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Introduction to the Non-Voting Series (November 2015)

by Carl Watner

It has already started, though it seems like it never stops. We are continually bombarded with political propaganda, which urges us to support our government by deciding which of several candidates we want to elect to office. We are never asked whether that office should even be filled, much less if we even want a government to rule over us.

Voluntaryists reject the assumptions behind such activity, and endorse the following Statement:
Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.
During this era of electoral banality, we will begin sending to your inbox a series of articles about those who refuse to vote and the legitimacy of their opposition.

The primary purpose of this series is to demonstrate that there are very important moral and political reasons for not voting.

The secondary purpose is to offer an intellectual defense of the nonvoter. Non-voters have always been, and actually still are, the majority in most political elections in this country. Their right to remain unrepresented and unsullied by politics ought to be recognized. The fact is that the nonvoters have won every presidential election ever held in this country.

Political voting is something sui generis (something peculiar; something unique) because the institution to which it applies-the state-is different from any other organization in society. Membership (i.e., citizenship) in the state "organization" is compulsory. The state establishes a monopoly of defense services (police, courts, and law) in a given geographic area. Furthermore, it collects its revenues via compulsory levies, euphemistically known as taxation. All those who refuse to acknowledge its jurisdiction or pay its assessments are thrown in jail, have their property confiscated, or both. There is no way to opt out!

Most modern states provide for political elections in which their citizens choose from a slate of predetermined candidates or policies. Majority rule usually determines the outcome. Regardless of the number of people voting, the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins. Even if you don't vote, you are bound by the outcome of the political election. It is still your president, your representative, your tax-even if you haven't voted or voted against the person who won the election.

The main thrust of this series may be summarized in the following points:
  1. Voting does not override individual rights or establish the truth. Majorities cannot vote away the rights of minorities.
  2. Voting is implicitly a coercive act because it lends support to a compulsory state.
  3. Voting reinforces the legitimacy of the state because the participation of voters makes it appear that they approve of the state.
  4. There are nonpolitical methods that rely on the spirit of voluntaryism that better serve society.
"Well," one might ask, "if the non-voters are right in not voting, what should we do? Isn't non-voting really a do-nothing tactic?" It might be, except that there are plenty of things we can do if we focus upon ourselves, rather than society as a whole. We are only responsible for ourselves (and our children until they become adults). We can never reform another person. In fact, the only thing within the power of any non-voter "is to present society with one improved unit." As Albert Jay Nock put it, "[A]ges of experience testify that the only way society can be improved is by the individualist method...; that is the method of each `one' doing his very best" to cultivate his own garden. This is the quiet or patient way of changing society because it concentrates upon bettering the character of men and women as individuals. As the individual units change, the improvement in society will take care of itself. In other words, if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.
Next: The Superiority of Moral Power Over Political Power by Adin Ballou