To Vote Or Not To Vote?

August 14th, 2010   Submitted by William Green

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.

That’s why organizations like the Foundation for Economic Education and the Mises Institute are so important.

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.

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9 Responses to “To Vote Or Not To Vote?”

  1. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    You mention withdrawing consent and not voting. But when I think of withdrawing consent I also think of disobedience as well. Do you consider disobedience to be a part of withdrawing consent?

  2. wgreenNo Gravatar says:

    Seth:

    I think disobedience could certainly be a part, but I’m not sure it’s the same. I pay my taxes, not because I consent, but because I am being forced. I pay my taxes for the same reason I would give my wallet to a gang of thugs. Since I am not forced to vote, I think my voting implies consent.

    Thanks,

    Bill

    • Quint XNo Gravatar says:

      I agree, Bill. I consent to pay taxes only because I do not consent to the consequences of not doing so, though I hide as much income as possible without raising red flags. I also barter for as much of what I need as I can. I see this as withdrawing my consent, certainly. There are laws I feel compelled to disobey, and I see this also as a withdrawal of my consent. I suppose it is a matter of rejecting authority when practical, obeying it when pragmatic.

      • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

        Not voting is all well and good, but the opposition doesn’t care as long as we keep paying our taxes. I can understand how difficult it would be to stop paying taxes, for most people who convert to anarcho-capitalism are already well entrenched in the system, with a mortgage and a family to take care of. For me, I am young and don’t have children or a mortgage. So not paying taxes will be easier for me because I have never started. Plus, I am not going to have any children and refuse to buy a house on credit. So, since I am willing to live like a pauper I can more easily avoid paying taxes. What would I do if I were older and entrenched? It’s difficult to say. I would probably sell everything, buy gold and bury it and not pay one cent to the government. But that’s easier said than done.

        • JimNo Gravatar says:

          The path of agorism isn’t easy. So what? Is it easy to pay taxes? Is it easy to have money taken out of every paycheck for “payroll” and “income” taxes? Sure. But it isn’t easy to be at the receiving end of the bullets when some whacked out soldier starts slaughtering civilians. Everyone has choices to take, and every choice has consequences.

          • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

            I can sort of understand how some one could justify continuing to play the game thinking that things will still be okay in the future if we just bow our heads and obey. But I don’t think that’s the case. I feel rather certain that if we continue to obey we’re definitely doomed, and what’s worse is we will have dug our own graves. On the contrary, if I disobey I may still be doomed, but at least I will not have gone down without a fight.

            My generation has nothing to lose! We only have a chance if we rebel against the system.

            • Quint XNo Gravatar says:

              You have to pick your battles, and you have to rebel in numbers large enough to make an impact. Otherwise, it’s impotent and wasted. Better to take our time and foment unrest and discontent, directed at the authorities, while watching for the inevitable collapse. I would suggest planning for survival after the collapse, rather than making a premature stand.

  3. Quint XNo Gravatar says:

    Yes! You have expressed what I have been feeling for some time. I, too, have abandoned the sham of voting, and I encourage others to do the same as often as possible. Right on! Right on!

  4. Terrific post Bill! I was just thinking the other night of a historical example of tyranny coming into power because people refused to vote. I couldn’t think of any.

    By contrast, Mussolini was elected, Hitler was elected, and they had very high voter participation within the USSR (compulsory of course).

    Voting is a sham that we are encouraged to participate in because it provides the establishment with a scapegoat (well you elected us…) and provides the illusion that the wishes of society are being served.

    Nock provided some insight into the psychological effects of an electoral system:
    “Republicanism permits the individual to persuade himself that the State is his creation, that State action is his action, that when it expresses itself it expresses him, and when it is glorified he is glorified. The republican State encourages this persuasion with all its power, aware that it is the most efficient instrument for enhancing its own prestige. Lincoln’s phrase, “of the people, by the people, for the people” was probably the most effective single stroke of propaganda ever made in behalf of republican State prestige.”