America's Voting Fetish Obscures The More Important Value of Restraining Government

Vote hereAndre EngelsWhether you favor or oppose last week's Supreme Court decision regarding the Voting Rights Act, it's worth considering that the furious debate back and forth over the wisdom and morality of the ruling is completely overblown because, quite simply, voting isn't all that consequential. Yes, it's theoretically important to have a say in the government by whose rules you must live. But when democracy boils down to little more than choosing the bastards who get to kick you in the ribs for the next couple of years, the process becomes little more than picking your poison. As Jim Bovard points out at the Washington Times, who administers government is less important than what government does under their administration, and elections have been remarkably ineffective at reining-in the abuses of American politicians.

Writes Bovard:

The Voting Rights Act is part of a modern catechism that sees voting as practically the alpha and omega of freedom. In a speech when he signed the law, President Lyndon Johnson assured the audience: “This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies.” But permitting people to vote, however, provides no assurance that citizens will not be ravished after the polling booths close.

Earlier in 1965, in a phone call to Martin Luther King, LBJ declared, “I just don’t see how anybody can say that a man can fight in Vietnam, but he can’t vote.” The fact that people could vote did nothing to nullify LBJ’s dictatorial power over draftees. Tens of thousands of conscripts died in an unpopular war that occurred largely because the president had unlimited power to commit them into a pointless foreign conflict on false pretenses. Regardless of how many lies LBJ told about the war, young Americans were still obliged to follow his orders to the death in the jungles and rice paddies.

Bovard continues, "the worst violation of 'voting rights' is the notion that election winners should have unlimited power. Nothing personifies that power more than Mr. Obama’s drone assassination program by which he claims a prerogative to kill anyone in the world whom he labels a threat."

It's unquestionably true that we live in a functioning democracy in which the power and intrusiveness of the state grows with every passing year, no matter the results of ritualistic marches to polling places. That's never been more apparent than now, under a Democratic president who continues the security-state policies of his Republican predecessor even as he demonstrates that he can wage pointless wars, spend untold sums and abuse executive power with an enthusiasm that reveals only differences in emphasis from the opponents he defeated in the last two elections.

More important than voting is restraining the state so that our liberty survives no matter who emerges triumphant from the next exercise of our voting rights.

Jim Bovard's full piece, "The Voting Rights Mirage," is worth a read.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the process becomes little more than picking your poison.

    That's pretty important, though. I've built up a tolerance to certain poisons over the years.

  • NoVAHockey||

    inconceivable

  • Mainer2||

    +1 Dinner with Andre

  • PapayaSF||

    Two very, very good movies.

  • NoTalentAssclown||

    "That's never been more apparent than now, under a Democratic president who continues the security-state policies of his Republican predecessor even as he demonstrates that he can wage pointless wars, spend untold sums and abuse executive power with an enthusiasm that reveals only differences in emphasis from the opponents he defeated in the last two elections."

    Very well said.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Bovard continues, "the worst violation of 'voting rights' is the notion that election winners should have unlimited power. Nothing personifies that power more than Mr. Obama’s drone assassination program by which he claims a prerogative to kill anyone in the world whom he labels a threat."

    What part of "will of the people" do you not under-fucking-stand?!

  • Rich||

    Until "None of the above" is a legitimate ballot entry, nothing will change -- and it may be too late anyway. 8-(

  • Pro Libertate||

    Who gets elected matters a whole lot less when they can only do a few limited things. Or are prevented from redistributing wealth.

  • A Serious Man||

    Voting is just a clever way of enabling cognitive dissonance. If you don't get what you want, blame your neighbor and the other Team. If your guy wins but you still don't get what you want, blame your neighbor and the other team.

    It prevents you from ever taking responsibility for the bad shit that happens when you enable politicians.

  • R C Dean||

    I seem to remember joe-from-lowell arguing that an elected regime is by definition a legitimate government, regardless of what it does. Good times, good times . . . .

  • Rich||

    Hi, R C! Glad to hear from you!

  • Pro Libertate||

    All hail El Jefe!

    How's the new gig? You have one, right? That's what the Hit & Run people tell me, anyway.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    He has been working on my space elevator legal issues, since some people won't do space-work without a Mars-office.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Look, I have to have my standards.

  • Tonio||

    Welcome back, RC.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    After I read this I wondered about the tie between democracy and economic liberty. Quick google resulted in a measure of Democracy from the Economist and a measure of economic liberty from Heritage.

    http://graphics.eiu.com/PDF/De.....10_web.pdf

    http://www.heritage.org/index/

    Five of the top ten in the Economic Freedom Index were in the top ten of the Democracy Index. Seven were in the top category in the Democracy Index. Only three in the top for Economic Freedom were below that line in the Democracy Index.

    This suggests to me that while Economic Freedom can exist without democracy there does seem to be a general relationship between the two

  • Gozer the Gozerian||

    I have no doubt that the two are strongly correlated, but I suspect that causation mostly runs in other directions.

    I know that this is a big piece of flamebait, but... "Pinochet, anyone?"

  • Loki||

    The Voting Rights Act is part of a modern catechism that sees voting as practically the alpha and omega of freedom.

    This is one of the most annoying things about modern politics. In 2004 I abstained from voting because I really didn't care whether Kerry or Bush won. I didn't like either one of them well enough to be bothered, and there were no third party options on the table either that year that I liked. So I didn't bother.

    You should have seen the horrified reactions I got from people. You'd think I had just fucked their mothers in front of them while pouring sugar in their gas tanks or something. I felt like Stan from the infamous "Douche vs. Turd" episode of South Park.

    I think the worse part though was knowing that most of those people are low information voters who only pretend to care every four years, and choose their candidate based on either TEAM identity or other idiotic reasons, like which one they'd rather have a beer with or which one has better hair or some shit. It still pisses me off. If anyone should have stayed home instead of voting it was them.

  • Robert||

    It's not hard to see why this is so: projection. The alternative to democracy is gov't by someone else, like a king or space men, and people just assume that if someone else is to rule them, that someone else would exploit them the way people do animals. Meanwhile they think it absurd that a people would enslave themselves. They tend to associate with people whose stated opinions they share, and to keep to themselves those opinions they disagree with, so they think "the people" are like them and will vote similarly.

    It starts when you're children lorded over by adults, and you're taught about how the little guys eventually overthrew the king and established democracy. So of course you think, yeah, when we kids get to vote we'll abolish bedtimes, so when the governed get to vote for their gov't it's a good thing.

    The positive correlation between democracy & freedom is a historic byproduct of the alternation between oppressive oligarchies and liberated regimes. See the German chapter headings in Illuminatus! for more detail on this cycle, or http://miriadic.wikia.com/wiki.....s_of_Chaos

  • Number 2||

    This is why the Founders considered elections to be one component, and only one component, of limited government. Free elections alone do not guarantee liberty.

    It was not until the Progressive movement of the late 19th-early 20th Century did "democracy" and the "will of the people" become the Holy Grail of American government, before which every other value, including liberty, falls short.

  • Gozer the Gozerian||

    "A Republic, if you can keep it."

    If the latter part of what you say is true -- and I fear that it is -- then we are basically Rousseauist Athenians, the philosophical monster that the Anglo-American tradition feared and scorned.

    In short, we have met the enemy, and we are fucked.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Liberty is the goal (well, should be). Democratic elements in our system are supposed to support that. By themselves, they're meaningless. The Nazis, of course, gained power mostly by constitutional and "democratic" means.

  • Hash Brown||

    The past 15 years have persuaded me that the "don't vote, it only encourages them" crowd are right.

  • Sam Grove||

    In the beginning --- Liberty!

    Later --- Liberty and Democracy!

    Lately ---- Democracy!

    Democracy has replaced liberty, and so the politicians can get away with all kinds of liberty violating enactments and the people still believe they have liberty because they get an opportunity to vote.

  • ||

    "The right to vote is a consequence, not a primary cause, of a free social system—and its value depends on the constitutional structure implementing and strictly delimiting the voters’ power; unlimited majority rule is an instance of the principle of tyranny." --Ayn Rand

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