Up until recently, I had never missed a political election that I was eligible to vote in (to be fair, I’m only 20). Philosophically, I’ve considered myself to be what some call a “voluntaryist” for over three years. However, for much of that time, I also considered myself to be a “pragmatic libertarian” who was willing to combat the government through the system of voting. I now realize that, ultimately, voting is incompatible with a voluntary society and that it constitutes an act of aggression.
To understand these conclusions, one must understand the nature of the political process. Libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard summed it up nicely when he wrote that “libertarians regard the State as the supreme, the eternal, the best organized aggressor against the persons and property of the mass of the public. All States everywhere, whether democratic, dictatorial, or monarchical, whether red, white, blue, or brown” (For a New Liberty). How exactly is the state the “best organized aggressor against the persons and property of the mass of the public”? Again, Rothbard has the answer.
For centuries the State has committed mass murder and called it “war”; then ennobled the mass slaughter that “war” involves. For centuries the State has enslaved people into its armed battalions and called it “conscription” in the “national service.” For centuries the State has robbed people at bayonet point and called it “taxation.” In fact, if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place. (Rothbard, For a New Liberty).
However, if governments are in fact a “matrix of coercion,” why would disengaging in the facility of government that gives me some voice be the morally correct thing to do? The answer to this lies in the libertarian axiom of non aggression. It is also referred to as the Non Aggression Principle and holds that all initiations of aggression against humans are immoral.
What does this have to do with voting? To put it simply, voting is not self-determination. I was not just selecting who I wanted to represent me when I went to the 2012 New York primaries and voted for Ron Paul. I was also attempting to select a person who would “represent” 330 million other people (it is important to note that politicians don’t actually “represent” anyone seeing as their policies are enforced via coercion). Therefore, even though I voted for a voluntaryist, I attempted to enforce a ruler on everyone else. This did not sit well with me when I first realized it and for good reasons. If it is immoral for me to force another person to live a life that I deem fit for them, how is it any less immoral for me to support someone who would then force another person to live a life that I deem fit for them?
However, I did not stop voting after drawing that conclusion. Instead, I started to just write my own name on the ballots in an act of reclaiming my “personal-sovereignty” and to show my disgust with the choices being offered. I eventually realized that even this act of the “protest vote” violated the NAP. After all, I was writing my name on a ballot that would give the winning person the power to rule other people. By writing my own name down, I was just as guilty as the politicians who sought those government positions of power.
This just leaves one question to answer; how should one go about changing the current state of affairs if not through voting? The answer is through voluntary interactions among those whom are needed to change the world in the way that you see fit. Don’t attempt to change the world through voting or through the use of government. After all, government is force and brute force is the lazy way to solve any problem. Regardless of the immorality involved, an idea that requires forced cooperation of the people involved is probably not that great of an idea. What would you prefer? A world you changed dramatically through the instruments of coercion or a world you changed minutely through voluntary interactions? Jeffrey Tucker summed it up on his Facebook page when he wrote
You know what’s evil about politics? It turns people into enemies when they should and would naturally be friends in a normal society. In the marketplace you are happy to cooperate with anyone to mutual betterment. But in politics, it’s all about hating your neighbor… a person who believes all of civilization rests on a Romney win would naturally and rightly regard all Obama voters as mortal threats, wreckers of the good life itself. And the demographics of voting are rather predictable. You can often tell quickly how a person will or will not vote, by appearance alone. That creates prejudice, bias, and hate. So politics creates these stupid battles between people — for absolutely no reason — and wars against the brotherhood of man. It creates the divisions it pretends to heal.
- By Will Shanahan, Contributing Editor for the Humane Condition
Contact Will: firstname.lastname@example.org