I rarely write articles about ongoing discussions in the comment sections of Samizdata.net, but I think this is an appropriate continuation of the discourse.
Whilst I find being referred to as ‘dear leader’ a bit disconcerting, Frank McGahon does ask the questions which have vexed me for quite a long time. I refer to myself as a ‘social individualist’, as does Gabriel Syme. I also have no problem with ‘minarchist’. Others tend to call me a ‘libertarian’. Whatever… the general thrust of what I think is no secret to any regular reader of this blog. I see the state as at best a necessary evil and generally just an evil; I see constrained democracy as a tool to secure liberty, not an end in and of itself; I am all for free markets and ‘Austrian’ economics; I regard several property as the key underpinning of any civilization worth having; I see individual liberty as first amongst many virtues. Label all that as you wish.
So how does a person with such views, i.e. someone who is profoundly at odds with the system of regulatory democratic governance that prevails in the First World, and who regards so much of underpins everyday life in a legal sense as essentially illegitimate, act to advance his or her objectives? Or more particularly, how does one take action without legitimising what they regard as nothing less than threat-backed theft? How does one act without either fatally compromising one’s beliefs or alternatively retreating into intellectually pure ineffectiveness?
This is a question I keep kicking around… over and over again. The problem with voting Tory (or in many states in the USA, voting Republican) is that it rewards both outright lying when they describe themselves as ‘the party of free trade’ and does little more than slow the rot of regulatory statism rather than reverse it. If they know you will just hold your nose and vote for them regardless just to keep Labour out (or the Democrats out), what possible motivation do they have to actually pander to your views in any meaningful way? I am inclined to see things more Julian Morrison’s way, at least somewhat: go for control of the zeitgeist and wait for the politics to follow. In this at least the internet in particular is a very ‘liberty friendly’ medium. Sure, pro-totalitarians like Stormfront and Indymedia can be found on the net, but for every one of them are a vastly greater number of genuine pro-liberty sites. We are actually voices in the on-line mainstream. That is by no means the same thing as ‘the mainstream’ within the broader context but it is a brave man who is willing to bet that 10 years from now that the net is not going to be the medium. Our early and heavy colonisation of the virtual world may give us a prominence that may well surprise people looking at how things are today. The culture war is by no means over plus we have the advantage of economic reality on our side. Only time will tell if that proves to be the case but that is certainly what I think.
And yet… we do not just live for the long term. In the here-and-now we have to continue to live and act with things as they are. So the question is ‘does one participate in The System’ or does one find other ways to resist right now?
The way I see it, generally voting for the lesser evil just encourages the lesser evil to remain evil. After all, if the Tory party (or Republican party in the USA), which is often The Party of Lesser Evil (but by no means always so), has little motivation to adopt more radical policies of cutting core functions of the state rather than just moderating the rate of real growth, if they know full well that true free market, pro-liberty voters will just hold their nose and vote for them because the other guys are ever worse. In such situations a vote for none-of-the-above or even an electorally hopeless third party (such as the Libertarian Party in the USA) is the only vote to case.
So if one is not going to vote, what then? In my case, I set up Samizdata.net provide a pace where the Samizdatistas try to suggest that there is another way to look at the world which you will rarely see mentioned in the New York Times or the Guardian or the Daily Telegraph. About 7000 people per day read this blog, some who agree with what is written and some who do not… which in the over all scheme of things may not be much, but I like to think it is not a waste of effort and certainly the intermittent donations via PayPal we receive and the e-mails we get and suggest enough other people agree with that notion. To be honest I would probably do this even if we only have 7 people per day reading us but it is nice to know there are rather more than that.
All that said, although many of the things I have written in the past seem to suggest otherwise, I would never rule out voting under any conditions. If I end up in New Hampshire with the Free State Project, I will almost certainly be voting, at least locally. Likewise I would vote if it seemed to make sense because a genuine reformer was on offer by a major party (as if) or if the alternatives were between slow rot and utter evil.
Yet the reality is that whilst some of the trends are very alarming indeed, we do not live in a police state in Britain or in the United States or anywhere in the EU, so that is not the choice we (currently) have to make. This is also why, when looking for alternative ways to resist the system of democratic regulatory statism, it is preposterous to think in terms of violence: it may (or may not) be too late to play within the system, but it is certainly not time to start chucking Molotov cocktails or sticking bombs under some people’s cars. If you live in a place like Belarus, Burma, North Korea, Tibet, China, Iran or Syria, it is well past time to say ‘sic semper tyranis’ and meet violence with violence, but the idea that things are so bad that this approach is the way ahead right now anywhere in the First World is a notion best left to purveyors of tinfoil millinery.
The questions of ‘what to do?’ and ‘do I vote?’ are difficult ones, but they are not going to go away anytime soon either.