Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Creating the system is the abuse"

Election season always makes me uneasy. It's when the state really gets all up in your business; it's damn near impossible to avoid all the yard signs, obnoxious campaign commercials, and activists/yentas of all stripes reminding us of the importance of voting! It's all a bit of insanity. Think of Election Day as the Super Bowl for statists, only it's Brit Hume on TV yelling at you instead of Chris Berman.

Anyway, the toughest part for me is having to explain that I don't vote for reasons of principle. Most people just don't get it. "If you don't vote you can't complain!" they say. Please. Those of us who abstain from voting are among the few who have every right to protest. For reasons why, see this eloquent and impassioned defense of non-voting in today's must read column from LRC's Butler Shaffer:

We need to remind ourselves of Albert Einstein’s admonition: “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Trying to reform the political process makes no more sense than trying to reform the carnivorous appetites of jungle beasts. If it is your desire to put an end to the violent, destructive, corrupt, and dysfunctional nature of government, stop wasting your time by focusing on the current management of the system. Rather than dutifully going to the polls to select from a narrow list of options provided you by political interests that you neither know nor control, you might want to inquire into who is providing the cast of characters – and writing the script – for a performance you are expected not only to attend, but to cheer.

To create a system which, by definition, enjoys a legal monopoly on the use of force, and then allow that system to become the judge of its own authority, is an error of such enormity that one can only wonder why grown men and women would be surprised to discover such powers being “abused.” Creating the system is the abuse. Directing our criticism to members of the present cast while overlooking the backers of the play – who have substitute performers waiting in the wings – exceeds the bounds of innocence. It is like placing a bowlful of candy in front of a number of small children, and expecting the candy not to be touched in your absence.

For further reference, visit the Non-Voting Archive at LRC. And don't forget to not vote on November 7th!


Wayne said...

The thing is, barring some apocalyptic event that would leave us in a Mad Max-type world, I think we're always going to have a democracy in place. As much as you abhor the system, it is going to roll on with or without your help. Don't you think trying to elect a libertarian candidate, or a republican like Ron Paul (though unfortunately, Ron Paul seems to be the only republican to actually understand republican values) would be a better alternative? I actually think this country is at a point where voting citizens would gladly dump the two-party system if a viable third-party candidate would step up.

J Ballot said...


To me, one of the fatal flaws of big 'L' Libertarians is their inherent faith in a system that is irreparably flawed and is also, by definition, institutionalized aggression.

The belief that the "right" people in power could tame the beast is a delusional conceit. One of Professor Shaffer's points from the article was that the system is itself the problem, so from that perspective it makes little difference who's in power.

Shaffer himself answered your question on the LRC blog: he asked, rhetorically, what would send a greater message to the powers that be: getting 0.7% of the popular vote for Libertarians and other third party candidates, or getting record lows in voter turnout?

Politicans hate apathy. Remember that "Simpsons" 'Treehouse of Horror' where all the advertising icons come to life and start terrorizing Springfield? What's the solution to beating them? "Just don't look." Well, politicians are the same way. They need us to give popular sanction to their depredations by showing up and validating them at the polls.

You can't reform a broken system by changing its management. And I refuse to dignify the proceedings by participating.

Anarcho-capitalism is libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion. If you hate the state and its various wars, socialism, and taxation, then the solution is not more benevolent forms of these ills. Being the slave of a kindly master is not freedom.

Thanks for your provocative post, however -- you have given me much food for thought and (despite the length in this space) a proper response may require a follow-up post on the front page.