As mentioned before on this blog I am for “All that is Peaceful”, which is why I never partake in political elections. Here’s my guide to the conscious non-voter:
In this article I will stick to the democratic ideals, and pretend all the arguments made by supporters of democratic political elections to be true for the sake of simplicity.
The total of all votes cast by the citizens of a state decides about who will populate the parliament (or become president) for the term. By voting the citizens have influence
on who will direct the course of the nation in the next few years, who will create laws, and who will decide about the distribution and use of state resources. Because of reoccurring
elections politicians are motivated to act in the interest of the citizens.
Why vote (German)
What is lacking from this quote is where the focus of current western political system lies. It is on the redistribution of privileges and wealth. Essentially every election does only shuffle the cards anew on who gets how much money that was previously stolen from everyone (including him). As Bastiat said so kindly: “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” It is important to see that the extend to which governments can be changed is severely limited by previous government decree. Most countries do actually forbid a radical libertarian system of state. Archiving this through elections is legally impossible.
The other factor is that government, no matter how big, does consist of a scheme that not only allow itself to create laws that govern the whole population (a monopoly on law making) but that is dependent on a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. The whole concept of government is thus absolutely anti-liberty. By partaking in an election, and winning a majority, we would then force everyone to give up the laws he had before and submit to a new violent rule that he did not wish for. Liberty includes the right of everyone to make himself a stupid little slave of some arbitrary master. But it is not libertarian to be that master against the will of even a single person that did not consent. The only option would be to dissolve both the monopoly on law making and the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force and allow any single person or group in the given territory to create whatever system of governance it wishes for. This is neither realistic nor legal and most democratic countries, and if it can only be archived by methods of questionable ethics (like existing governments) the value of it becomes tainted itself. Furthermore, if the majority of the population would want liberty so that a victory in any election could be accomplished, politics would have long seized to exist. All lesser accomplishments in taking government power in the name of liberty constitute a forceful rule over others, which is abhorrent. Freedom is not about putting up a “better forceful rule” but to do away with all forceful rule altogether. Mortimer Adler said it well: “Freedom is the emancipation from the arbitrary rule of other men.”
A precondition [for western-liberal democracy] is at least a minimum of common convictions/beliefs in society. One if these convictions is the acceptance of the majority principle as the foundation
for [political] decision-making. The majority principle describes the principle of law that a minority – those that are defeated in a ballot – has to obey the decision of the majority.
Why vote (German)
This is the core of democratic rule. That the minority must obey the majority except in some extreme cases where government defined human rights are violated. However, anarchists (and in my opinion, all moral people) resist the whole notion of being ruled by others as being unethical. This is especially true for those that are longing for just laws, equal rule of law, peace and liberty. To accept majority role where it conflicts with your own ethical convictions essentially puts the belief in government above what you ethically belief is right. One could wipe that off and say: “Ok, we lost this time. We’ll wait for next time and win then.” But keeping quiet because the system is currently stacked in favor of evil does make you a supporter of it. Thoreau said: “Dissent without resistance is consent.” …. He was right.
This point also repeats why democratic government, and partaking in it, can not be libertarian. Because as long as there is a minority, this minority will and must be ruled by force. Few if any said it better than Spooner: “The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority, practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves; a contest, that — however bloody — can, in the nature of things, never be finally closed, so long as man refuses to be a slave.”
[Through the representation principle] citizens partake indirectly in the exercise of reign through the [elected] representatives.
Why vote (German)
This also means that everyone that votes does take responsibility for the things committed by his representatives. Sometimes people say “you did not vote, so you cannot complain”. Quite the contrary: Because I did not vote I did not partake in the exercise of reign and thus I am not morally responsible for any evil done by the representatives of others.
Through participating in political elections, defenders of liberty can make sure that opponents of liberty do not gain enough power to attack liberty. Partaking in elections is political self defense.
Frequently quoted minarchist argument
Repeating an evil for our own gain is not exactly a morally justified position. Liberty stands on the moral high ground, and that is the only position from which we can act. If the system is so corrupted that we are inclined to use it ourselves, the right answer would be to put away the system and build a better one. One can never accomplish liberty through slavery, and doing so would be hypocrisy. Self defense also has to meet the attack. Our liberty is attacked by the obedience of the majority, and the guns of the state’s servants. To defend against that morally would be to withdraw obedience and to defend against the actual guns. Ghandy said: “You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.” Be a good person, do not partake in evil.
By working within the system we can get a majority and turn around the system to liberty again, for everyone!
Another frequent argument by Libertarian Party types
IF everyone (or a sufficient number) of people would actually want liberty, we would have it. And liberty does mean that we are not ruled by other men, that laws are not written out of political motivation, that resources are not expropriated from the people to fund programs based on political reasoning. If everyone would want liberty, there would be no politics to speak of. Another problem is that partaking in the system require compromise in our core principles, by assuming power over others and in playing games of policy-laundering. Neil Smith said: “Worse than thieves, murderers, or cannibals those who offer compromise slow you and sap your vitality while pretending to be your friends. Compromisers are the enemy of all humanity, the enemies of life itself. Compromisers are the enemies of everything important, sacred and true.”
Democratic elections do not just determine the distribution of political power for the term, but also legitimizes political power. Government can only be legitimate if it is based on the
consent of the governed. […] Political elections and democracy are directly related: Without elections into the institutions of political power there is no democracy of the western-liberal kind.
This refers to the acceptance of governance. […] Democracy is not just reign on limited appointment but also reign with consent of the people.
Why vote (German)
This is the key to accomplishing liberty. By not partaking in political elections, or by invalidating the ballot card (which is less preferable), consent is removed from government. Instead of legitimizing the system by partaking in it while tainting our ethical position we should make sure to not give any of our consent to the system, not by using it for our purposes nor by behaving as if we approve of it. Since an immediate majority for liberty that could abolish government by means of government is impossible, and a gradual rise to power is unethical, the only way is to grow in numbers by not partaking and thus showing that the core of western democracy is hollowed out: That the governed do not consent, that the majority does not have a mandate to rule the minority, that we do not take the responsibility for the actions of the representatives – yes, that there are no representatives.
Government with the monopoly on law making and legitimate use of physical force is not the solution, it is the problem. Democratic elections are not a path to remove the problem, but the foundation the problem rests on. Realizing this fact rests on individual conviction that can only be communicated by good arguments and reason, as well as living and modeling what we claim to be ethical. This only happens one mind at a time: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” (Charles Mackay)
We may not lose our senses, nor play with evil. Pragmatism is no excuse for unethical behavior. And calling participation in political elections pragmatic is no more then self-deception.
Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.