Screw it, I'm getting free. Who's with me?

Published: 6 years ago

Non-Voting is Principled Political Self-Defense

73686445_26f667cdbf_o

If a man claims the right to dictate your life to you, and you laugh in his face, are you giving up your right to self-defense? That’s what Libertarian Party member Morey Straus claims in his essay The trouble with voluntaryists.

What separates anti-political libertarians from principled partyarchs is the advocacy of a vulgar form of unilateral disarmament. This form of pacifism is more in line with the LeFevrian stripe than in the simpler sense, in that the anarchist is more concerned with becoming part of the problem than with straightforward avoidance. But it still walks and talks like pacifism. This willful disassociation from tactics used by statists is as doomed to catch fire as was Quakerism. #

Electoral Politics is Surrender

Anyone can claim power over us, according to Straus’ logic, and we must accept their ridiculous claims, fighting on their slanted playing field in a battle we can only lose. Otherwise, we’re giving up and letting the statists win. In their own mind, perhaps! How disappointing that Straus made the intellectual journey to anarchism but embraces the government-issued wool that’s pulled over his eyes.

Analogy FAIL

Straus wants us to believe that using a government-monopolized service is morally equivalent to competing for control of the force that maintains government-monopolized services. If the government nationalized the food industry, would eating render me morally equivalent to the statists who stole the means of producing food from its owners? Of course not!

In the same way that an agorist can use the statist roads to engage in counter-economic trade, the partyarch may use the vehicle of elections to advocate the abolition of elections. #

Is Slavery a Vehicle to Set People Free?

Is it logically consistent to use murder to advocate for the abolition of murder? What are the chances that one can awake people to the evil of initiating force by initiating force? Had Straus been alive in 1855, would he have advocated the abolition of slavery by using the vehicle of slavery? Clearly, this is nonsense.

Electoral Politics an Anarchist Credibility Killer

If you’re a libertarian anarchist, you don’t think government is necessary. You might even think it’s evil. So if you tell people in your community that you’re in favor of a stateless society but then proceed to run for office and ask for their vote, it will inevitably cause confusion. Are you an anarchist or not?

In the worst case, you have alienated members of your community with your refusal to respect the state. Maybe you don’t like drivers’ licenses. Maybe you have called into local talk radio and argued against the need for state-run fire companies. People don’t understand you. They may be scared of you.

Anarchists Beating Statists at Own Game?

And now you’re going to run for office? You’re going to compete with statists to see who will wield the state’s guns? Setting aside the ridiculousness of trying to beat the statists at their own game, you have destroyed what little credibility you developed. You’re in the statists’ coliseum now. The backlash is inevitable and it will destroy your nonviolent education efforts.

Non-Voting is Principled Political Self-Defense

Non-voting is principled, because it does not involve an initiation of force, as voting does (since you’re competing to see who will give orders to everyone else). The act of non-voting says, “You go and have your silly fun. I choose productive pursuits. I choose nonviolence. I choose liberty.”

Photo credit: daquellamanera. Photo license.

Comments
  1. George, thanks for responding! It seems that I have a long way to go in developing my communications skills. I hope these comment will clarify.

    Anyone can claim power over us, according to Straus’ logic, and we must accept their ridiculous claims, fighting on their slanted playing field in a battle we can only lose. Otherwise, we’re giving up and letting the statists win.
    I did not say that. My point was that it is a missed opportunity for dialogue.

    Straus wants us to believe that using a government-monopolized service is morally equivalent to competing for control of the force that maintains government-monopolized services.

    Wrong. If the anarchist wins, he would liberate, not take control. However, winning, in an electoral sense, is not the goal. The goal is the campaign itself.

    Is it logically consistent to use murder to advocate for the abolition of murder? What are the chances that one can awake people to the evil of initiating force by initiating force? Had Straus been alive in 1855, would he have advocated the abolition of slavery by using the vehicle of slavery? Clearly, this is nonsense.

    Would I buy a slave and immediately bring him to the underground railroad? Yes. But that wasn’t what I was suggesting. A closer analogy would be stepping up to the auction block and explaining why these actions are a travesty.

    So if you tell people in your community that you’re in favor of a stateless society but then proceed to run for office and ask for their vote, it will inevitably cause confusion.

    There are two distinct approaches, as detailed in the article. You’re conflating them.

    In the worst case, you have alienated members of your community with your refusal to respect the state. Maybe you don’t like drivers’ licenses. Maybe you have called into local talk radio and argued against the need for state-run fire companies. People don’t understand you. They may be scared of you.

    If you fail to present your case, then yes, and that will be to your detriment in building support, regardless of whether the vehicle is electioneering or CD.

    And now you’re going to run for office? You’re going to compete with statists to see who will wield the state’s guns? Setting aside the ridiculousness of trying to beat the statists at their own game,

    I hate to sound repetitious. We covered this already.

    The backlash is inevitable and it will destroy your nonviolent education efforts.

    I don’t understand this point. Do you think there is no backlash against CDers? Or that outreach is futile?

    P.S. Your writing style reminds me of Raimondo.

  2. Morey, I didn’t say you said that. I said that one can reach that conclusion based on your logic.

    Wrong. If the anarchist wins, he would liberate, not take control. However, winning, in an electoral sense, is not the goal. The goal is the campaign itself.

    One must take control of government in order to use it to “liberate”. You skip past that part. And your argument reduces to using force to set people free which is a logical contradiction.

    If the goal is dialog, or the campaign, then a campaign for a non-vote or something similar can achieve the same purpose without the moral complications, no?

    Would I buy a slave and immediately bring him to the underground railroad? Yes. But that wasn’t what I was suggesting. A closer analogy would be stepping up to the auction block and explaining why these actions are a travesty.

    Buying a slave to set him free is the wrong thing to do since you would be patronizing the system. The right thing to do would be to reduce demand for slaves as much as possible.

    Your analogies are very weak. The equivalent to using electoral politics to set people free is to become the auctioneer (or owner) and just declare each slave free. But first you have to become the auctioneer. And if you think that approach is feasible, read My Son: Klan Reformer.

    I don’t think I am conflating the two approaches. Are you saying that when you run for office you do _not_ tell people you’re an anarchist?

    I don’t understand this point. Do you think there is no backlash against CDers? Or that outreach is futile?

    My point is that for an anarchist to run for political office is an obvious contradiction and if you’re doing nonviolent education efforts it destroys your intellectual credibility and consistency, which is the most important thing one needs to educate.

    Sure there is a backlash against civil disobedience folks, but if they don’t also run for political office, at least folks will respect them for their consistency.

    I’m not saying outreach is futile. I’m simply saying that actions count for as much as or more than words. If you say you’re an anarchist but don’t act like one it destroys your message.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. G.E. aka J.D. Seagraves

    Voting is a waste of time.

    Thinking you can “fix” the state is delusional.

    But I still see a potential for electoral politics as an educational tool. To the best of my knowledge, there’s never been an anarchist who said, “don’t vote!” as his campaign slogan, but there could be. People listen to you when you’re running for office. Newspapers cover you. Radio interviews you. It’s a way to spread anarchistic ideas.

  4. Dan Patrick

    In an earlier essay you argue that minarchists are anarchists because although a minarchist government could exist it would not force those that opt-out to participate or initiate force in any way. Why would a minarchist campaigning on a strictly libertarian platform conflict with your idea of anarchism if they are, in fact, anarchists themselves?

  5. Dan Patrick

    Oh, also why would an anarchist voting for such a candidate be an immoral act? What’s wrong with an anarchist voting for a minarchist since by your own admission both are anarchists?

  6. James Babb

    Before I identified myself as an anarchist, I ran for State Rep on a 100% repeal platform. Not to win, but to get all the free advertising and to say mean things about the incumbent on TV. I accomplished my goal and made life a little tougher for the sitting rep, so I don’t consider it a failure. As far as I can tell, I did not initiate force against anyone while running for office. While I may have brought a shed of credibility to their corrupt game, I don’t think I violated my principles, even if running was a pointless act of vanity.

    Did I discredit the freedom message by volunteering to go into the slave house and start unbolting the bars? Let’s consider the astronomically improbable event that I had actually won (perhaps if the R candidate had been arrested and the D candidate died from auto-erotic asphyxiation). Would serving in office have violated the NIF? Because I would have only voted against new laws, I’m not sure how. If I was invited to a mafia meeting and I showed up and voted against a bank robbery, would that be a violation? Maybe just being involved implies some kind of support for the institution.

    Like it or not, politics is a place where policy ideas are debated. For some reason, I just like having a libertarian in the debate, even though I know the whole process is an immoral sham. I’m still wrestling with this inconsistency.

  7. George wrote:

    Buying a slave to set him free is the wrong thing to do since you would be patronizing the system. The right thing to do would be to reduce demand for slaves as much as possible.

    To shrug off the silly idea brought in here that principled anarchists are necessarily pacifists, it might be worth recalling, also, that attending the slave auction for purposes of killing the slaveholders is morally admissible.

    And, at least in my mind, preferable to compensating slavers.

  8. I don’t see how it’s a contradiction to fight for control of the gun that is government. Any moral way that I can bring about freedom, I’m going to try. Moral = I do not condone the initiation of force or commit violent acts myself. Especially in small towns or cities like Keene, a thoughtful, highly publicized campaign even has a shot at winning. Maybe I’m overly optimistic. It must be the books I’m reading on how to run a political campaign. :)

  9. GE, I’m with you except how do you educate people by violating your own principles? Actions speak louder than words and trying to take control of government while preaching that government is evil is a contradiction.

    Thanks for commenting!

  10. Dan it would be inconsistent for an anarchist to do that because anarchists are not minarchists.

    My point with the other article is that minarchy is not coherent or consistent and minarchists should abandon their contradictions and become outright anarchists / voluntaryists.

    It’s immoral for anyone to vote because voting is a nasty little contest to see whose rights will be sacrificed to whom; to see who will be the little dictator of the rest; to see who will get the privilege of using the state to initiate force against otherwise peaceful folk. Voting is immoral because the state is immoral.

    An anarchist might vote for a minarchist as a subversive act but that would still be immoral as well as likely to fail.

    For someone who holds self-ownership or the non-initiation of force as their base moral values, it is a contradiction to participate in the administration of a government. Therefore it is destructive of their own ends.

    Thanks for commenting. :)

  11. Patrick: The trouble is that, as an instrumentality, what you rightly call the gun that is government is not a gun in the ordinary sense, that can be used for defensive purposes as well as offensive, and without itself necessarily creating any sort of moral contradiction in the wielder.

    To draw out the thought a bit more, I think of killing as most of the time wrong but some of the time right. But in using the instrumentality of the state, by arrogating to yourself the privileges of the state, and ultimately even funding your prospective liberatory applications of its ultimate, arbitrary, unaccountable power through the, oh yes, robbery that is taxation, you immediately become tainted — much the same way as someone who ever employs torture as a means of relating to another human being becomes tainted.

    And we must wonder if it is that you have not thought these matters through to their ultimate ends, or if you might perhaps have a less than liberatory vision in mind. Not that I have any doubt you’d be the most benevolent of dictators, of course.

  12. James

    When someone runs for office they implicitly accept the statist paradigm that the state is a valid way to fight for or protect individual rights. That is extremely damaging. Many lives have been lost not only chewed up in the machinery of state but unwittingly reinforcing that same machinery so it can chew up the next generation.

    Did I discredit the freedom message by volunteering to go into the slave house and start unbolting the bars?

    That would be an act of civil disobedience. But you’re defending the act of begging the slaveholders for permission to administer their slave houses. Have you read the Molyneux article I linked to above?

    Would serving in office have violated the NIF?

    Yes. Every action government takes is an initiation of force. It’s the only way they can do business.

    Thanks for commenting. :)

  13. Mike, I love how you always cut to the core of the matter. You’re absolutely right. It’s unfashionable to talk about self-defense so I often ignore that aspect. Well done. :)

  14. Patrick, everything government does is a violent act. Including elections and swearing people into offices that claim authority over others. In politics, there is no winning for liberty-lovers because the whole process of deciding who will rule other men is a rude offense to liberty.

  15. Killing slaveowners to liberate their chattles ain’t self-defense, it’s valor, but the praise is accepted with gratitude :)

  16. G.E. aka J.D. Seagraves

    George – You don’t HAVE to violate your own principals while running. If you admit you have no chance of winning, and that if you’re elected, you will not serve; for example. I don’t know if there’s ever been a candidate like this… Alternately, you could run for governor, say, and say that — even though there’s no way you’ll win — you will not accept a salary or any government benefits (“if” you do win); you’ll pardon all non-violent “criminals” (drug users and dealers; prostitutes, pimps, and johns; tax evaders; etc.); etc. You can have a anarchistic “platform” that is unrelated to the degrading “I’ll do this if I win,” too: use the election to show the good of privatization, the stupidity and evil of government. Kids run for student council all the time out of protest to show how stupid the student-government is. I think a campaign like this could potentially be a productive use of anarchist time. Of course, the LP is too cowardly to nominate someone running on such a platform.

  17. You walk into a government office with a petition showing the requisite number of signatures and pay a fee. The clerk who takes your application as well as any number of other people who will process and handle it as well as handling ongoing monitoring of your campaign will be paid by money stolen from taxpayers. Labor will be employed by the state to enter your name in databases, create files, track campaign finance inflows and outflows, process reports, update records, and on and on, all financed by taxation.

    While the privatization of nearly everything governments do today is preferable to the current state of affairs, it’s worth pointing out, too, that there are plenty of government services which ought never be privatized — specifically, all of those which violate the non-aggression principle. Privatized taxation, to use a familiar example, would still be fuckin’ horrible.

  18. G.E. aka J.D. Seagraves

    In Michigan, there are no filing fees or petitions required. Yes, some ink will be paid for by the taxpayer to print your name — but if you have a short name, maybe this is less aggressive than allowing someone with a longer name to run. Campaign finance reports: don’t disclose. You could sign a waver, but if you’re against that, then just ignore it. They’re not going to come after you when you clearly raised no money — many candidates have done this out of laziness.

  19. G.E. aka J.D. Seagraves

    Better yet: you could run as a write-in candidate. Boo-yah.

  20. Kids run for student council all the time out of protest to show how stupid the student-government is.

    True, but should they actually win, they don’t obtain any true privilege.

  21. GE, yet even in the most minimalistic of campaigns you’re still saying – with your actions – that the state is a valid way to defend liberty. And it’s not.

    I think a no-vote campaign would be great tho. Maybe Patrick will come on board for one of those in Keene?

  22. G.E. aka J.D. Seagraves

    I do not agree, George. The state is not a great way to defend liberty — it is no way at all. How can a campaign, in which the candidate acknowledges this and that he has no chance of winning, be saying the opposite? The point is to get exposure, to get people to listen to you. Your Internet outreach is great and probably more effective, but running a political campaign reaches different people.

    I ran for Congress in 2004. Unfortunately, I was a liberal at the time. Regardless, I still made a total mockery of the process at multiple debates, was on TV and radio, in all kinds of newspapers, etc. I did not do this in a way to minimize my “statist footprint,” and I didn’t advocate anarchistic ideals — but I easily could have. I did, however, mock the entire process in which the outcome was already predetermined. This got people’s attention, and I was congratulated by countless people on doing so.

    And Mike, RE: student council: Not only do the kids not get any real privilege if they win, the kids running protest campaigns against the idiocy of student government undoubtedly refuse to serve if they win. So should any anarchist. Regardless, the odds of winning when you tell people NOT to vote, period, and that you have no chance of winning… if you DO win then I’d say that is a true condemnation of the system.

  23. If you guys consider me tainted for trying to achieve liberty through any moral means possible, I’m fine with that. I think you guys are tainted for refusing to get your hands dirty. :P

    You still haven’t shown how I’ve done anything immoral by participating in the political process. I can run a completely moral campaign that does not condone or commit violence. If I get in, every vote is a vote for self-ownership. I’m not guilty by association. I’m still waiving signs, still committing civil disobedience, still getting arrested. I’m just bringing more attention to the issues and providing an opportunity to achieve liberty even more quickly. As I’ve previously stated, even if democracy doesn’t work on a macro scale, bring enough peaceful people to a single place and you can actually turn government off from the inside.

    If you have any questions about how I’ll run my campaign, feel free to ask. I’d love to find any possibly-violent acts I might commit or condone, because I can’t think of any.

    P.S. Ron Paul converted me to libertarianism (I’ve sense realized that anarchy is the only practical implementation.) If he wasn’t a part of the political system, I wouldn’t be in Keene today fighting for anarchy.

  24. Gene Trosper

    Hi George.

    Okay, let us assume that non voting is principled self defense. However, let us say that there is a massive tax increase on the ballot. Would it be immoral to vote against this tax increase or would it be morally justified self defense? Here in California, Proposition 1A would extend recently raised taxes by two years (the election is in two weeks). Considering that my household cannot afford more taxes, would it be therefore moral to vote against Prop 1A or simply stay home and not vote? This isn’t about trying to reclaim liberty, but attempting to keep the wolves at bay, even if for a short amount of time. Your thoughts on this would be most welcome.

  25. In my mind it would be moral to vote against any expansion of state power or in favor of any reduction of state power — regardless of what your household can afford.

  26. GE by a no-vote campaign I meant not a campaign in which someone runs but tells people not to vote for them but a campaign in which one does not run and yet actively goes out and asks people not to vote and explains why that is in their best interests. Hope that makes sense.

    Patrick it’s not that I consider you “tainted” – not at all – just that I consider electoral politics immoral, and therefore impractical. It is most certainly not a way to achieve liberty.

    We shall see how willing I am to get my hands dirty when I move up to New Hampshire later this month.

    every vote is a vote for self-ownership

    This is a crystal-clear example of how you’re not quite getting it. Voting on how to initiate (or not) force against others is in direct opposition to the concept of self-ownership.

    Have you read “My Son: Klan Reformer” yet?

    Ayn Rand was part of my intellectual journey to voluntaryism. But students who don’t teach the masters at some point aren’t taking advantage of the learning process’ maximum potential.

    Thanks for commenting guys. :)

  27. Gene, thanks for commenting.

    I would _not_ vote against a tax increase because the act of voting presumes that they have the right to put my rights up for a vote. They do not! The act of voting also presumes that I have the right to decide what is right for my neighbors, which obviously I do not.

    Playing within their system is a lose-lose.

    That said, I would be willing to speak out in opposition to the tax increase (and all taxes). I would even be interested in speaking directly to the leaders of the gang that put the issue up for a vote (just as I would be willing to approach the leader of a street gang and ask him to have his members stop tagging on the walls of my home).

    What do you plan to do?

  28. Voting to eliminate violent punishment for non-violent acts can only decrease conflict. I see what you’re saying about the entire principle of trying to represent unwilling people at all, but the quirk about this current oppressor is that it happens to have mechanisms to control and alter it. I think it will take both counter-economics and political activism to achieve freedom.

    I read the Klan Reformer article, and it makes a great point. It doesn’t apply to me, though, because I’m not advocating smaller government; I’m running on a true anarchistic free-market platform. Also, based on the constituencies of the KKK versus the population of local voters, I think the chance of electoral victory is a bit higher than it would be if someone were running for a position on the KKK and advocating no more lynching.

  29. Yes, it is rediculous to think that anyone will be able to use the state to limit the state.

    As Patrick points out, the Klan Reformer article only applies to minarchists. There is nothing there that applies to a 100% repeal candidate, even if they won (which is virtually impossible).

    “Every action government takes is an initiation of force. It’s the only way they can do business.”

    Of course, I understand that everything government does is immoral. But the guilt by association argument seems to fall short, if you are blocking or reversing their immoral actions. If every action the government takes is an initiation of force, what would you call a lack of government action?

    Maybe you can clarify. If I were to serve in the legislature and voted NO every time, exactly who would I be aggressing against? (Even the use of the capitol building could be defended. Stolen property that can’t be returned directly to the rightful owner, should at least be taken away from the thieves to deny them the benefit of their theft.)

    How does voting NO produce implicit positive consent to a system that votes away rights? Could I serve on a jury, for a chance to get an innocent man off the hook for a victimless crime? If you asked me if you could poke me in the eye, can’t I say no? Should I instead have to explain why asking is immoral?

    As for the argument against the filing candidate paperwork, etc. Sure, I’ll give you that. But thats a hell of a standard to live up to. I can’t even walk out my front door without generating some type of bureaucratic paperwork. If that’s the standard, we could never get a drivers license, register a will, fly on a plane, defend ourselves in court, eat at a restaurant inspected by the health department, go to a licensed physician, etc. Each of these activities also generates some type of government force. If you can live that way, more power to you.

    On a side note, I wrote in my votes in the 2008 general election. I did this because I know that my county illegally chucks these in the garbage. Now I can sue them for damages and have the officials brought up on charges. Is monkey-wrenching the system immoral? I kind of like the idea of tricking them into pointing the gun at themselves if I can.

    BTW, I think this is a very interesting, complex topic. Thanks for posting this.

  30. Patrick, surely the irony in applying for a government job on a “true” anarchist platform is sparking some kind of doubt in your mind right now about your planned course of action?

  31. Nope! Then again, I am a master of doublethink.

  32. Gene Trosper

    George, thanks for your thoughtful response!

    What do I plan to do? Well, when I see thieve trying to break into my home and steal my possessions, I will defend my property and my life. I basically view Proposition 1A as thieves trying to break into my home and bank account. If my vote is akin to standing at my front door with a shotgun to PREVENT an initiation of force, then I view my NO vote as a means of self-defense. That said, I do not view voting as a means of achieving liberty. In fact, I do not view my no vote as a means of achieving liberty or even rolling back the state. I only view it as defense. Nothing more, nothing less.

    With that one exception, you and I are pretty much in agreement on everything else. However, I do look forward to your response! : )

  33. Hmm, George may have become even more radical than I!

    @James:

    As for the argument against the filing candidate paperwork, etc. Sure, I’ll give you that. But thats a hell of a standard to live up to. I can’t even walk out my front door without generating some type of bureaucratic paperwork. If that’s the standard, we could never get a drivers license, register a will, fly on a plane, defend ourselves in court, eat at a restaurant inspected by the health department, go to a licensed physician, etc.

    No, it’s nothing to live up to at all.

    People existing in a free society would still drive on roads, register wills, mount legal defense, expect quality food service and decent medical care, all without state privilege.

    It seems logically impossible to argue that enrolling in a process the goal of which is to obtain state privilege would seem moral in its absence.

    Tangentially, I am not the bearer a 1954 Stateless Person’s Travel Document because I believe that it’s important to have state ID, or because I seek any privilege over my fellow human beings. I have one because it functions, effectively, as a magical talisman before the cops. No ID? Problem. Vampire, garlic… win!

  34. the Klan Reformer article only applies to minarchists

    I am absolutely bowled over by this claim! Molyneux’s thesis is that reforming the state is not only impossible but also that attempts to do so strengthen it.

    This claim does not only apply to minarchists!

    When you say that if you win you’ll vote no on everything that is saying that you will reduce the number of initiations of forces (lynchings) coming out of government.

    Note that the dad calls his son’s effort a “work from the inside” approach. Anarchists who run for office and vote are taking a “work from the inside” approach.

    “Well, I’m not sure,” I said uneasily. “Won’t people be getting the message that lynching is good, rather than that lynching is bad? You’re legitimizing the principle.”

    Won’t people be getting the message that government is good; that it can be used to set people free? When you vote or run for office you legitimize this principle.

    When I ask him about this, his answer is always the same: “Sure, dad, but I don’t have that much control over who gets lynched in my district. I oppose it, of course, but there’s not a whole lot I can do.”

    An anarchist will be in the same position. Resisting but not being effective, all the while lending his name, reputation and personal endorsement to the system.

    “Right, so you’re on a ‘pro-lynching’ platform, you just want less lynching.”

    Anarchists running for office and voting are for a pro-government platform, they just want less of it. You might say you’re against government, but your actions speak louder then your words. Choosing to use government to achieve your aims is evidence of your de facto pro-government position.

    And so they shrink back from abolishing the Klan, because that seems extreme, because here’s this smart, well-spoken person who’s been in the Klan for 20 years, who’s saying that the Klan is good and necessary, and all we have to do is put him in charge of it. So when I come along and say that the Klan is immoral, and needs to be abolished, you know what people say to me? They say, ‘Nahhh, I’m going to support your son, he has great plans to reform the Klan

    Anarchists who run for office are implicitly saying, the government can be used for good – to set people free. Et cetera.

    See http://www.voluntaryist.com/articles/085b.php

    freedom does not depend so much on repealing laws as weakening the state’s authority. It does not depend – as political strategists expediently claim on persuading enough people to vote “properly” so that libertarians can occupy seats of political power and roll back legislation. Unfortunately, this process strengthens the institutional framework that produced the unjust laws in the first place: it strengthens the structure of state power by accepting its authority as a tool of change. But state authority can never strengthen social power.

    F.A. Hayek popularized the notion of unintended consequences, observing that conscious acts often produce unforeseen results. This explains why good men who act through bad institutions will produce bad results. Good men acting through the state will strengthen its legitimacy and its institutional framework. They will weaken social power. Ultimately, whether or not they repeal any particular law becomes as irrelevant to producing freedom as their intentions.

    and …

    So, returning to the question of voting for Hitler: purely for the sake of argument, I’ll grant the possibility that I could morally cast a ballot. Yet even then, I would still refuse to vote against him. Why? Because the essential problem is not Hitler, but the institutional framework that allows a Hitler to grasp a monopoly on power. Without the state to back him up and an election to give him legitimized power, Hitler would have been, at most, the leader of some ragged thugs who mugged people in back alleys. Voting for or against Hitler would only strengthen the institutional framework that produced him – a framework that would produce another of his ilk in two seconds. Killing Hitler does less damage. But it – like voting – is an admission of utter defeat. Resorting to brute force means that all avenues of social power have been destroyed and I have been reduced to adopting the tactics of the state. Under tyranny, such violence might be justified as long as I could avoid harming innocent third parties. In these circumstances, however, voting could not be justified, because there is a third party. No one has the right to place one human being in a position of political power over another. A consistent libertarian can never authorize one human being to tax and control peaceful activities. And the state is no more than the institutionalized embodiment of this authorization.

    This idea that an anarchist will run for office but only use his illegitimate power to abolish the government is like this LP Washington state Lt Governor candidate who promised she would abolish her own office if elected. Well she CAN’T. No one politician can abolish anything. It’s just another lie politicians tell us so they can grab power.

    Look at the federal government. To abolish it from the inside not only do you need congress and the president but also the states and the courts (to survive legal challenges). Even if you capture 38 states, the congress and president, it only takes one little dictator to take the case to the supreme court and you lose.

  35. Do you think it is inevitable that any anarchist running for office will do more harm than good? If so, our intellectual debate has reached its end and over the next few months and years we’ll find out who’s right.

  36. I probably would have taken this position once, except that reading the Art of War changed my mind.

    I understand that it is impossible to abolish the government from the inside, but I support taking advantage of everything you can to promote freedom. I started down this path because of a politician. If he never ran for office because of principle, I would have probably never understood the true ideas of liberty, and just moved to another country (or some isolated area). I would have never understood liberty, never taken the time to understand it, and would have dismissed it. In fact, I had already dismissed anarchist as a group of crazy people.

    Some people will be drawn because of some politicians, some because of a group of peaceful activists. As long as you are not doing anything violating your conscience (in this case, voting), there is not much to worry about.

    A concentrated push for liberty from one direction will be met with the full force of the gov’ts stolen money, power, and resources. I think this will result in defeat for the cause. However, pushes from every corner, and from within can help us become successful.

  37. Mike – surprisingly – I think I am a tad more radical than you, with the exception that I’m still overcoming the taboo against talking about self-defense against the government while you have no problem with it.

  38. Great reads.

    Also a quick point.. much of this debate seems geared towards larger elections.

    There are many real elections here in NH where 2-3 votes can make a huge difference especially at the town level where the majority of taxes are raised.
    What if you had people voting no all the time? That might further liberty.

    How about at the town meetings? Single issues are often decided by a handful of votes. Taxes are decided.

    So if you could help lower the taxes you wouldn’t?

    If you don’t believe in voting because of principle… what of the paying of taxes? Doesn’t that help the machine? Don’t anarchists have to eschew all taxes so that they remain pure?

  39. James Babb

    “Don’t anarchists have to eschew all taxes so that they remain pure?”
    No, principles don’t change just because you get robbed at gunpoint.

    I don’t believe that the “government” uses force. “Governments” don’t take actions at all. Only individuals can do that. So voting NOT to initiate the use of force, seems OK to me.

    I’m still not sold on the implicit consent to statism argument. If I can pick up my enemy’s weapon on the battlefield and point it at my attacker, am I implicitly consenting to an invasion?

    You might like this article:
    When Voting Is Defensible by Bob Jackson
    http://www.strike-the-root.com/81/jackson/jackson1.html

  40. And I think that running for office could be also be considered defensible.

    thanks for that link.

  41. Hi George-

    I can’t think of a bigger mental stumbling block for the citizens of the United States, than the concept that it is necessary to refuse to participate in political elections. And I thank you, George, for valiantly and cogently defending this truth.

    I became a Voluntaryist just in time to skip this year’s elections in my Philadelphia suburb. It is very hard to have your own wife speak scornfully and angrily about a critical principled decision of yours, as mine did the Saturday before election day. It hurt so bad, that for a few hours I considered bending on the principle, and telling her I would participate as a member of the Libertarian Party.

    But then I went back over Carl Watner’s arguments (and those of other essayists) in I Must Speak Out, showing why it is moral to not participate in elections, and I felt peace return to me. I declined to participate in the election, and therefore passed up the chance to vote into office judges whom, I was very helpfully informed by the local Democratic machine and by Governor Rendell, I “can believe in”.

    I would challenge anyone to read through the portions (they are located well before page 200) of I Must Speak Out on voluntaryist.com, and then present right here, why you believe they are not convincing.

    Thanks again, George, for using this platform to spread the news that we don’t have to be slaves to our government.

  42. Sorry! I am writing too hastily– I meant that one sentence to read:

    “I would challenge anyone to read through the portions (they are located well before page 200) of I Must Speak Out on voluntaryist.com that deal with electoral politics, and then present right here, why you believe they are not convincing.”

  43. Apologies, my delay in responding to everyone is due to my now extended transition from living in South America to living in North America.

  44. G.E. aka J.D. Seagraves

    I want to thank George and Mike for helping me think through this issue more clearly. I am more resolved against voting and political activity in general than ever before.

  45. Patrick:

    Do you think it is inevitable that any anarchist running for office will do more harm than good? If so, our intellectual debate has reached its end and over the next few months and years we’ll find out who’s right.

    Yes. BTW I was considering challenging you to see who could swing more votes, you with your campaign or me with my campaign to get people NOT to vote. Now that my move to Keene fell though though, that’s not going to happen.

    Dreepa:

    So if you could help lower the taxes you wouldn’t?

    No, because I recognize that line of thinking as trickery. That’s a temptation to get one into the system, but it’s just a trick, net net you do not win ever by participating in the system.

    James:

    So voting NOT to initiate the use of force, seems OK to me.

    That is so much like Molynuex’s Klan Reform analogy.

    Joel

    Congratulations on your courage. It’s not easy standing up to your wife, and I know first-hand. ;)

    GE

    Glad to be of service. :)

  46. Brodie

    I just think voting is a waste of time. I don’t see anything wrong with a voluntaryist voting, since a true voluntaryist would only vote for his or her self. And given that a voluntaryists platform would be, “repeal all laws”, no one would vote for him or her, which means he or she would lose. So, back to my original point, it is a waste of time.