I was going to title this post "Three reasons not to vote." But actually, I do vote, just in a very unorthodox way that I have found to register my disapproval of the system. So here are three reasons not to vote. Much. Or at least, not in a normal way.
It's ineffective: Change is never going to come by this route. I voted Republican in 2000 and 2004 because I believed in smaller government. It didn't work. Even when your candidate wins you don't get what you want. (Even if you wanted bigger government you wouldn't get what you want, because the costs of reality and the impossibility of centralized economic calculation always prevent big government planners from fulfilling all of their promises.) And the candidates always believe in expanding some portions of the government's power. (George W. Bush, for example, believed in socializing healthcare, which distressed me greatly because "we" Republicans had stood against this staunchly when Hilary Clinton wanted to try it. I compromised. May God forgive me for supporting a man who would steal from other people.) And of course all politicians believe in taxation. The history of elections in the United States has been the history of the expanse of federal power and the decline of liberty and the intent of the founders of the country. Even politicians who believe in a limit to government power seem to weaken their principles with only a short time in office; some believe this is because power is simply so intoxicating.
Meanwhile I have two avenues to effective change. As a Christian, I may have confidence that if I practice the things God requires of me, which include prayer and the preaching of the Gospel, change will occur in my life and in the lives of those who come in contact with me. If Christians really believed this we would see a dramatic decrease in the amount of time they spend discussing politics and a dramatic increase in the amount of time they spend discussing the word of God. Secondly, I may spend my time peacefully persuading people that anarcho-capitalism is best for them and best for everybody; throughout history governments of all types, tyrannical and democratic, have survived by throwing out enough "benefits" that the populace never gets mad enough about the violation of their rights and continues to support the government. Eventually as enough people cease to support the government, there is a tipping point where its power will begin to rapidly decay. Some optimists think this tipping point is very small, at somewhere near 10% or 25% of the population. All I know is I'd rather reach that than obtain a temporary majority for some flawed candidate in an election.
It legitimizes the system: When I vote for a politician, I'm saying that I pick him to represent me, to act on my behalf. As the declaration of independence says, the government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. I can delegate my right to self-defense to an agency to defend my rights. I can delegate my right to decide what to do with a portion of my land to a group that is going to pool land and use it for a particular purpose. But since I don't have a right to dictate to other people (other than requiring them to respect my rights), I therefore can't delegate to the government all of the powers it is exercising. Selecting a representative means picking a person to act as my agent. If I get together with someone and ask him to steal for me, he is acting as my agent and we are both guilty. This is government as currently practiced. This is "we the people."
Furthermore, when I've picked someone to hold the king powers for a term, I'm stuck with him, and if he doesn't do what I need or want, or what is right, it's my fault for picking him. As I said above, no person can or will use the king powers in the "right" way (there is no right way, other than using those powers to destroy themselves). But under our system, you have three options, and no matter what it's your fault:
- You can vote for your man and win. If things don't go well, it's your fault for picking the wrong man. And all the men are wrong, and things will never go well for everybody for any length of time.
- You can refrain from voting. In this case when they come to take your money your haughty voting neighbors justify their theft by saying you didn't vote and therefore you granted your consent to everything they wanted to do. I wish it were more obvious that this couldn't be more wrong, but we were all taught this in government school and almost everybody believes it. Funny, that.
- You can vote for your man and lose. In this case you have to suffer all kinds of things being done to you that you did not consent to, but you agreed to participate in this democracy and you are told you have no room to complain and should work for change within the system. What a joke.
Funny how the government keeps taking money that doesn't belong to it, keeps keeping people from using what belongs to them, keeps abusing people ... and then tells people that it is their fault, not its. When this happens between a man and a woman we call it domestic abuse. Interestingly enough in many domestic abuses the abuser tells his wife that all the bad things he does are her fault, and she often believes him. (This without loss of generality; I don't mean to imply that all abusers are men.)
Democracy is a domestic abuse situation. The people are battered. It's time to realize that we need to abandon this partner once and for all. We're not really married to him, anyway. Worst shack-up we ever made. Let's get on with our real lives.
It sacrifices real change: There were a variety of views on slavery in the 1800s. Some believed in immediate, total abolition: free all the slaves immediately, no compromises. Some believed in gradual abolition or various compromises: slowly free the slaves, slowly truncate slavery's territory, have the government buy some of them, send them back to Africa, etc. The fiery insightful abolitionists recognized the truth: if you argue for gradual change, real change may never happen. The change to anarcho-capitalism should happen now because it is right, because the current system is wrong, because it is better, because the current system is far, far worse, and because any gradual transition period would really just be another formation of the current system, which is tyrannical and wrong as well as damaging; an instant transition to doing what is right might be destabilizing, but it would actually be healthier than a tyrannically managed transition, as well as being the moral thing to do. The truth is that if you argue for complete change, what you will really get is gradual change as more and more people accept the truth. If you argue for gradual change, nothing meaningful will ever happen, and thousands of years from now we will still have all-powerful government.
Voting for "the guy who is going to shrink the government the most" or "the guy who is going to grow the government the least" may seem like the libertarian or even Christian thing to do. But the reality is that you give your approval to someone who is not going to shrink the government, someone who is going to do wrong things in your name, and you perpetuate the situation rather than sounding the message that reform must come swiftly.