Voting is not an Act of Violence

One of the members of a list I’m on is an example of the more vocal anti-voting Anarcho-Capitalist friends that I spoke of in The Vote. He’s rather fond of finding an article that addresses something he objects to, and throwing the file at his opponents as if the file will speak for itself.

Consequently, after posting The Vote to the list, I get the article Is Voting an Act of Violence? in HTML format, clipped right off the web page as a reply. Not one to waste such an opportunity, I decided to address the problems with the article both on the list, and to the author himself. So, with no further exposition, here are the salient points I wish to dissect.


Carl Watner wrote:

Each person, by voting, sanctions the violence used by agents of the State. The link in the chain of responsibility for that violence surrounds each voter when he pulls down the lever in the voting booth.

This point (which is the summary point of the entire article) can be easily shown to be in error. Casting a ballot for write in candidates that you make up on the spot results in a vote for a candidate that cannot hold the office; it is essentially a vote for none of the above. There is no chain of violence attached to such a vote. Casting a ballot for Libertarian candidates is casting a vote for those who have renounced violence as a method of political gain. There is no chain of violence attached to this vote either. Casting no votes for all propositions that expend tax dollars, or that criminalize behaviors not formally criminal (such as smoking and gay marriage) also carry no “chain of violence”.

Walking in to the voting booth and casting a blank ballot removes the requirement to pull the lever for anyone, at all. It also removes any associated endorsement of violence.

As for the resulting argument concerning funding the election itself; the election will occur anyway. It’s no different than putting a bullet in the head of a burglar who enters your house in the night. The election occurs, your opinion is warranted. Give them your opinion, even if that opinion isn’t one they want to hear. Unless you are a pacifist, there shouldn’t be a problem with responding in kind in a situation such as this.

Carl Watner goes on to say:

Voting is an act of presumptive violence because each voter assumes the right to appoint a political guardian over other human beings. No individual voter or even a majority of voters have such a right. If they claim to possess such a right, let them clearly explain where that right comes from and how it squares with the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable “Rights” of “Life, Liberty,” and Property.

This is actually the easy part to address. A person can choose not to vote, not to participate, and that is their prerogative. It would be an act of violence to force someone to choose his own master, or who he is going to associate with. So voting is and should be voluntary.

In the same vein, a person can choose not to self-govern, and for that reason some form of external governance will always be needed as a fall back position. For those people who will not govern themselves, there will be a government that can be applied to them, for the protection of those who can and do self-govern.

If there is going to be a government, someone must be selected (in some form or fashion) to enforce laws on those individuals not willing to respect other’s Life, Liberty and Property. The selection process is currently democratic in nature; ergo, you have to vote. And until there is some other way to select government for our own defense (a government in line with the founders intentions) voting is an act of self-defense; which can involve violence when it is required.

To object to violence done by one’s own hand in self-defense is to render oneself the slave anyone who is willing to do violence to get his way. If this is what you are objecting to, then I gladly distance myself from your opinion.

The Vote

Took the time to go out and vote today, just like I always do. I generally ignore the comments from some of my Anarcho-Capitalists friends, the types of comments that amount to “Voting is two wolves and a sheep deciding on what’s for dinner.” Not that I disagree with the sentiment concerning voting. It’s just that I’m a realist (unlike most of them) and I play the hand that has been dealt to me. Part of playing that hand is participation in the process. If you don’t participate, you really don’t have any room to bitch about the outcome.

Case in point, these Anarcho-Capitalists who don’t vote, who go to great pains to not vote, who spend a lot of energy convincing others of the futility of voting; these self same Anarcho-Capitalists will proceed to laugh at the sorry returns for Libertarian candidates (or mainstream candidates and issues that they might be in agreement with) and say, “see how pointless it all is”. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

I’m sorry, but that minuscule return is there to ridicule because people like me haul our sorry butts out on election day and cast ballots for the candidates and issues that conscience dictates we support. If we relied on your holier-than-thou selves, there wouldn’t be any candidates, or any numbers to ridicule, at all. The truism “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing” can’t be shown any clearer.

Not that I want to force them to vote. I just wish they’d think before spouting off about how pointless it all is. It’s real easy to sit on your hands and moan about how helpless you are; it’s another thing to expend your best effort in defiance of the naysayers, committing yourself to an effort that you essentially know is hopeless, but you would kick yourself if you didn’t at least try.

My hat goes off to all the Libertarian Party (and other third party) candidates and their staff tonight, for putting themselves through hell, and then some, for nothing more than the simple need to see something better than “politics as usual” on the ballot. For supporting people that they believed in, no matter what the odds were.

And the odds were pretty insurmountable. I can say, in Texas, that we didn’t win any major victories, although it looks like we may have squeaked out the percentage needed to stay on the ballot for another 4 years. (Texas election Returns) That, in itself, is quite a victory. Getting back on the ballot is an expensive process that should be avoided if possible.

Someone noted, during the last election, that the Libertarian candidates in most races had vote totals larger than the number of votes separating the winner and the looser of that race; the observation still seems to be true. More than that can be said, though. The Republicans lost the house and Senate because they betrayed the small government conservatives who make up a good portion of the libertarians out there. And many of the small gov’t social liberals consciously shifted their votes to Democrat (there was a lot of talk about this on CATO unbound and CATO podcast recently, as well as on Daily Kos) as the founding of Democratic Freedom Caucus (the Democrat version of the Republican Liberty Caucus) should have signaled to anyone who was paying attention.

[For more on this, check out the Op. Ed. Examining the Libertarian Vote in Depth by David Boaz and David Kirby]

So there were a few beacons of hope out there, if you were looking.

However, property owners in Austin (the sheep in the scenario above) once again were shafted on all 7 propositions put before voters this year; all of which passed, and all of which will raise property taxes.

Those of us who were cheering for a return to divided gov’t have reason to celebrate. The two parties will at least have to pretend to hate each others ideas for the next two years. It should slow down the juggernaut that the federal deficit has become. I doubt that anything is going to save the economy, though. And if the economy goes South, there’s only one possible outcome…

Hillary in 2008. Now that’s a nightmare.

But, that nightmare is two years away. Now is the time to get back to building the Libertarian party, fixing the defaced platform, and the hundred other thankless tasks that need to be done behind the scenes; just so that our erstwhile brothers in the libertarian movement can cast aspersions on our (in their very vocal opinion) hopeless efforts.

Here’s to making them eat their words next time around.


Editor’s note, 2017. I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects. The wife of the blowjob president was the nominee for the Democratic party and I voted for her. Donald Trump holds the office of president. I refer to him as His Electoral Highness, The Orange Hate-Monkey. It is a weird world we live in. I still have libertarian delusions but I have medications that keep those in check.

I have become a supporter of mandatory voting and mandatory service.  I blame the people who delude themselves into thinking they are sovereign and don’t need other people to survive. Sociopathy appears to be running rampant on the internet. 

Mandatory Voting

Given a choice, I go to the polls. Not because there is a social contract, and not because “voting fixes everything”; but because it should be in my best interest to participate in the political process.

Like everything else in the world these days, there are some people who seem to think that we shouldn’t be given that choice. Stumbled across a three year old article from Nixon associate John Dean concerning the appalling voter turnout at recent elections. The obvious solution to a Nixonite is (Nixon being known for his fondness of price controls and other top down gov’t interference) mandatory voting. Well, we are talking about John Dean, and it was three years ago. What about today?

Doing a bit of sniffing around, I turned up another more recent article from Norman J. Ornstein. He’s concerned about the polarization in congress. In his opinion, the cause of this is low voter turnout. His solution? Mandatory voting.

Personally, I think that congress isn’t polarized enough. They still seem to pass way too many laws in any given term; laws that, in most cases, are probably beyond the authority of the US Congress. In any case, I very seriously doubt that mandatory voting will affect the makeup of congress. Opinion polling being what it is, it seems to me that even if you forced everyone to vote, blue states would remain blue, and red states would remain red. Could be wrong, but let’s not go there anyway.

Ornstein bemoans the defeat of ‘centrist’ Joe Lieberman in the most recent primaries in Massachusetts by Ned Lamont, a darling of the left, with an anemic primary turnout of 46%. Shocking, isn’t it? That the Democrat party would nominate a left/liberal candidate rather than a centrist? Here’s a thought; why is the public expected to fund and participate in party primaries at all? Where is it written that there are only two parties, and participation in their nomination process should be mandatory for the public?

I think it’s great that the Democrats should nominate candidates that agree with their platform. That was my major complaint against John Kerry; he wasn’t a Democrat. If having to choose between the lessor of two evils is distasteful to Mr. Ornstein, perhaps the solution is to open up the political process, not attempt to control it more with mandatory voting.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this suggestion. It seems to roll out with nearly every election cycle; pundits bemoaning the lack of interest in the general population for the political process. As usual, most of the pundits simply have it backwards. People aren’t interested because there aren’t any real choices to be made. The average citizen knows that no matter what the candidates say in order to get elected, their votes in congress are bought and sold by the backers who get them there.

Why bother voting, when the real decisions are made by others? My answer is to vote in protest. Cast a ballot for any candidate that isn’t an incumbent. Vote no on all bond proposals. Let them know we aren’t happy with the way things are going. Vote third party (Go LP!) if it’s available to you.

But now, turn it around. Voting is mandatory. What’s a self-respecting protest voter to do in that instance? Don’t vote. Imagine the headache that would cause. They’d have to hire every other citizen as a cop just to have enough people to enforce the law. Or, if you wish to avoid a costly legal penalty, cast a blank ballot. Nobody wins the election, does that mean the gov’t has to close up shop? What a nice dream that is.

It’s mandatory to vote in Australia, and many other places. In Australia, they have actually attempted to enforce the law, which has given rise to the “donkey vote”; pinning the tail on the donkey, pulling the lever for whoever because you are required to. The gov’t estimates that this is a rather low percentage of the population (1 or 2 percent) but I’d be willing to bet that half the people who show up to vote simply pull the lever next to the name they recognize. Voila, instant incumbent re-election, at very low cost.

Which is, I think, the real reason that mandatory voting is even discussed. To artificially prop up the legitimacy of the sitting gov’t, and to insure that it continues to sit for as long as it wishes. After all, if they aren’t seen as legitimate, what’s to stop them from going the way of the USSR?

…And if the population is really that apathetic, who’s to say they shouldn’t?


Editor’s note, 2018. This is another one of those subjects that look different when thinking clearly; when your thinking isn’t muddied with the duplicity of trying to arrange a society without force when there is force being applied around us all the time by the very constraints of physical existence as a living creature.

Try not eating, not breathing, not sleeping if you think you aren’t forced to engage in these behaviors. Let me know how that works out.

Voting should be mandatory with a minimal fine for failing to vote. The funds can go into a coffer that is dedicated towards elections and campaigning. We need to stop this delusion that you can abstain from society while living in it. If you want to live like Robinson Caruso, I suggest you find an an island and get to it. The rest of us like the benefits of society. Things like computers, automobiles and smartphones. Things that take a society to build.

Primaries should be partiless. All candidates running for an office go on a single ballot, and the top two vote getters then go on to the general election regardless of party. Faction is the problem here and removing the factions from the process is the cure.

I’m compiling notes for the Politics 101 that I’ve been threatening to write for quite some time now. It’s starting to take shape, finally.

Voting vs. Abstaining

I keep running across well intentioned individuals who seem to think they are achieving something by abstaining from the political process. Other Peoples Politics and Madness of Voting are two of the more recent examples of articles that I’ve read; however, there is a long standing tradition of not voting amongst anarchist and hard-core libertarian types that dates back to the days of Lysander Spooner. Just wander by the Voluntaryist some time, and have a look at the amount of work that’s been put into justifying non-participation in the current political process.

I got a kick out of the Voluntaryist statement of purpose; “Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society” Politics is the process by which groups make decisions. That is the definition for the word politics. Apparently they advocate a society that makes no decisions, which is an oxymoron. A society that makes no decisions is not a society.

This approach amounts to nothing more than sour grapes; I’m not playing until the rules are the way I want them to be. In the world the way I think it should be, a simple majority would be a meaningless political concept. Rights would stand inviolable by ignorant voters, who simply believe what the school board tells them and raises taxes for everyone because “The schools need more money”. In a properly set up government, every citizen would be pre-qualified to hold office. At election time, a name is drawn for each office that needs a new occupant, and the person attached to that name gets that job for the duration. None of these popularity contests, no owing favors to your backers once you gain office. The only thing binding you is your oath to uphold the constitution.

Unfortunately that isn’t the world we currently live in. The process outlined above is another form of democracy known as sortition; a process we should have adopted from the Greeks (rather than going with the beauty pageant, the essence of election) but did not.

I’m no devotee of elections (as the above should show) but the game stands as it was set by the people who preceded us here. Either you play the game before you, or you don’t play at all. You can pick and choose which parts of the game you will take part in; but the game will be played the same way it always has been.

When the major parties pay lip service to getting out the vote, while all their ads are clearly slanted towards convincing their opponents core constituency to stay away from the polls, it seems foolish in the extreme for the average libertarian to hand them precisely what they are asking for. The protest non-voters are simply lost in the shuffle, 10% (at most) of the roughly 50% to 60% who simply don’t vote in any given election.

However, if that 10% voted Libertarian, someone would notice. And imagine what would happen if the other half of the country showed up and voted LP at the same time? It might actually make some changes around here.


Jim Davidson (of Indomitus, linked above) has other things to say on the subject of voting. Like this bit of amusement that he titled Head Shots over at The Libertarian Enterprise. Other than his confederate sympathizers reference to Lincoln, I think it’s an excellent proposal. Perhaps I should get in a bit more silhouette practice.

Unfortunately a good many of his arguments refer back to the issue he has with Lincoln and the Civil War as his objections to this blog entry also make reference to the behavior of Lincoln in relation to the Constitution and what a proper society looks like.

I’ll leave the discussion of what a proper society is to another blog entry, as well as the subject of the kinds of confederate folly that Jim Davidson engages in, and address the points on voting that this entry is about.

I’ll beg Jim’s leave to reprint the salient points here:

I’m not a libertarian, RAnthony. I have signed the covenant of universal consent, so I am not average. I’m a propertarian and a free marketeer. Which is precisely why I cannot consent to a process that defrauds many and imposes force on all.

Those who choose to vote have given their consent to be governed by whomever has been chosen in the polls. As George Carlin explains, if you vote, you shouldn’t complain. The guys who counted the votes told you who won. You agreed that whoever the guys who counted the votes said was the winner would govern you. Carlin also noted that he doesn’t vote because he doesn’t consent to be governed.

Except for Carlin’s comment, granted on the above. I take the opposite tack from Carlin. Those who govern do so whether you consent to it or not. We had a discussion not so long ago concerning the nature of property (also a subject to be discussed elsewhere) where Jim took me to task for holding positions, and how that behavior was self-defeating. I submit that standing on the idea that you are refusing to consent to be governed, and so do not vote, you are in fact defeating yourself by holding an indefensible position. Those who govern will exert their authority whether you will it or not.

There is nothing that is right about this, it simply is.

I maintain that those who do not vote have no room to bitch about government. They have forfeited that right by refusing to participate in the process (rigged as it is) and should simply accept whatever raw deal is handed to them in consequence. Since Genghis Khan (and every other dictator in history) didn’t even bother with the trouble of a popularity contest before doing as he wished, I’m inclined to accept the (ridiculously) limited avenues of political expression available to me in exchange for my intention to rant on incessantly about every little thing that pisses me off in the current state of affairs.

The majority of people who don’t vote (and yes I know, the true majority voices no opinion at each and every election. It’s one of the things I find amusing when pundits talk about how “the majority has spoken”. Clearly they don’t get it) don’t bother to get active in the political process, and take no interest in politics, are the ones who enable the charade that we call government in the US to continue.

While the above description probably doesn’t apply to Jim and other activists that I correspond with, it definitely does apply to 90% or more of the non-voting public; the apathetic non-voter. Will voting change anything? I sincerely doubt it. But it beats sitting around doing nothing while the the current government destroys what little is left of the country.

“Righteous indignation”

I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile. I dragged myself out to vote November Eighth. I do this every time an election rolls around, not because I think my vote will be counted properly (another rant in the making) and not because I think it will change anything (most of the issues go the other direction by hefty majorities. I blame it on education) I do it because it gives me a license to bitch when the will of the majority goes awry. As it has in the past. As it will this time around too.

With the passage of Prop. 2 here in Texas, the majority has officially endorsed the end of “equality before the law”. What do I mean by that? Quite simply, they have stated that certain individuals have more rights than others, according to law. That if you cohabitate with ‘A’ member of the opposite sex, you can declare what you have a ‘marriage’, and claim the privilege that come along with it. Things like tax exemptions, health insurance coverage for ‘family members’, etc. Things not available to people who happen to cohabitate with any number of other people (no matter what sex they are) for whatever reason. Prop. 2 writes into the Texas Constitution that a household formed of one man and one woman has rights that others in the state don’t have, setting up preferential treatment for a specific portion of the population. Some of us (and since I’m one of the special people who happens to cohabitate with a woman, I’m one of ‘us’. Go figure) have more rights than others, and it’s written right into the ‘law of the land’. Equal before the law? Not any more.

How dare they put their faith above everything else? “Marriage is Sacred” they say. Then why can it be performed by a judge? It’s just another contractual arrangement now, no matter what it was in ancient times. If they wanted to retain the ‘sacred’ rites of marriage, then they should never have allowed the government to take part in the rites at all. It should only be performed in a church.

Back at the dawn of the internet, I used to spend time arguing on various forums on CompuServe (back when I was simply known as 71613,115@compuserve.com, before AOL bought the company and gutted it of its hardware) on the Gay and Lesbian forum I had several arguments with well intentioned people who were convinced that they needed special laws to protect them. I only ceased arguing with them when they provided proof that they were still persecuted in modern day America. I ceased to argue with them, but my views have not changed. There should not be ‘special’ laws for any group in America. Not for Gays, not for Women, not for Minorities; and most definitely not for ‘Marriage’.

I was, and still am outraged at this; especially in light of the ‘straight’ majority in Texas having now added one more misbegotten and meaningless amendment to the Texas constitution (a document that with each passing election shouts it’s need for complete replacement; just try reading it sometime) that will most likely backfire as have most of the ones before it. And I really hope it does. Just waiting for that case that opens the can of worms. “What do you mean, no marriages are ‘legal’ in the state of Texas? How could that be?”