Should libertarians involve themselves in the political process?
One of the major arguments within the libertarian/anarchist community is whether or not we should take part in the political process. Those that argue in the affirmative cite the educational influence of Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns and the successes of the Free State Project, an ongoing project specifically aimed at getting libertarian leaning people to move to New Hampshire to take over the political system. Those that argue in the negative cite the failures of the Libertarian Party to rein in government power and the corrupting nature of political power. I am pretty firmly in the negative camp, although I can appreciate voting to sometimes be effective. (I’ll explain, below.) There are two different ways in which a citizen can take part in the political process. The first, and most time and resource consuming, is to run for office. The second is to vote. I’ll comment on both. (This essay is written in a stream of consciousness style, so please forgive my mistakes and non sequiturs.)
Should We Hold Office?
There are several reasons that libertarians should not seek or hold political office. (I’ve briefly written about it here.) The first is that it is a huge waste of time and requires lots of physical and labor resources to get elected. (This is also why you should not send money to political candidates.) There is a certain amount of wealth generated by human productivity every year, it is not infinite. That wealth is generated in markets where the participants are allowed to freely trade and negotiate with each other. (It is a sliding scale; there is no totally free market, nor a totally restricted one.) Scientific advances, hard work, honest business savvy, and artistic merit are the ingredients that enrich our lives. Politics isn’t any of these, and doesn’t create wealth. At best, it merely shifts and shuffles it. At worst, it consumes and destroys it. Political campaigns cost money, and the higher the office, the more money is needed. Advertising, staffing, and merchandise are all required. All these things cost money and use physical resources, which, again, are finite. Political staffing takes workers out of the productive sector and into the parasitic sector. Isn’t time and money better spent creating a business or patronizing the arts?
The second reason, and maybe the most important one, is that libertarians are human beings and can be corrupted just like anyone else. In my old sales job, I mainly dealt with government employees. My business sold products to state and local transportation departments, so I had no choice. I traveled all over the USA, and regardless of where I was, I encountered two basic types of government employees. The first were the idealists. The left-leaning idealists believed they were fighting corporations on behalf of the people, and the right-leaning idealists thought they could do some good to cut waste and save taxpayer money. Neither lasted too long, because they either became so disgusted with the corruption that they quit, or they turned into the second type: the jaded, lazy corrupt type. People that have never worked in government or with government often have a idealized and unrealistic idea of how it works. That fantasy is shattered very quickly when someone is exposed to it without the shroud of propaganda. (The difference between Democrats and Republicans is largely irrelevant, too.)
I don’t believe a libertarian holding office is any different. A quick internet search for “libertarian corruption” will prove me right. I have argued before that political office is inherently corrupt, as it is funded by stolen money and its purpose is to maintain a power monopoly over a given region or service. Whether the person who holds that office is a Democrat, Republican, libertarian, socialist, or progressive is almost immaterial.
The third reason libertarians should stay out of office is because the system is collapsing. (I originally wrote “failing,” but I do not believe it is failing. I think it’s doing exactly what all governments are designed to do: enrich the politically connected at the expense of everyone else. “Collapsing” is a much better description because the problems of central banking, coercive monopolies, and violent aggression against your own people are multiplying despite the power brokers’ efforts to keep it going smoothly. Economic and physical reality eventually catch up.) Why would you want to be involved in a collapsing system? The progressive/neoconservative media and the government officials already blame economic problems on the free market, despite the fact that we don’t have one. (The financial and banking industries are the most heavily regulated in the nation. Yet, in the collapse of 2008, we were told the problem was a lack of regulation. Our money is fiat currency issued by a central bank. The Fed is not a free-market institution, and paper money would never be the currency of choice in a completely free market due to its susceptibility to be counterfeit. Who is talking about this besides libertarians?) No, we should stay out of political office so that we are not blamed for the collapse when it inevitably happens. I believe it’s better to wash our hands of the corrupt system, and instead point out its inefficiencies, favoritism, theft and murder from the outside. We can maintain our innocence that way, instead of becoming a part of the beast and sharing in the guilt.
The last reason I’d argue that libertarians should stay out of office is because it’s ineffective. Since the founding of the Libertarian Party in 1971, has government grown or shrank? Has debt been reigned in? Has the police state gotten more liberal or have the fascists in charge of it tightened their grips? I think the answers to all of these questions are obvious if you have even a cursory knowledge of current events. I’ve already discussed this point in more detail here, so I won’t do so again. Some would say that libertarians should try to get on the Democratic or Republican ticket to get elected. I think this is dishonest. Also, the national GOP and the DNC will never allow a person who does not toe the party line to hold a high office. Look at how the GOP treated Ron Paul and his supporters in 2012.
Should We Vote?
I also have argued that libertarians/voluntarists should not vote either, as voting indicates to others that you consent to the system and process. However, while I think libertarians should never hold or run for office, I think sometimes it’s okay to vote, in very specific instances. I’ll briefly discuss.
Generally, I think voting is a complete waste of your time, especially as the power of the office increases. Typically, you have two choices: Democrat and Republican. You may have some other parties on the ballot, but unless you live in New Hampshire or Vermont, the Democrat will win if you live in a blue state and the Republican will win if you live in a red state. Our “honorable” elected representatives have also rigged the system to make sure the incumbent wins 98% of the time. (Here’s how they do it.) If it’s a presidential election, your vote is a complete waste of time because of the electoral college. You do not elect the president. I live in California, and California’s electoral votes have gone to the Democratic candidate every election since 1992. Even if you live in a swing state, you’re going to be electing either a Democrat or a Republican. So much for choice. Further, even if you vote for a candidate who wins, there is no guarantee that he will keep the campaign promises. Chances are, he won’t. (Guantanamo Bay? Iraq War? Patriot Act? All are still going under Obama despite his promises to the contrary.)
The one time I’ll argue that it is not a waste of time to vote is in a hyper-local election for a specific issue. As I mentioned, voting for a person does not guarantee that person’s behavior. He can change his mind or be pressured by special interests or rent-seekers. Voting on a local issue is time sensitive and specific, and since it’s local there aren’t so many other voices that yours is immediately drowned out. Usually, these issue votes are about things like property taxes or environmental issues. I think voting, although not ideal, can sometimes be used to influence local policies, assuming some conglomerate doesn’t swoop in and bribe city/county officials, which they probably will.
Another reason not to vote is because of voter fraud. Joseph Stalin, former Communist dictator, said it best, “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” In other words, the people will think their will is being done because an election happened. This is not the case. How do you know the reported vote count was accurate? You don’t. How do you know your vote was even counted? Remember the 2000 election, in which the vote counters were discarding votes due to incomplete punches and hanging chads? What if that was your vote?
Embedded is a video of former Congressman John Murtha (he’s dead), consistently voted one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Just watch, I think it speaks for itself. Not even your representative’s votes matter, much less yours. Don’t waste your time.
Third, voting is ineffective. What if the issue up for the vote does not conform to reality or the resources available? I’m sorry, but reality wins. The story of King Canute and the Sea comes to mind.
Fourth, who decided that democracy is such a great idea anyway? Why should my well-being be at the mercy of the mob? Why should other people, who are susceptible to mistakes and propaganda, have a say over my life, enforced by the guns of the state? Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe published a book in 2001 titled Democracy: The God that Failed. It is a collection of essays about the failures and fallacies of democracy as a system of government, and he goes into much greater detail than I have in this humble blog post. Check it out by clicking the Amazon link that I have included.
UPDATE: G. Joseph McLiney of The Kansas City Star apparently agrees with me on voting.
A Disclaimer About My Politics
Thanks for reading this post, I hope I challenged you in some way. Agree with me? That’s cool. Disagree? Even better. I’m just a random guy on the internet, voicing his opinion (at the time of writing this blog post – check the date; opinions change as more facts and experience are gathered). But imagine if I had the political power and will to force you to agree with me! That would be terrible, and that’s the point of voluntarism and non-aggression. You should not be forced to agree with me. Please extend me the same courtesy.
“The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.” -Larry Hardiman
Political Blog Posts
- The Democrats Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Republicans Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Libertarians Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- Democracy ≠ Freedom
- I Don’t “Feel the Bern.”
- Confessions of a Public Servant
- Leaders vs. Rulers
- Libertarianism is Better Than Progressivism
- Why I Do Not Vote (And Neither Should You)
- The Traffic Court Swindle
- Top Five Reasons I Don’t Argue Politics on Social Media
- Why Meaningful Debate is Impossible
- Dos and Do Nots for the Liberty Minded
- “There ought to be a law…”
- A Defense of Fugitive Slaves
- Conspiracy Theories are Dumb
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