In Support of Voting
by Jacob G. Hornberger
As one who refused to vote for some 20 years, I wield a credential in the debate currently taking place in libertarian circles as to whether people should vote or not vote. (See a sampling of the vote vs. no-vote articles below.) I vote in favor of voting.
The reasons I didn’t vote for all those years were the ones usually cited by the don’t-vote crowd — that it’s morally wrong to vote for the lesser of two evils and that to vote in an immoral political system serves to sanction the system.
An extreme example would be Hitler running against Stalin. Which candidate would you vote for?
The moral answer is: None of the above. Voting for a lesser evil is still voting for evil. Moreover, even to participate in such an election by voting places a stamp of legitimacy on the political system in which the two candidates are running.
It is no different in principle when we are dealing, for example, with George W. Bush and John Kerry or, for that matter, the standard congressional race in which a run-of-the- mill Republican candidate is facing off against a run-of-the-mill Democratic candidate.
In such cases, both candidates are fierce advocates of the socialistic welfare state, a political-economic process in which the force of the state takes money from a person to whom it belongs in order to distribute it to a person to whom it does not belong.
Both candidates are also advocates of a fascist system, one in which the government has the power to incarcerate and punish people for violating silly government rules and regulations that govern peaceful conduct. Drug laws are an almost perfect manifestation of the fascist mindset. So are the prosecution, conviction, and punishment of such entrepreneurs as Martha Stewart and Michael Milken.
Both candidates are wedded to the concept of public (i.e., government) schooling, which is an almost perfect model of socialist central planning. They also embrace the idea of drugging children who resist the conformity and indoctrination that inevitably come with public schooling.
Both candidates support some type of gun control.
Both candidates support America’s role as an international military empire and its policy of empowering the commander in chief of America’s armed forces to declare and wage wars of aggression against innocent nations.
Both candidates support the military’s power to seize and punish American and foreign citizens without due process of law, jury trial, right to counsel, habeas corpus, and other civil liberties.
Yes, it’s true that there are variations between your standard Republican and Democratic candidates, but they are simply differences of degree, not of principle. To vote for one candidate over the other inevitably entails voting for the lesser of two evils, which means voting for evil, which means sanctioning the process by which evil will triumph.
Those are good reasons for not voting.
However, there is one big problem with that analysis: In many races, there are candidates who stand against the socialist, fascist, militarist, and imperial positions of the mainstream Republican and Democratic candidates. These alternative candidates are usually the libertarian candidates — that is, those who subscribe to the principles of our Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution — those who stand in favor of the principles of liberty, free markets, limited government, the Constitution, and republic for which our American ancestors stood.
Libertarians are the candidates who are dedicated to achieving the free society through the dismantling (i.e., repeal) of the socialist and fascist laws and militarist and imperial policies that Democrats and Republicans have brought into existence for the past several decades. Their goal is to limit government to its proper role of protecting, not destroying, the inherent and fundamental rights of the people.
Libertarian candidates might run under the banner of the major parties — Republican Congressman Ron Paul being the notable example — or under the sponsorship of a third party, such as the Libertarian Party, which serves as the primary third-party vehicle for candidates with libertarian views.
How can voting for a libertarian candidate (whether Republican, Democratic, Independent, Libertarian Party, or otherwise) be considered voting for the lesser of two (or more) evils? Answer: It can’t. Voting for a candidate who is devoted to ending evil cannot conceivably be considered evil.
Of course, the no-vote crowd might still say that voting for a libertarian candidate constitutes a sanction of an evil system. That argument, however, is considerably weakened by the fact that the candidate is committed to dismantling the evil once he is elected.
In fact, what most of the no-vote crowd has probably never considered is that their only hope for achieving the free society (properly understood) in their lifetime lies with most people’s rejection of the don’t-vote arguments in those races where there are candidates who subscribe to the libertarian philosophy.
Let’s assume that 70 percent of the American people convert to libertarianism and that 30 percent remain irrevocably committed to the socialist, fascist, militarist, and imperial paradigm that currently holds our nation in its grip. Let’s assume also that because of a massive voter turnout, 70 percent of the Congress is now composed of people with a libertarian philosophy, whether they are members of the Democratic or Republican parties or third parties or independents.
Soon after the new Congress is sworn in, a vote is scheduled to repeal all drug laws, and surveys reflect that 70 percent of the Congress is prepared to vote for repeal.
Immediately before the vote, the no-vote crowd successfully persuades the libertarian congressmen that voting is morally wrong and so is participating in a corrupt political system. All 70 percent of the libertarian congressmen resign before the drug-law repeal vote is taken. The remaining 30 percent (which is composed of socialists, fascists, militarists, and imperialists) unanimously vote not only to retain the drug laws but actually to make them more oppressive.
Then, in the special elections to fill the slots of the libertarian congressmen who resigned, the no-vote crowd successfully convinces the 70 percent of the electorate who are libertarians that it’s morally wrong to vote. The remaining 30 percent (the socialists, fascists, militarists, and imperialists) thus succeed in electing their own candidates to fill the empty slots in Congress, resulting in a Congress that is now 100 percent composed of socialists, fascists, militarists, and imperialists despite the fact that 70 percent of the country is libertarian.
Those 30 percent will continue to impose federal income taxes on everyone; confiscate and redistribute wealth through socialist welfare-state programs; incarcerate people for drug and other regulatory offenses; force people to send their children to public (i.e., government) schools for conformity training and indoctrination; confiscate guns; invade foreign countries; and take away civil liberties.
And don’t forget: Those in power will continue to control the police and the military, which will inevitably consist of people who blindly obey the orders of their superiors, including enforcing edicts against nonconformists who refuse to vote.
The no-vote crowd might argue that civil disobedience, such as tax or draft resistance, would be an option, but as we’ve learned with China, civil disobedience against a brutal regime has no guarantee of success. This is especially true with a regime that is all-too-prepared to use overwhelming police or military force to quell resistance, such as what U.S. forces did to Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge and to the Branch Davidians at Waco.
Thus, the no-vote crowd has to be among the most depressed members of the libertarian movement. Why? Because if the American people really do follow their no-vote advice, they have virtually no hope for achieving freedom in their lifetime. That’s why the no-vote crowd, even while trying to convince people not to vote, must secretly hope that its advice is rejected.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org.) and co-editor of The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration.
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Copyright © 2004 The Future of Freedom Foundation. All rights reserved.