How To Vote For Liberty
by Joe Sobran
October 26, 2004
It's going down to the wire, I'm trailing in the
polls, and if you listen to conventional wisdom, it's
time for me to go all-out to mobilize my base in my
write-in campaign for the presidency of the United
States. Instead, I'm adopting a new strategy that can't
I am withdrawing from the race.
I thank my followers for their backing and
encouragement, and I'm not going to try to throw their
support to another candidate. I'm asking them not to vote
at all. I want to immobilize my base.
I don't want to be the most powerful man on earth.
There is no such thing as being "worthy" of the office,
an office that now includes the power to murder countless
people. The American political system is far beyond
Abstaining from voting is an honorable way of
refusing to participate in the organized coercion that is
government. The 2004 election is said to be about
"turnout." Exactly. In the few days that remain, I will
try to depress turnout.
I will consider every vote that isn't cast as a vote
of support for me -- or rather, for the liberty I want
for all of us. Voting for the establishment candidates is
notoriously a choice of evils. Refusing to vote is a
positive statement that you choose not to endorse any
Voting is worse than futile; it's immoral. A single
vote can't make any difference, except, rarely, in a
local election; it's like a grain of sand in the Sahara.
But elections serve to strengthen, by seeming to
legitimize, a bad system. They make people feel
emotionally committed to that system, with all its
aggression against justice and individual rights.
Winners of presidential elections like to claim a
"mandate" when they defeat their opponents decisively --
that is, with 55 per cent or so of the votes cast. But
when half the eligible voters abstain, it suggests a
quiet but decisive mandate against the whole political
system. Some may be contented, feeling that they can bear
any outcome. But many are simply cynical about all
politicians and government itself. They don't want any
part of it. Seeing the people who rise to the top, they
have no hope it can be reformed.
Nonvoters are often described as lazy, apathetic,
lacking in civic spirit. Voting is touted among us as a
moral imperative. If you don't vote, we are told, you
have no right to complain. Voting, in fact, is the way we
are =encouraged= to complain!
It's hard to know where to start refuting such
imbecility. The act of making an "X" in a box, or its
high-tech equivalent, is close to worthless as a means of
either self-expression or imparting information. When
masses of votes can be won by wearing silly hats and
repeating silly slogans, it's pretty hard to maintain the
belief that election results reflect an aggregate wisdom
in the electorate. I marvel that faith in democracy has
survived the advent of C-SPAN.
Just for example, if voters could be disqualified
for not knowing the difference between Saddam Hussein and
Osama bin Laden, John Kerry would defeat George W. Bush
in a landslide. This doesn't prove that Kerry is the
better candidate, but it does show that sheer ignorance
can be a decisive factor in democracy.
A libertarian writer named Carl Watner offers six
reasons why libertarians shouldn't vote. Five are
pragmatic -- one vote doesn't matter, libertarians can't
hope to win, there is no way elections can produce good
results, et cetera -- but a chief one is moral: Voting
means involving yourself in the system of coercion and
aggression. When you vote, you give that system your
blessing. History and reason alike seem to back Watner
So next week I'll feel I've achieved, or at least
taken part in, a moral victory if my people, the
nonvoters, outnumber the voters. But we can't leave it at
that. We have to stop acting as if abstaining were a
furtive dereliction of duty and start proclaiming it as a
point of pride and honor -- a kind of boycott of the
government's chief idolatrous ritual.
It can force us to pay taxes, to support its wars,
to observe its myriad petty rules, but it can't (yet)
force us to vote. We don't (yet) have to pretend that
it's our benefactor or that our rulers are our servants.
There are some truths we're still free to speak. We can
speak one of them very clearly by refusing to vote in
Thank you for not voting.
See also, The Reluctant Anarchist by Joe Sobran.
Joe Sobran is an author, syndicated columnist, and editor
of a monthly newsletter, SOBRAN'S. See
www.sobran.com for a
free sample or call 800-513-5053.
This article is reprinted with permission. Read the article online at
Copyright © 2004 by The Vere Company,
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