and of course, repealing a lot of legislation) if more seats are gained in congress that support positions of liberty. He would have a highly visible position in which to speak on and talk about liberty and free markets for the world to see. Even just as a contender with limited time in the 2008 GOP Primary Republican debates - he sparked a libertarian movement and adoption of libertarian philosophy at a rate never before seen. Back in 2006, I was a ruthless neocon imperialist and a - get this - a Rudy Giuliani supporter. Not after the debates. You see, Ron Paul is a *very effective* 'gateway drug' to exposing people to the spectrum of libertarianism. 

As for the idea some have that, "I just hope you all don't really believe Ron Paul will ever be President."...

That may very well be the case. But this is the best chance we've had since Barry Goldwater to really get a liberty-minded individual to actually be elected as president. We must recognize the self-fulfilling prophecy that we are creating if we say (as I am so often told), 'Don't vote for him, he won't become president anyways'.

I am not saying that voting is and should be the only tool we use to attempt to gain liberty and minimize the role of government in our lives. There is also agorism, civil disobedience, education (one on one, as well as to a group in real life and/or online in debates, discussions, et cetera), media infiltration ('Freedom Watch' and 'Stossel' come to mind) to more effectively inform the masses on libertarianism, and many others. 

What I am saying is that we should not limit ourselves or forsake voting as one of the many tools available to us in the toolbox for advancing liberty. Whether that tool is merely to throw a wrench in the statist machine in order to slow or disrupt it's growth, or use it to marginally advance the cause for liberty in more specific ways - we must acknowledge it's legitimate role in the unfortunate reality of our situation.

This post is a COPYPASTA that was originally published under my old pseudonym 'Sentient Void' on the Ron Paul Forums Blog, on 06-22-2011.

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