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The necessity of voting

It is not at all uncommon for libertarians to boast about not voting in political elections. The rationale behind not voting varies, from “it is pointless, my single vote cannot affect the outcome,” through “I don’t like any of the candidates on offer, so why should I vote for any of them,” to “voting only ratifies the cult of the state.” (I abbreviate for brevity’s sake, but not unfairly, I hope).

I disagree with those who do not vote, not because any of these arguments are wrong (indeed, they are each correct in their own relatively narrow sphere), but because elections and some degree of ‘democratic’ accountability are an essential part of any society that hopes to retain a sphere of personal liberty beyond the reach of the state. I say this based on a broad reading of current events – those nations that are the worst offenders against liberty lack democratic accountability, and those nations that maintain a sphere of liberty, however beleaguered, have some degree of democratic accountability.

Voting and democracy are, in a nutshell, a necessary but not sufficient condition of liberty. Those opposed to voting focus on the ‘not sufficient’ part of this formulation, and say that therefore it is worthless, or at least not worth doing. I freely admit that democracy is not sufficient to maintain liberty, and that a number of other conditions also have to obtain; to conclude, however, that what is not sufficient is also not necessary is to fall into a logical fallacy.

I think the broad correlation of functioning democratic institutions and personal liberty is solid, and the inverse correlation of lack of democracy and tyranny is absolutely undeniable. From this I draw the conclusion that, regardless of the value of your individual vote, the institution of voting is important. This institution is dependent on people actually voting, and so refusing to vote on principle amounts to undermining one of the pillars of personal liberty.

There is nothing to be gained from not voting, as there is no chance whatsoever that voter apathy or nonparticipation will ever spur any reform or change. However, there is something to be lost. Not voting concedes the field to a narrow class of political activists who uniformly want to turn the power of the state to their own ends rather than limit it (as illustrated by primary elections in the US, which have low turnout and all too often result in the nomination of party hacks). Not voting may also, over time, undermine the principle of democratic accountability altogether; is it just coincidence that, as voter participation has declined, state power has expanded at the behest of unelected judges and bureaucrats?

To my libertarian brethren and sistren I say, then, vote. Hold your nose if necessary, “throw your vote away” on the execrable Libertarians if you wish, but vote. Like so much in life, it may not be a panacea, but it sure beats the alternative.

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38 comments to The necessity of voting

  • In my personal view, neither candidate is an adequate leader for this nation. I’m disgusted with both major political parties for fielding such lousy candidates. Since there is no “abstain” option at the ballot box, my only choice is to decline to lend legitimacy to the Republicans and the Democrats, and not vote for either. To do otherwise would be to perpetuate a sham.

  • I see it rather differently, RCD. I am not opposed to democracy per se (i.e. in principle), but rather the way it is currently practiced. If all you do is vote for the lesser evil, you will never have anything other than evil offered to you to vote on.

    Bush is a grotesque statist, Kerry is an even more grotesque statist and the Libertarian Party are advocating a foreign policy that amounts to collective suicide… and so the only thing could could get me to vote in the USA would be, paradoxically, if the LP actually was in serious danger of getting into power. And I would not be voting for the LP!

    In fact more rational Republican pro-liberty oriented people have a better chance of purging the party of its grotesque statists if the mega-government faction, as personified by Dubya, loses to the ghastly Kerry.

    I prefer to take the longer view.

  • Julian Nicholson

    My view on voting is that if a person believes that none of the candidates worthy of their vote, they should still vote but should spoil their vote. This should be seen a the protest it is. This of course would only work with a paper ballot whose time as TCS says has come again.

    My personal opinion is that all ballots should have a box for None of the Above, and if None of the Above should poll the most votes all of the Above should be barred from the election that should follow automatically.

  • Alex Jacques

    I was going to vote in the US elections. However, I could not lend my support to Kerry nor to Bush. (Despite the many voices of support here for Bush, I’m unconvinced as to who is worse.)

    Badnarik (LP candidate) is somewhere around 1%. Consider it a combination of bad campaign tactics, media blackout and general stupidity on the part of the average voter. I’m fairly certain that my support would not go far in any case.

    The two other choices were a blank vote or no vote at all.

    Well that was decided the other day when I realized what a pain in the ass it will be to register to vote from abroad because of some crap to do with my “last state of residence” (I’m a binational). And it also occurred to me that, unlike the peaceniks and anti-American freaks around the world, I think that it should be Americans living in the USA who decide who their next leader will be. So I’m not voting.

  • D. Timmerman

    I plan on voting for Badnarik to voice my disapproval of the two party system. That said, I hope that Bush defeats Kerry on November 2, because he is my #2 pick.

    Unlike MTV’s retarded Rock the Vote campaign, I usually try and discourage people who don’t have a clue as to what they are voting for from voting at all. Democracy doesn’t work well among a flock of sheep.

    “Vote for change” indeed.

  • Unless suitable individual candidates can be found, the most honourable and effective option we can take is not to use our vote at all.

    Political Parties trade on a particular weakness in human nature, which is our inclination to align ourselves with one side or another for no logical reason. We choose one boxer or his opponent; one team or another; we were for or against O. J. Simpson; Yale or Harvard; pro- or anti-abortion and so on. Thinking people should break free of this weakness and question honestly if there are genuine reasons for their preferences/prejudices – call them what you will.

    The current divide between the Republicans and Democrats is paper-thin and neither Party – as currently constructed – will restore America to its former freedoms and sense of well-being. Both will divert resources away from catching murderers, rapists and muggers, into terrorising grannies and small kids at airports. Many foreigners are already avoiding the U.S. because of ill-mannered and aggressive security officials.

    Crimedown.Org(Link)

  • Richard Easbey

    In the interest of being a bomb-thrower and to give everyone something to think about today, it occurred to me that it might be best to actually vote for Kerry this time around. Now, before you all want to strangle me, my reasoning is as follows: we all know that the Dragon Lady (aka, Madame Mao, aka Stalin in bad drag, aka Hillary Clinton) aspires to the highest office in the land (and therefor the job of most powerful person on earth) in 2008. A Kerry win in November really screws this up for her; she’ll virtually have to support Kerry for re-election in 2008, then (traditionally) Edwards will run in 2012–effectively destroying any chance for her to run…EVER. It might be worth the train-wreck presidency of Kerry/Edwards to keep her forever out of the White House…

    Any thoughts? Let the flaming begin! lol

  • Richard,

    No flaming from me. I see that as a perfectly rational strategy.

  • Tatyana

    Well, than, let it be me, Richard, if David finds your strategy reasonable.
    “Aspires to highest office” doesn’t automatically mean “wins election”, as far as my vote is concerned. And I trust, so as millions other voters. She might won a Senator from New York position, but there is still the rest of the country.
    What’s more, in a couple of years, when it’ll became apparent her “senatorship” didn’t improve lifes of average NYkers one tiny bit, her chances will actually go down, not up.
    Overall, your reductionist strategy only gives more importance to this…pimple of a politician. IMHO.

  • Oscar

    In most states there is usually some third party candidate. In the past I have voted for the Socialist Labor Party candidate, the Libertarian Candidate and the Vegan Party candidate (I hadn’t known before seeing the candidate on the ballot that there WAS a Vegan candidate, and I don’t know if this person was a strict vegitarian or from a planet that circle Vega (or possibly some car nut), and I didn’t care, as the protest value is pretty much the same. I have also voted for major party candidates on occaision.

  • Funny, just before have I clicked here I read these words:

    The mob and its maudlin causes attract only sentimentalists and scoundrels, chiefly the latter. Politics, under a democracy, reduces itself to a mere struggle for office by flatters of the proletariat; even when a superior man prevails at that disgusting game he must prevail at the cost of his self-respect. Not many superior men make the attempt. The average great captain of the rabble, when he is not simply a weeper over irremediable wrongs, is a hypocrite so far gone that he is unconscious of his own hypocrisy—a slimy fellow, offensive to the nose.

    Yes, you have probably guessed, HL Mencken wrote that, and I agree with him absolutely.

  • EddieP

    Freshman year in high school, I was nominated to run for a Student Council position. My opponent was from a well to do family, had nice clothes and was destined to do well in life. I wanted that position, but convinced myself that with my modest background and lack of polish, I didn’t stand a chance against him. When the vote came, I cast my vote for him, I lost by one vote! I’ve never again believed that my vote doesn’t count.

  • veryretired

    It is indeed ironic to read these thoughtful comments about voting, or not, and the lack of satisfactory candidates. While I agree that this election is nearly as bad as Nixon/McGovern, it is worthwhile to keep a few things in mind.

    First and foremost, if you don’t vote for anyone for anything, you have effectively opted out of any participation in the oldest and most consistently held democratic process in the world. If it occurs to you that a system that’s only a little more than 200 years of age is awfully young to be the oldest, then you might begin to comprehend the fragile nature of democracy in a world in which tyranny goes back into the dim mists of pre-history.

    Secondly, it is a personal moment of satisfaction to cast one’s vote, put on a little sticker, and realize that you are, in a very real sense, a free man. Some of us have lost a little appreciation of the exhiliaration that should flow through one’s soul at the acknowledgement of that not so simple fact.

    Take a moment to look at some of the photos and commentary concerning the Afghan election. Try to understand that these are people who risked death just to cast a ballot, and what that might say about your rarified delicacy, as you sit in your comfortable abode, in front of your international information device, and complain that it is just too too whatever for you to bother with it all.

    Third, and last for this post, there is an old saying that the world is divided between those who are players, and those who are spectators. I had a friend once who played defensive tackle on the football team in high school and college. It is a very bruising and grueling position, with none of the glamour of the quarterback/running back positions.

    One time, when he was injured, I asked him why he kept at it. He responded that when he was on the field, he could feel the game in every fiber of his being, but when he was in the stands, it was only watching.

    So there you are. For those of you who only like to watch, voyeur away. Some of us still like to get dirty in the trenches, even if there’s a little pain mixed in.

  • jk

    Okay, I’ll flame! I am no fan of Senator Hillary Clinton, but I cannot agree with those who like a Kerry victory to keep her out.

    There is no empirical proof that Senator Kerry would be any better against creeping statism — and it seems the rudderless Kerry ship might be much worse on foriegn policy.

    Their socialized medicine plans are a draw…

  • Pham Nuwen

    Robert, Robert, Robert……

    A Democracy and voting(as a mechanism of said) can only be justified if the participants are free to remove themselves from the process, and resulting consequences.

    As such democracy is a great way to decide on what you want on your pizza, and little else. Alice, Bob, and Chuck can vote for mushrooms, and you knowing that they are going to do this (or just have done it) can opt out, and order KFC for yourself separately.

    The problem with the state though is as always that it doesn’t view the individual as a voluntary participant, and even if you don’t vote, is more than willing to use force against the individual to enforce the consequences of said vote.

    As such modern Democracies are pretty much a joke. We may be *more* free than the other guys, but being democratic nations is at best very incidental to that. Indeed there are plenty examples in history (and at current) of Monarchies which afford their citizens just as much freedom, as democracy does others. No I’d say it is clear that the most free nations are not the result of voting but are the result of severely limiting the power of the state through a strong constitution. The stronger the limitations on government, and more fervently upheld the constitution, the more free the people.

    As you said “voting only ratifies the cult of the state.”. A cult that needs to fail in the most spectacular way, either through revolution (not preferred due to the high cost in life, and property), or through showing it to be illegitimate holder of power. Not voting is one *VERY* powerful way to show that illegitimacy. Once people realize that government is no longer important enough to vote for, then maybe, just maybe they will be ready to either form a voluntary Minarchy, or even move straight to AnarchoCapitalism. Till then *EVERY* vote is nothing more than the tacit approval of the use of force against individuals.

  • In most states, the Presidential election is not the only thing on the ballot, and the other things that are are more likely to directly affect you. For instance, here in California there are a number of propositions on the ballot that cover such things as the prevalence of gambling, the method of choosing candidates in the primaries, and whether the state government can be allowed to continue raiding local tax coffers to cover state shortfalls.

    Every one of those things will directly affect me and my family, and yet most people think of this solely as a Presidential election and may not even show up because of that. Remember, it’s a good idea to find out about everything on the ballot, because THAT’S where your one vote might turn the tide.

  • R C Dean

    Perry:

    In fact more rational Republican pro-liberty oriented people have a better chance of purging the party of its grotesque statists if the mega-government faction, as personified by Dubya, loses to the ghastly Kerry.

    The worse the better, eh, Perry? Be careful what you wish for.

    Why wouldn’t the Republicans, after they lose to Kerry, conclude that the way to win the next election is to be more like him? This result is practically foreordained, as the game in American politics is to get the undecided middle to break your way. If Kerry wins, the thinking will go, its because the undecided middle likes tax increases, big spending, and the UN, so to win the middle we must become pro tax, pro spending, and pro UN.

    Pham:

    A Democracy and voting(as a mechanism of said) can only be justified if the participants are free to remove themselves from the process, and resulting consequences.

    Justified by who? In America, anyone is free to emigrate. Is this what you mean by “being free to remove themselves?” If not, what do you mean?

    We may be *more* free than the other guys, but being democratic nations is at best very incidental to that.

    That is what I meant by “not sufficient,” although I think that the correlations between voting and liberty is stronger than “incidental.”

    Indeed there are plenty examples in history (and at current) of Monarchies which afford their citizens just as much freedom, as democracy does others.

    A system where you are “afforded” freedom at the whim of a monarch has more to do with permission than liberty, and in any event is not, I submit, a system where your liberty has any real safeguards.

    No I’d say it is clear that the most free nations are not the result of voting but are the result of severely limiting the power of the state through a strong constitution.

    Doesn’t sound like a monarchy to me. In any event, do any of these strong constitutions contain a role for the citizen, through voting? Perhaps all of them do?

    Perhaps you could provide us with an example of a constitution that guarantees liberty by restraining a monarch without any democratic accountability or voting.

    I am interested in identifying and strengthening those institutions that tend to strengthen liberty in the real world. Voting is one of those institutions. I am happy to stipulate that constitutions are another.

  • Ironchef

    “Sure beats the alternative.

    If the alternative being Authoritarian/Statist rule, by all means yes.

    But a big fat NO when the alternative is absolute self-determination, individual liberty, and personal freedom. No one deserves the “right” to preside over me, and I do not deserve the “right” to tell anyone else what to do.

  • “All political parties have some sort of ‘vested interest’ in their opponent’s unpopular moves. They live by them and are therefore liable to dwell upon, to epmhasize, and even to look forward to them. This, together with Engels’ theory, has led some Marxist parties to look forward to the political moves made by their opponents against democracy. Instead of fighting such moves tooth and nail, they were pleased to tell their followers: ‘See what these people do. That is what they call democracy. That is what they call freedom and equality! Remember it when the day of reckoning comes.’ (An ambiguous phrase which may refer to election day or to the day of revolution.) This policy of letting one’s opponents expose themselves must, if extended to moves against democracy, lead to disaster. It is a policy of talking big and doing nothing in the face of real and increasing danger to democratic institutions. It is a policy of talking war and acting peace; and it taught the fascists the invaluable method of talking pease and acting war.”

    Perry should know who wrote that.

  • Pham Nuwen

    RCD:

    Justified by who? In America, anyone is free to emigrate. Is this what you mean by “being free to remove themselves?” If not, what do you mean?

    Justified by anyone who believes in freedom (the underlying principle behind libertarianism, and anarchocapitalism), and is willing to rationally take that principal to it’s logical conclusions. I’m not surprised you mistook what I meant for the old “love it, or leave it” argument, it is so oft used against us. No, what I meant is simply what I said. I should have the option of opting out, and being able to pursue my own interests without interference, nor ‘benefit’ of the state. In a literal sense this would mean if I opt out, I would no longer be able to vote, pay taxes, receive welfare, Medicare, etc…. I would be by opting out voluntarily accepting the responsibility of being self sufficient. To use my previous example, I’d order and pay for chicken, and you can pay for and share your mushroom pizza.

    A system where you are “afforded” freedom at the whim of a monarch has more to do with permission than liberty, and in any event is not, I submit, a system where your liberty has any real safeguards.

    The exact same is true of a “Democracy”. The tyranny of the majority is just as whimsical as any monarch (if not more so), nor do you have any real safeguards on your liberty if you can’t opt out.

    Perhaps you could provide us with an example of a constitution that guarantees liberty by restraining a monarch without any democratic accountability or voting.

    I don’t think there is anything quite so direct, but many constitutional monarchies do limit the power of the monarch.

    I am interested in identifying and strengthening those institutions that tend to strengthen liberty in the real world. Voting is one of those institutions. I am happy to stipulate that constitutions are another.

    Again I submit, that voting is not one of those institutions that tend to strengthen liberty, but merely replaces that monarch, for a president. Who is not really any more accountable to the people than the monarch.

    “Queen Rania of Jordan has commented that the difference between ruling a monarchy and ruling a democracy is that, in the latter, an error costs at most the next election, whereas a monarch might well lose their head.”

    Still it matters not who leads, but the fact that they lead by force. And as I said before *EVERY* vote is tacit approval of using that force against individuals.

    I will head off the crys of “Well then, you are just a anarchist who doesn’t understand reality” right now. I personally am hopefully that men may one day be able to live without a state, but I’m the realist in knowing now is not that time. The best we can hope for is a Minarchy, and I’ll even concede that it might be the best we can ever do. What we can’t do is get there while we continue to allow the current state the airs of legitimacy, and the right to wield force against individuals, by continuing to vote for it.

    “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”

    Notice the word “consent”, it is a very important word. There are only two ways to institute new institutions to strengthen liberty. Revolution, and by the massive removal of consent. Voting is consent. I’d much rather have the state fail, and be replaced by a newly instituted government by removing that consent, than by revolution. As revolution benefits very few, where as a Minarchy built on the basis of individual consent would benefit almost everyone.

  • Vote or not to vote? How many of you posters actually get to vote in the American Election? Sheesh, you should all be sentenced to live in Canada. Partys we got Partys up the ying yang with nobody but nobody to vote for.

  • I’m consistently struck by just how much the big-L Libertarians of today sound like the Marxists of yesteryear. Both preaching the inherent evil of the state, waiting for “the day of reconing” to come, through which we will somehow, magically, get our utopia.

    If you think “the massive removal of consent” is going to somehow magically lead to something better than what we have now, then I consider you every bit as suicidal as the Marxists who talked big but did nothing when the fascists were making their power plays. And we all know how well that worked out for them.

    I’m a fellow travelerwith most of you. I believe in making the state more efficient by making it smaller. But given the choice between the 100-steps-forward-99-steps-back process of a constitutional republic, or bloody revolutions or sitting on my hands and hoping things work out for the best, I’m going to choose the piecemeal reforms in a heartbeat. I consider it social suicide to do otherwise.

  • R C Dean

    Pham – I wasn’t mocking you with “love it or leave it,” just wondering if you meant what you said in the anarchist sense, that is, wanting to opt out of compliance with laws even when they are passed by a “legitimate” elected government. It appears this is exactly what you meant. Now we all know.

    nor do you have any real safeguards on your liberty if you can’t opt out.

    Sure you can. There are all kinds of institutional safeguards that I regard as plenty real enough. In my mind, the most effective protector of liberty may well be the devolution of power through a number of competing power centers (such as the judiciary, the legislature, and various levels of government). Of course, nothing is sufficient without a culture devoted to liberty, but there are plenty of safeguards short of anarchy.

    Really, Pham is pushing a notion of “consent” that says that consent must be very particularized to be effective – that if I don’t personally consent to this law and that official, then I am entitled to ignore them. Under this view, the more generalized consent that is derived or imputed from voting or just living within the jurisdiction is insufficient. The quote above does not specify what constitutes the “consent of the governed” but I can assure you that the Founders regarded voting as a sufficient expression of consent.

    As I see it, the particular consent that Pham is holding out for is indistinguishable from anarchy. It is the essence of even a minarchy that its laws apply to all, whether they give particular consent to them or not.

    As for the ruminations of the Queen of Jordan on the relative virtues of monarchy and democracy, I find them risible, at best.

  • speedwell

    I don’t think my voting or not voting will matter to anyone but myself. It does matter to me, very much. So I made a decision based on what furthers my rational integrity. Since I refuse to give my stamp of approval to any candidate, I refuse to vote for any of them. What’s so hard about that?

  • Random Wanderer

    Matt M.,

    I understand what you’re tryingt to say, and I agree in some way.

    Voting is a tool, but a clumsy and limited one at best. The problem with voting is that you can only vote for relatively limited and ambiguous government strokes. Right now, America is building up momentum for a socialist takeover in the form of nationalized healthcare and federal education, and the underlying foundaition has already been poured. Things are not going to change with a mere vote, but the general attitude of the nation must change.

    When we figure out a way to change the attitude, things will start moving along. Until then, we are stuck fumbling with a couple of bad options.

  • RW,

    I agree of course, voting alone is not enough. We also have to do like Perry says and “go for the zeitgeist.” The only way to affect a long-term change in the direction of the government is to educate the public; promoting economic literacy and continually challenging statist/collectivist modes of thought is where the lager battle is, certainly.

    I see it as being analagous to the current war we’re in: just as military and police action is necissary to combat chaos and terrorism, there’s also an ideological front to be won which is ultimately more important in the long term. But that doesn’t make military action any less necissary.

    In the good fight, it’s best to use all your weapons.

  • Alex Jacques

    Circe — on a side note, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on our political choices in Canada.

    Here in Québec I don’t even think that we have a libertarian party, although that’s quickly changing — see http://www.quebecoislibre.org and all the fuss over the CHOI decision.

    The Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) is the closest thing to a free market, somewhat anti-state party, and I appreciate their stance on the autonomy (and not “sovereignty”) of Québec. I would never trust the Parti Québécois to run the government, and to this day I hate the fact that the nationalist voice has been hijacked by left-wing nuts since the late 70s.

    On the federal level, I nearly voted Bloc Québécois as a sort of protest, being far removed from most of their policies but not wanting the Liberals (nor the NDP) to think that I liked what they’re doing. The Conservatives seem like the next best choice, but I can’t *stand* the crap that people start talking about, as if they’ll impose a theocracy if ever they gained a majority. By the way, strangely enough, the Greens had a good number of quasi-libertarian positions that actually made me think twice. I shrugged off a fellow that was handing out their flyers just before the federal elections, but then I actually read the thing and was surprised.

  • Ken

    I figure even if you don’t find any appealing choices, you ought to vote. That way, you show yourself as someone that could potentially have his vote swayed by better policies.

    If it becomes known that a significant number of people are regular voters and feel all candidates are horrible statists, these people form an untapped market, and a candidate may be able to construct a winning strategy by being less statist and attract all those voters who are looking for something better. If those people don’t vote, potential anti-statists and their potential supporters will figure that only statist fans will bother voting and only statist fans will have their votes up for grabs.

    Also, George W. Bush felt it imperative to give away yet more goodies to old people. This is because old people vote in huge numbers, and younger people don’t. If more younger people voted, perhaps politicians would be less inclined to take money from them to shower on old people. If only Rock the Vote would point out to young people how much money was taken from them to give to old people largely because of their relative voting habits, they might actually make a positive difference. But, of course, that would require the Rock the Vote guys to actually consider the money taken from the young as a “young people’s issue”, rather than dress up voting as something “hip” and “cool”, just because…

  • Why wouldn’t the Republicans, after they lose to Kerry, conclude that the way to win the next election is to be more like him? This result is practically foreordained, as the game in American politics is to get the undecided middle to break your way.

    Sure, just like the Tories in Britain… and look where that has got them. Eventually it will either lead to the collapse or radical reform of the Tory Party, either one works for me as only then will I even possibly have someone worth voting for.

    If Kerry wins, the thinking will go, its because the undecided middle likes tax increases, big spending, and the UN, so to win the middle we must become pro tax, pro spending, and pro UN.

    How is that any different from what the Republicans already do? They ARE a massive government party who are growing the size of the state (and not just the military bit). As you are willing to vote for them anyway, your lack of a vote has no real chance of moving them towards smaller government.

  • dunderheid

    I have no doubt that jihadists and their ilk take one look at the 40% and climbing swathe of the voting population who decline to vote and conclude that western liberal democracy is decadant and failing.
    I personally intend not to give them the satisfaction.

    Like many here i find the choices before me unappealing but isn’t that true in much of life. Anyway democracy would be so much more boring if there was always a candidate who exactly represented your views.

  • MusselsfromBrussels

    dunderheid:

    I could be wrong, but my guess is that the “jihadists and their ilk” have bigger and better things to worry about than the fact that turnout in western democracies is below 50% and declining….

  • In fact more rational Republican pro-liberty oriented people have a better chance of purging the party of its grotesque statists if the mega-government faction, as personified by Dubya, loses to the ghastly Kerry.

    But the biggest small government, fiscal conservatives in the party are social conservatives like Senator Santorum, whom you’d take against for different reasons. The people most socially liberal in the party are even bigger-government-than-Bush centrist types like Senator McCain. I’m not sure which side you’re actually rooting for, but I don’t think either would suit.

    It may be that your deep hope is that libertarian types like yourself will take over, but for this to happen you’d really need them to be part of the Republican coalition in the first place. But you won’t even advocate voting for them!

  • Nathan

    I’d suggest that the supposed “accountability” everyone is talking about needs more attention. There’s a big assumption that a democratic process on the scale we’re talking about actually translates into any real accountability.

    Also, this comment from Ken:

    I figure even if you don’t find any appealing choices, you ought to vote. That way, you show yourself as someone that could potentially have his vote swayed by better policies.

    Makes no sense at all, because whether one votes or not at any given time, one can always be influenced to vote if there are better policies available. It is unreasonable to assume a non-voter will never vote.
    In any case, a vote is not “showing yourself” – to politicians it’s all a bunch of numbers – the chief aim is to persuade blocks of voters, there is no necessary correlation between what the politicians promise and what they actually do in office.

    One of the few ways to get real accountability is to have politicians legally accountable for the legislation they approve. At the moment any politician can help to enact disastrous laws and proceed to have a nice comfortable retirement when they’ve had enough…

  • Amelia

    I am with Matt M, incremental steps are better than no steps at all. Has the Republican party accomplished everything small government types want? No, certainly not, the medicare drug example being the worst sort of folly in my opinion, but then again we did get a capital gains tax cut and soon the elimination of the death tax. I never thought I would see a cap gains tax cut in my life and was pretty damn happy to see it. Actually I think Bush’s “ownership society” (stressing accountability and personal responsibility) concept is pretty libertarian in its essentials. Has he gotten much passed? No, but is that his fault or the fault of an extremely obstructionist senate? Here are some of the ideas that he has that I am pretty excited about:
    1) Social Security reform some private accounts (this proposal took balls considering SS is considered the third rail) no doubt this doesn’t go far enough but once again nose under the camels tent
    2)vouchers- introduce market principals into that statist nightmare that is the public schools killed by the senate this time but will eventually get passed. At least he got some uniform standards passed.
    3) privatization of certain federal jobs (read George Will’s column “Why Democrats Fear Bush’s Domestic Agenda.”) Bush has apparently been doing some of this by executive order. This is key the only unions which are growing in America are those which represent government workers. One way to deal with that is simply not to have as many government workers in the first place. Unfortunately, I disagreed with the federalization of airport security and consider that a step backwards.
    4) tax free savings accounts of all sorts- I could be wrong but I think Bush has already increased the amounts you can save in Roth and traditional IRAs
    5)his medical saving accounts have already passed. I think these are great and am in the process of setting on up so that my catastrophic coverage can be tax free. The concept behind these are once again to have people think about the cost of coverage. There is a voucher proposal as well that may eventually get passed. In theory this might lead to some competition in the medical field in that one might shop for a cheaper doctor if they consider it their money as opposed to an employee perk (which in reality people very much pay for). Might not work, but seems far superior to throwing tax money into the system like we have for years. Kerry proposal is pretty close to socializing the whole thing.

    I am sure there is more, but can’t think of anything else off the top of my head. Has anyone actually done a libertarian analysis of Bush’s stated domestic agenda?

  • Cobden Bright

    Most commenters are confusing the effects of society not voting en masse, and an individual not voting. The fact is that everyone else is going to vote or not vote regardless of what you do. No one is going to notice your vote, it will not make any difference to anything at all. You can abstain for life, and the same politicians will be elected, and society will chug along without even noticing your absence from the electoral process.

    All the benefits of mass voting, mentioned by RC Dean and others, will occur anyway regardless of my actions.

    I don’t see how I benefit from spending the time to do something that will achieve nothing.

  • Cobden – If you want a long and rather technical answer, here it is. (Fair warning: game theory and utility theory make prominent appearances.)

  • R C Dean

    Shorter answer – you shgouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t want everyone to do. If you would be perfectly happy living in a society where no one voted, then go ahead and don’t vote. I await, in vain, an example of such a society that better protects individual liberty than our current democracies.

  • Brock

    The same people who believe that one vote does not influence political process should also believe that one purchase does not affect the free market. I mean, what’s your grocery bill to Walmart? Nothing, right? Surely then your purchasing does not matter.

    Oh, wait, yes it does.