To vote or not to vote? This is the question: Whether it is nobler to take part in the political system in hopes of dismantling it, or to withdraw from the system, and so withdraw my consent. Ay, there’s the rub; for in voting to overthrow the power that oppresses me, I am giving my consent to the system that empowers it–majority rule. And I cannot consent to that.
Not only is the political process disgusting, it is morally repugnant. How can we increase freedom by endorsing the very system that prevents it, the system in which the majority rules over the minority? The fact is that voting never really changes anything. We toggle back and forth between Democrat and Republican, not realizing that each time the government always grows a bit in size and power.
And neither is violent revolution an option. Just look at the Founders. They overthrew tyranny only to land us right back in it. (Were their taxes higher than ours?) It seems to me they could have saved some lives and we’d be no worse off.
The only lasting solution is that the minds of the people must change. The people must come to realize that, in the words of the Austrian Economist, Ludwig von Mises, “Government is essentially the negation of liberty.” They must come to see that putting humans in charge of other humans can never solve the problem of human evil–it only concentrates it. It only puts us in slavery to each other.
“The fundamental political question,” wrote Etienne de la Boetie, “is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves, to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people withdraw their support.” But the problem is we are not under a single tyrant. We are under the tyranny of each other. We obey the government because we know that many people support it, and so it is futile to resist. That’s why the only way to meaningful change is a change of mind in the vast majority of people.
And how can I work toward changing minds when my actions endorse the system? If I vote, I imply that the system of voting is legitimate. This is certainly the way politicians and others interpret my vote.
But as people withdraw from the voting process, it may become more and more clear that the system is a sham, that the politicians do not have the consent of the governed, much less any kind of “mandate”. Voting prolongs and reinforces the illusion of consent. (This is why calls for compulsory voting are not surprising.)
I choose to withdraw my consent, and so I withdraw my vote. Maybe I am just letting the statists run me over. But then again, that is what always happens anyway. At least this way I am not taking part in the charade.
I think this is part of living free, and it is an essential part of progress toward a free society.
Bill Green received his Ph.D. at Mississippi State University in 1998. He currently teaches high school chemistry and operates a private tutoring service. He was a card carrying conservative until he was exposed to the publications of the Foundation for Economic Education and the Mises Institute, and the writings of Hazlitt, Rothbard, and Rand. Reason led him to the philosophy of liberty, and now he cannot get enough. This article was originally published in a slightly different form on his page at Examiner.com.