Think Outside the Booth

Government is holding an election this fall and expects us to participate. One of the major party candidates will win and government expansion will continue unabated. Some people will vote their conscience by voting for a third-party candidate. Their man has no hope of winning, but they believe it's better than voting for a Republicrat or not voting at all.

Voting for the lesser of two evils or a long shot candidate is an exercise in self-delusion. If government exists, it will partner with special interests and expand its power. As it gets bigger, it attracts more special interests who have seen the wonderful bounty of plunder and privilege. It's a racket politicians and their cronies guard with fierce loyalty. That's why we have big government candidates on both tickets. Elections are a way of rubber-stamping the racket. Your vote adds ink to their inkpad.

Most people believe with Thomas Paine that government is a necessary evil. [1] I agree with him only partly: evil, yes, but necessary? Let's examine a few popular beliefs about voting:

1. Voting is the hallmark of a free people. If we fail to exercise this right, government will take it from us.

Government has learned that it invites rebellion if it tries to abridge freedoms directly. It's much easier to use other methods, and in the case of voting, it can continue its course of growth by offering candidates who are twins on the issue of big government. Supporters of both parties will see to it we get candidates of the right religion, ones who pray at the altar of state power. They won't outlaw other parties, but they'll put plenty of legal obstacles in their way. In a sense, the major parties have cartelized government by restricting effective competition.

Rather than take away the vote, then, government has simply taken away any meaningful vote. It accomplishes the same end and leaves people complaining, but not rebelling.

Yet, your vote is very important to the government. The more votes it has, the easier it can claim legitimacy. Voting is your way of blessing the institution of government itself.

Instead of Bush or Kerry, imagine if we had Hitler and Stalin as candidates. Would you vote then? But of course we wouldn't know how horrible they were until they were turned loose in office. It's not that Bush or Kerry are necessarily bad men, but government gives them the power to cause great harm. Why give anyone that power?

If voting is the hallmark of a free people, why do we have far less freedom today than at our founding? People who surrender their freedom embrace slavery, whether they call it a New Deal, Fair Deal, Politics of Hope, or an amorphous War on Terrorism. Is slavery the condition you want for your children and grandchildren?

We're dealing today with a mature government that owns our lives and our wealth. The Republicrats have not given us the choice to vote for less government or no government. They're not about to risk giving up trillions of dollars in tax revenue every year and billions more in inflation-funded deficits. Our only way of protesting is to stay away from the polls and speak out against politics.

2. Bad government is better than no government. Voting, therefore, keeps the government going with the hope of improving it. Without government, society would collapse into utter chaos.

Recall that a government holds a monopoly of force over a certain geographic area. With any monopoly, we get poor service and high prices, since it lacks competitive incentives to do otherwise. Force violates the most fundamental attribute of being human: your power to choose. Combine monopoly and force and you have government. When it does something poorly, it makes people pay for its support whether they want to or not. A business monopoly would not have the power to force people to support it. On an unhampered market, competitors would soon induce it to amend its ways or drive it out of business. But government sustains itself through force, regardless of how destructive or wasteful it gets.

If a private security firm had been on watch on 9-11, do you think it would still be in business? That's scarcely a question. Its management would be in jail and its stock would be worthless. But the monopolistic security firm we're forced to deal with took more of our wealth, curtailed our liberty, and stirred up hell.

If anything was chaotic, it was 9-11. Death, destruction, incompetence, not to mention possible complicity [2] and eventual war--all brought to us by the institution we're forced to pay trillions to for protection.

An unhampered market, on the other hand, is characterized by order. Chaos is not conducive to profits. How much disorder have you experienced on the internet, which is still largely free from government meddling? You can pretty much get the things you want and block out everything else, thanks to the market's invisible hand.

3. Our huge government today is an expression of compassion. Unlike other powerful states, our leaders have expanded government because they care for people.

Caring in a political context is shorthand for Marx's prescription for the ideal society: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

Has government engaged in a long train of abuses and usurpations, as King George III once did? The evidence is overwhelming, say libertarians. But unlike the British government of colonial times, today's politicians "care" for their people. We know they care because they defend their actions on those grounds. Political "caring" has nothing to do with results, it trumps issues of rights and constitutionality, and is devoid of any relation to sound economics.

But a "caring" government will retain its citizens' loyalty and allow it to stay the course of intervention. George III's arrogance towards the colonies was one of the reasons we seceded. King George didn't care.

Every politician who's ever preached the welfare state, from Bismarck to Bush, can safely confiscate wealth as long as he promises to give it to someone who claims to need it. It was just a matter of toppling a few worn concepts of liberty and morality to get wealth distribution moving on a large scale. A hungry man is not free, it was claimed, but apparently long-suffering taxpayers are.

Social Security and Medicare are disasters, but they represent major expressions of government "caring." To attack them is to commit political suicide, we are told. Yet the state's 'caring' and our passivity will not save them from insolvency.

4." If you don't vote, you don't have the right to complain."

If it were possible to vote the state out of existence, there might be some truth to this statement. But people shouldn't have to live in fear of the ballot box.

Once upon a time, voting helped keep the state at bay. We see who won that battle. Voting today puts a civil veneer on a criminal gang that calls itself government.

We need laws to protect our natural rights and agencies to enforce those laws. But it's clear that having a coercive monopoly create and enforce laws only backfires on us.

By not voting, you could be expressing your indifference. But you could also be saying you've had enough of gang rule. Let your refusal to participate be a first step in creating a civil replacement.

1. Paine, Thomas, Common Sense, Paine: Collected Writings, The Library of America, New York, NY, p. 6. Paine further comments that when we suffer from government, "our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." When he says, "we furnish the means," he's not talking about voting, but given the expansion of government over the last two centuries, one could extend his analysis to apply to elections.

2. Griffin, David Ray, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11, Olive Branch Press, Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Columns on STR: 71

George F. Smith is the author of The Flight of The Barbarous Relic, a novel about a renegade Fed chairman.  Visit his website.