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By: Joe Blow

This is in response to Rich Smith’s "Blow Off His Advice" piece telling you to continue voting, no matter what. I will begin by saying that Rich is one of my favorite Ether Zone writers, but on this subject we don’t see eye to eye. This is my attempt to explain how we ended up so far apart on this issue when normally we are both on the same page.

My piece was simply a summary of moral arguments in defense of principles, not "you’ll feel better about yourself if you simply refrain from participating in this fraudulent scheme" as he says in his piece. This is not about feeling better; this is about standing up for what you believe in. I have been a libertarian for 25 years and a registered Libertarian for four years.

Rich is still at the voting stage that I was in about three years ago, but I’ve done lots of reading and research since then. I credit LewRockwell.com for opening my eyes, in addition to the essays of the writers listed in my original piece.

The fact of the matter is that people mature at different rates on different topics. Rich is still locked into the Statist position that voting is tenable in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. After years of participating in what Karen De Coster refers to as the "buttons and balloons" arena of politics, some people eventually become disillusioned, see the light, and then move to the next level-ideas-vice slogans, bands, posters, and kissing babies.

The mistake is to assume that the battle can only be fought on one front. The truth is that the battle can be fought on multiple fronts simultaneously. Voting is one front, not voting is another, as long as you understand the import (and limitations) of each, plus the rationale for doing one over the other. Obviously, these positions can be mutually exclusive in the tactical arena on an individual basis, but in the strategic arena they make very good sense, once you understand that the individuals involved are usually dedicated to only one front at a time.

The progression goes something like this: can’t wait to turn 18 to register to vote, can’t wait to vote, active voting, semi-active voting, sporadic voting, disillusionment, non-voting. My piece only attempted to summarize several arguments made by others regarding logical, moral, and strategic reasons not to vote. That’s not the same as saying that all voting must cease immediately, for that will obviously never happen. Too many people are immune to the message because it is totally foreign to their experience. They much prefer to stick with the traditional reasons for voting, despite their own admissions that the system doesn’t work as designed or advertised. The recent debacle in Florida is a good example. 

Rich writes, "Bottom-line, government is so invasive in our lives today that nothing we do short of dropping out of society and taking up residence as hermits…is going to spare us from granting legitimacy to the government. That being the case, you might as well keep voting…"

(You should also read my recent piece about hermits in society that coincidentally appeared the same day as Rich’s piece.)

Rich is saying that there is nothing that you can do, the situation is hopeless, but he is wrong. You can stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.

His position is that there is no solution to the legitimacy issue, so just keep voting. That is giving up, that is defeatism, yet in his closing paragraph he says, "And finally, never ever in any way, shape or form allow yourself to embrace through thought, word or deed this thing called defeatism. Because defeatism is the ultimate mechanism by which you confer legitimacy on that which is illegitimate."

I couldn’t agree more with Rich’s statement, but he falls on his sword by failing to recognize that continuing to vote only perpetuates the problem, after admitting defeat.

I teach my students many things. One of my favorites is "if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten." That’s not a bad thing if you are happy with the results, but it is much like sticking needles in your eyes if it never works. Try something else!

That’s not to say that deciding not to vote should be taken lightly or for the wrong reasons. I would like to think that those who choose not to vote are doing so for good reasons, well-developed over time; reasons that make sense to them and that they can live with on a daily basis, for the rest of their lives, or at least until the current illegitimate State is replaced. Obviously, some people aren’t quite there yet and Rich is one of them, but people change over time and I am confident that several years from now Rich may also be ready to join the idea front. I will welcome him with open arms.

I don’t need to address the rest of Rich’s arguments because they fall flat once he admits defeat, only to then profess that his solution is even more voting. I’m sorry, but you can’t get there from here.

Some of you are probably wondering, "How can choosing not to vote be viewed as a strategic solution?" As Ludwig von Mises explains in his magnum opus Human Action, individuals make all decisions in the marketplace. You are an individual. Only you can make the moral decision to stand up for what you believe in by choosing not to vote. You can chip away at the problem one person at a time, in any marketplace, including the marketplace of ideas.

Imagine a movement that starts out small, but builds over time. One comprised of people who used to vote, but who have become disillusioned. They are not happy with the status quo. They are searching for an option, an alternative to a non-functional system that supports an illegitimate State of which they do not approve and would rather not support. Not voting suddenly becomes attractive. They may not quit cold turkey, but over time they come to realize that the system that they supported for so long is nothing but a sham. They eventually come to the point where they no longer believe their own arguments for voting. They are ready for a change. They are ready to abandon "buttons and balloons" and graduate to the next level-ideas.

Imagine what would happen if every year for the next five years another large block of voters saw the light and chose not to vote. If the numbers were large enough the illegitimate State would finally be seen for what it truly is. It then would become crystal clear that the people speak the loudest when they withdraw their support.

It’s all about power. In government that comes in two flavors: votes and taxes. Once you take away the votes, the taxes will follow. When nobody votes who among you will volunteer to fork over exorbitant income taxes to an admittedly illegitimate State? This is a no-brainer of the first order.

Without a shot being fired the State comes crashing down, anarchy prevails. Do not be alarmed, anarchy is not a bad thing, it merely describes a condition of no government. This happens routinely around the world. Something will take its place, hopefully liberty, freedom, and individual sovereignty. Start planning now.

Of course, this will necessitate giving up the Nanny State, welfare, handouts, crop subsidies, Empire, multiple "wars", etc. As it should be. Either you support the illegitimate State or you don’t. Only you can make the call. Only you can justify voting. Only you must face yourself in the mirror on a daily basis. You can’t save the world, but you can make a positive impact on it, one person at a time. This nation used to understand that.

"Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."

Joe Blow is a pen name for a public high school teacher on the left coast. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

He can be reached at joeblow073@yahoo.com

Published in the September 27, 2002 issue of  Ether Zone.
Copyright 1997 - 2002 Ether Zone.

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