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 How to Vote for Liberty 

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. Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Instead, I’m adopting a new strategy that can’t lose.

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 repair.

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 evil.

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.

[Breaker quote: Stay home.]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 up.

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 government elections.

Thank you for not voting.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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