Welcome back to Ask An Anarchist. The ongoing series where I respond to questions about anarchist philosophy.
Q) As an anarchist/voluntaryist/[other term for anti-government person] should I vote?
A) Short answer: you should do whatever feels right to you. As an anarchist myself, I’m not in the business of telling other people what they should or should not do.
The long answer is, as usual, a bit more complex…
Many anarchists have come to the conclusion that voting itself is either immoral or just plain evil. Many of these believe that voting is condoning the action of the state. Some claim that every vote is, in and of itself, an act of violence because you’re either voting for someone else to use the violence of the state to force their will on others, or directly enacting laws that will be enforced with the violence of the state. I have some questions for those who hold this belief….
2) Would you vote for your town/county/state to secede from the governmental bodies that currently reign over it?
3) Would you vote to dismantle the government in its entirety?
4) What about a vote to bring all US military personnel back to the United States?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then how can you justify that vote as not being evil or immoral? Aren’t you forcing your anti-prohibition and anti-government will on those who would prefer these laws and institutions remain in place?
If your answer to these questions is no, then how, exactly are you helping those in the liberty movement to bring freedom and liberty to everyone? Do you really think politicians are simply going to stop going to work one day? Do you think a time will come when the politicians are completely unable to find someone to enact violence on people that break their made up rules. Ultimately, it’s going to take a “vote of the people” to restore our liberties. The only other path to the end of government is violence, and that’s never succeeded in doing anything other than changing out one oppressor for another.
A flat out refusal to participate in any form of government election assures you’ll never see liberty in your lifetime. How can you even be a liberty activist? Isn’t protesting the police and/or politicians really just another way of voting? Except that you’re trying to convince other people to do the “dirty work” of changing the laws or system for you.
As for me, I believe in voting as self-defense, so only vote when I see an option for liberty. Sometimes that’s a candidate such as Ron Paul. Other times it’s an issue, such as California’s Proposition 19 which would have legalized the growing, using and possession of marijuana for people over the age of 21. Sure, this proposition had a lot of problems (including creating new bureaucracy), but I believe it was a step towards freedom. And those are the steps I’m interested in taking.
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I never understood why voting is such a crime to those who favor a stateless society.
There’s a popular scenario involving you being at a rail road switch and you know that if you don’t pull the switch, 3 or more people will die, but if you do pull, only one person will die. Now, this scenario is screwed up and nobody should have to answer this because it’s a scenario that requires you to either take a life or be somewhat responsible for allowing multiple lives in your power to be taken due to your unwillingness to act. But rather than reject this scenario, a lot of anti-statists will fall for it and say crap like, “I’m a noninterventionists. If I pull the lever it’ll create more terrorists or something.”.
I see a lot of similarities in the train scenario and voting. Do you pull the lever to help derail the state to self-abolition or do you go “As president of the sovereign individual of shackletom I am not going to intervene in foreign elections because it’ll create more terrorists to fly lawsuits and search warrants do my door.”.
A few more points and I’ll make them brief.
I’ve heard before “by voting, you are sanctioning violence.”. Oh really? Even if I write in Donald Duck? Sanctioning violence ey? According to what? Some unbinding false anarchist dichotomy?
I’ve heard some conflicting things from anarchists. One is that voting doesn’t work, it’s ineffective, it’s rigged and so on and so forth, but yet,.. voting is this big time infringement on an anarchist’s property rights since voting sanctions violence. Which is it? Is voting ineffective or is it a sanction of violence? Are we not ruled by others whether we vote or not? Is the state going to magically abolish itself if everyone decided not to vote?
Anarchists say that we should engage in activism, counter economics and other things instead of voting. Why not do all those things? Voting does not reverse or disqualify efforts towards activism and counter economics.
Voting for liberty candidates is a good way to voice opposition to the state where as nonvoting could just be dismissed as apathy and gives no message to incumbents to value liberty. Yes, politicians will continue to collude and corrupt to stay in power when abolishment of the state becomes a hot issue. One way I would “stay in power” as a candidate is to use my power to throw others in power under the bus by legislating against the existence and funding of their departments. I have selfish ambitions for liberty for all so I would also be “corrupt” in that sense. Colluding would be a waste of my time and energy since I don’t care about the political careers of others, especially if I believe that their demise would help my reelection. Sure, they can threaten to do things against me and that’s fine. I wouldn’t be afraid of them trying to destroy my reputation. I’ll probably get a sweet talk radio deal out of it later or something.
Another oddity I find in anarchists is their unwillingness to participate in jury duty when they’re selected. How screwed up is this? A vote actually matters in this case! You can directly prevent someone from being wrongfully imprisoned! But because it’s a court house you don’t want to “sanction violence” by voting not guilty? Then again, under the libertarian intervention = more justified retaliations by terrorists principle I guess hung juries would create more terrorists since you are getting involved in a conflict that you have no business in.
So yeah, the agorist views on voting and the “free-trade and the right to defend your interests so long as terrorists who actually have no legitimate claim to the property they’re claiming to defend won’t kill you over it” principle makes it very hard to use the libertarian label libertarian for myself even though I have a strong desire to have a stateless voluntaryist society. But you know what, I feel that my “dissension” fulfills the whole point of libertarianism, objectivism, minarchism and other liberty -isms that use it’s means to a stateless end since liberty isn’t about uniformity and tribalism and always agreeing to whats been established.
So yeah, if you’re in favor of the abolishment of the state, don’t let a bunch of agorists tell you that voting is somehow counterintuitive unless you actually agree with that nonsense.
By the way, if it weren’t for voting having so devastatingly failed me, had it not been for libertarian candidates using the ballot as a way to market liberty, I may never even considered statelessness.
Well, I find the answer more simple. As an anarchist, I should take my right to vote and not let the government vote for me by faking my vote!
For me i believe we have the right to voted who ever we want to.and nobody can dictate us who they wanted for us.so you guys the next election come go out and voted to the person you think is the right one.
I think every one should vote. and not others assume what are you going to vote for.
I dunno. I’ve never been so apathetic with respect to the government in my life. The corruption has numbed me.
We aspire to a world community without enemy, without war. Man is not enemy of man except through lies of the State and State of the lie. Once violence is chosen as method, falsehood becomes principle. Our direct eyewitness experience. Thanks.