"The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning of the world. But how is... legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish this law without delay ... If such a law is not abolished immediately it will spread, multiply and develop into a system." ~ Frederic Bastiat
Voting Is Not Irrational
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
I just got done reading another article whacking the practice of voting. This one declares that voting is a fool's game. One begins to wonder if this is a productive tack. How many voters are convinced by such arguments? Aren’t we just “preaching to the choir”? Are we hacking at the branches of evil, or striking the root?
I have made such arguments myself. Now I wonder how much they help.
Given a particular worldview, voting is not all that irrational that I can see (with one possible exception--the argument of probability). If one already accepts that some people should be ruled by others, then the process by which rulers are chosen becomes crucial. This is why voters are not moved by our arguments. They have accepted as a given, the legitimacy of the state. If the state is legitimate, if it is right and good that some should be ruled by others, then of course people should vote!
The probabilistic argument--that one’s vote is highly unlikely to decide an election--is one that actually is independent of worldview; people should be moved by it in any case (and probably, many already are). Yet even this is defeated by the facts now and then. The current state House leader in the Wyoming Liberty Index just won his primary election (same as winning the general in that district) by three votes. This sort of thing happens often enough to blunt the probabilistic argument. Anyway, every election will be decided by votes, so I have always been a bit suspicious about this particular argument against voting (the existence of vote fraud does not change this picture much).
A much more productive course might be to directly attack the legitimacy of the state. Once that comes into question in a person’s mind, it seems unlikely there will be much voting from him any longer. (Of course one has to proceed carefully; just screaming “Smash the State!” is not likely to be very persuasive.)
And that should be our aim anyway. We want people questioning the state. It doesn’t help if we somehow talk them into not voting when they still believe the state is legitimate.
Now, someone who attacks the practice of voting might say that reducing the percentage of voters itself delegitimizes the state. There might be something to that, but it is hardly a strong effect. Perhaps this might bear some discussion.
Actually, as I’ve maintained before, it is not even our mission to make people stop believing in the state, so anti-voting articles are even further removed from being a helpful action. We only want them to stop oppressing us (the non-believers in the state religion), or to stop supporting those who would oppress us--a fairly small modification of their worldview. If so, then maybe we should lay off the anti-voting tirades.
Bottom line: voting is just a side effect of an evil worldview. Arguing against it is like treating a disease by addressing only the symptoms, rather than by addressing the cause.