Why Iíll Never Vote Again by Rob Moody

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Why Iíll Never Vote Again

by Rob Moody

Will mankind never learn that policy is not morality Ė that it never secures any moral right, but considers merely what is expedient? chooses the available candidate Ė who is invariably the Devil Ė and what right have his constituents to be surprised, because the Devil does not behave like an angel of light? What is wanted is men, not of policy, but of probity Ė who recognize a higher law than the Constitution, or the decision of the majority. The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls Ė the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning. ~ Henry David Thoreau

What is called politics is comparatively something so superficial and inhuman, that practically I have never fairly recognized that it concerns me at all. ~ Thoreau

Tomorrow is Election Day. Are you planning to vote? You may want to read this column before you do.

Last year a friend of mine had decided to leave the GOP and was considering joining either the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party. I wanted him to join the LP, so I wrote to Lew and asked him which party he thought my friend should join. He wrote back, "I say, join neither." His response surprised me, and I didnít really understand it at the time, but it set in motion a year-long thought process that eventually led me to read the new book Dissenting Electorate: Those Who Refuse to Vote and the Legitimacy of Their Opposition, edited by Carl Watner with Wendy McElroy. This book is the most important "political" book I have ever read. The many arguments it makes against voting are devastating. It totally rocked my world and caused me to completely change my strategy. My primary objective is no longer to elect pro-liberty politicians, but to demystify and delegitimize the State so that one day it will collapse under the weight of its own immorality.

What is voting, and how did it begin? One theory is that voting was adopted after people realized that it was preferable to the practice of the majority imposing its will on the minority by killing them. Karl von Clausewitz wrote that "War is the continuation of politics by other means," but I submit that politics is the continuation of war by other means. Therefore, if you oppose war, you must also oppose politics, which is nothing more than a "kinder, gentler" form of war. You must use neither bullets nor ballots.

It appears that rulers in Europe decided to adopt voting hundreds of years ago as a way to channelize and pacify political dissent. Before voting was introduced, the primary means of political dissent were riots and revolts, usually over taxes. There were hundreds of such revolts in Europe, and their volatile nature posed a grave danger to the ruling class. Voting greatly reduced the range and frequency of political dissent, thus allowing the ruling elite to remain in power.

It is crucial to realize that statists want you to vote; they want you to participate in their criminal game. They tell us that voting is our civic duty. An acquaintance told me that she had always been taught that voting is an honor. Admirers of "The Greatest Generation" often say that hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives so we could vote. After you vote at my precinct, they give you a little badge of honor Ė a sticker to wear on your shirt that says, "I voted." What a hero!

After an election, politicians and the chattering class usually wring their hands and express grave concern about the low voter turnout. There is now talk of moving Veteransí Day to Election Day, thus making Election Day a national holiday. If you donít have to work on Election Day, thereís no reason why you canít perform your "civic duty." Therefore, I predict that voting will be mandatory in the U.S. within the next ten years, as it is currently in many other countries.

Why do statists care so much about voter turnout? Because the higher the voter turnout, the more legitimacy the State has. As Timothy Richard pointed out in a recent column, the State has no more right to tell you what to do than some stranger who walks up to you and orders you to start shining his shoes. So how does the State get away with telling you what to do? It gets away with it because individuals have conferred legitimacy upon it by participating in its elections. As Richard wrote, "Voting is the cowardly act of having someone else [a politician] bark orders at people for you. It is your recognition of the Stateís legitimacy, a legitimacy that it does not have."

Would you vote in an election for the leadership of a street gang? Then why do you vote in the elections held by the greatest criminal gang of all? What is it about the State that you think makes it legitimate? Its uniforms? Its flags and pledges of allegiance? Its anthems? Why do you honor the State by participating in its meaningless rituals instead of mocking it and telling it to get out of your face as you would a stranger who ordered you to shine his shoes?

Elections are the lifeblood of the State. Every two years, it must draw from the election well enough legitimacy to sustain itself for another two years. Even totalitarian regimes hold elections, for the sole purpose of renewing and enhancing their legitimacy. The State loves to be able to claim a mandate and say, "The people have spoken." But the fewer the people who speak through the ballot box, the less of a mandate the State will have.

People who are pro-liberty and who vote seem to believe that if they can just elect enough ethical, pro-liberty politicians to office, these politicians will be able to begin dismantling government from within. One problem with this strategy is that power tends to corrupt the very people they seek to elect. Power at least partially corrupted men such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Hell, it even corrupted Bill and Hillary Clinton!

Now you might say, "Voting is consistent with libertarian principles because for me, itís an act of self-defense." But when you vote, you use a tool of the State to impose your will on everyone else, most of whom are innocent, peaceful people. If an intruder attacked you in your home, would you pull out your own gun and shoot only him, or would you call the police and have them shoot everyone in your neighborhood (including the intruder)? Your vote will not affect the outcome of an election, but your participation in the election will help give legitimacy to the very State from which you seek protection.

Do you wish to live in a civil society or a political society? If the former, then why do you participate in the latter? Every society lies on a spectrum between a civil society and a political society. A societyís position on the spectrum is occupied by a window of what is politically possible. Every incumbent politician lies somewhere within that window, or else he would not have been able to get elected. Politicians follow public opinion instead of leading it, as the last thing they want to do is take controversial positions that might cause them to lose their power. Therefore, as long as your focus is on politicians, you are limiting society to what is currently politically possible. Those of us who love liberty should spend our time talking about ideas, not politics and politicians. As Karen De Coster told me after I told her that I had renounced politics, "Youíve given up buttons and balloons for Hoppe [i.e., ideas]." As society discovers and embraces our ideas, the window of what is politically possible will shift towards a purely civil society, bringing the politicians along with it, and eventually relegating them to the dustbin of history.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Dissenting Electorate. This magnificent collection of essays by thinkers such as Lysander Spooner, Frank Chodorov and Robert LeFevre is worth its weight in gold. Buy the book, read it with an open mind, and allow yourself to think outside the (ballot) box. And if you seek to live in a non-political society, then as Gandhi said, "Be the change you seek."

November 5, 2001

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2002


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