“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
– Frederic Bastiat
Imagine for a moment that you live in a democratic society that allows slavery, and someone running for office decides that rather than force 30-40% of the population to be slaves, the ruling class can just make 95% of the population be slaves 35% of the time. Do you vote for him? What about those who want to keep the slave thing as it is, but promise to make sure all slaves get fed, clothed, housed, treated for disease, and trained for their labors?
People often refer to situations like this as a choice between the lesser of two evils. Either way, you will support slavery by voting. What is the right thing to do? You could vote for yourself, but then you’d only be saying that you would make a great slave master. You could “plug your nose” and vote for one of the two slavery candidates, thinking that there are other issues they differ on that are important to you.
Or you could refuse to participate in such an awful thing.
Here’s another one for you: you are born and grow up in a place where organized crime runs most everything. The mob bosses don’t really get their hands dirty, of course. They have armed goons for that. They simply dress well, give orders, and make a show of their “generosity” by spending some of their ill-gotten gains on things they know people need or want (like daycare and neighborhood barbecue parties). They don’t really get violent with you unless you refuse to give them money to “protect” you from those who would seek to do you harm. Your neighbor admits that sometimes the mob violence gets out of hand, but says that he is happy to support the mob because he knows that some of them are good people and they offer protection from people who would rob you or hurt you. He admits it’s not a perfect system, but most of the problems can be fixed by supporting the local mob bosses making decisions instead of the real kingpins in capital city.
If you change a few of the nouns in either scenario above, you’ll realize that you are in both of those situations right now.
From the first example: you live in a place where a ruling class (government) claims ownership of the citizenry and their labors. Most often, this takes the form of a seemingly permissive free-range kind of slavery, where slaves are allowed some privileges (which makes them happier and more productive because they believe they are free) as long as they stay within certain borders and pay their tribute (taxes) to the ruling class. If they don’t pay, they are robbed (wage garnishment, appropriation, repossession), kidnapped (arrested), and thrown in a cage (jail/prison). If they resist, they can legally be subjected to beating, attack by vicious dogs, chemical assault, or even killed. If the slaves accept their lot, all goes to plan. If they ever got the idea that they should actually be free, the masters would have to kill many of their productive slaves just to stay in control. So, slave indoctrination centers (“public” schools) are provided for all slaves and their children to teach them obedience to authority while preserving their ignorance. Before long, the slaves fear freedom and the chaos they are told would result if they ever had to live without their masters. They often say things like “who would give me tools to do my work?” and “without the master’s schools, how would our children learn anything?”
From the second example: you live in a place where the most successful criminals are called government, and you live on what they consider to be their turf. The politicians at the top always dress nice and often say the kinds of things people want to hear, but when they need to use violence to take what they want or enforce their will, they simply send their thugs (police and military) to do their bidding. They only have money to spend because they use fear and violence to take it from others, and have actually managed to use their track record of extortion to rack up debt against their ability to extort more from you and your children in the future. They throw a party every year on the day they came into power and use your money for the celebration. They even pervert ideals like family values to imply that they are rightful godfathers. Nobody’s perfect, they say, but who would keep the bad guys away if they weren’t there? You should at least be supportive of your local government, right?
By now, you may be shaking your head and repeating to yourself all of the things you have been trained to think. “I live in a free country”, “without government, who would _____?” , etc. But if you can manage to put your manufactured consent aside for a moment, you can see the truth.
Voting and Statism in Pictures
Voting is a religious ceremony. It is the great prayer of statism, a petition to the God of coercion that he intervene violently in your behalf and force others to obey your master.
Voting is violence. A vote for government is a vote for slavery. You don’t need permission to be free.
Elections are simply a false choice. Your vote does not matter. If you see significant differences between popular political choices, then you are not seeing reality.
People where you live aren’t encouraged to use their God as an excuse to promote coercion, are they?
Quick – spot the difference! Who needs critical thinking when enthusiasm for authority is so popular? How many of your personal decisions are these people likely to encourage authorities to make on your behalf? My guess: most anything they are told, especially if they are bribed with the money authority steals from you.
“What’s so wrong with Egyptian patriotism? Can’t we follow God and mammon? We want to go back to Egypt! We would rather be forced to participate in government programs in Egypt than be free and think for ourselves. Encouraging political authority isn’t anything like idolatry, is it?”
Satan’s temptation of Jesus included the offer to use the governments of the world to control people (Matthew 4:8-10). Judas seemed to think that by forcing His hand, Jesus would change the system from the inside and make everything right through the power of coercive government rule from the throne of David. Whose agenda is government, anyway?
I can’t delegate rights I don’t have, and government “representatives” don’t represent voters; they represent authority over them.
Don’t you want to participate in the system that is available to you?
Actually, I Vote Every Day
OK, I admit it. I do vote. It’s impossible not to, since every choice is effectively a vote. We all vote with our money and our feet all the time.
Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.
When you buy something, you’re signalling that you think it’s valuable and that you want to live in a world where it is available. That encourages others to be productive and offer it to you in exchange for something they find valuable. When someone is a jerk, we can use our feet to vote against spending time with them. If they want our company, they will change their behavior; if not, then we can seek separate company.
I’ve heard some people say that they wouldn’t mind paying taxes if they could decide how the taxes were spent. That’s actually an argument against taxes and in favor of a free market where you decide the destination of every single dollar you own. Agorism is a peaceful way of making the world a better place. Even if all you can do right now is show some self-sufficiency by growing your own small garden, it feeds you without feeding the state.
Rather than vote in a popularity contest for lying sociopaths who claim to have good intentions for truckloads of stolen money and illegitimate authority, I insist that they stop robbing and assuming control over peaceful people. Should people be arguing about the best ways to forcefully take advantage of each other?
I’m not a defeatist, I’m a praxeologist. There’s a difference between total societal withdrawal and not voting in government elections. I vote with my ideas, my time, my money, and my feet, and I encourage you to think and do the same. Good ideas can be realized without aggression. Persuasion and exchange are the best tools we have to build a better world. By voting, you are making choices for other people against their will and sending goons with guns against them to enforce those decisions.
I don’t want the mob boss’s job, and I don’t want to vote for a different mob boss. I want the mob gone, but I don’t plan on taking it over and changing it from the inside or taking it upon myself to get violent and kill those who oppose me on sight. I plan on abandoning it and letting it collapse under its own weight while participating in the building of a better society. I plan to make voting as we know it obsolete, and I hope you’ll join me. Vote for yourself against the state in the only election that really matters.