Campaigns/Elections

The Anti-Anti-Voting Vote

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Last week, we published "How Reason Staffers Are Voting," in which most of the staff discussed their upcoming votes. A couple of staffers mad a principled case for not voting, an argument that really set off more than a few readers. Here's a representative response to the idea that voting is a waste of time. I share it in the spirit of equal time on election day.

Reason is an awesome blog and offers logical, well articulated points of view. This is why I was so disappointed when I saw so many staffers (including yourself) not voting in the upcoming election. The idea that anyone's vote "doesn't count" is ridiculous and slightly offensive. I will grant you that rarely, if ever, an election of any sort is decided by a single vote, however in a country where government is growing out of control on every level the limited government folks need to show up, not so they can get their candidate elected, or their issue passed or defeated, but to make their voice heard. If even 5% voted consistently to limit government, one of the two pro-government growth parties would have to take notice and at least modify their platform a little to win those votes back, or risk having a third player (heaven forbid) be considered as a potential winner.

I am more frustrated than anyone at the intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of our lives, and the continued growth of said intrusion. However, I think it is critical that I show up at the poles and vote for every limited government candidate, and vote down every tax-spend-regulate proposition offered. 

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  1. This is why a protest libertarian vote is a good idea.

  2. I would call voting “masturbatory”,but that would be an insult to masturbation.

    Do something productive today! Stay home, watch a nice porno of whatever flavor, and yank one for America. You’ll accomplish much more, and have a lot less cleanup.

    Pull puds, not levers!

  3. Oh, and to help in non-voting, masturbatory self-pleasure, I suggest getting these lovely products from a country where other people are pretty uncaring about the vote: Japan!

  4. I just like participating in the little civic ritual of going down to the polling place, saying hello to the old folks that sign me in, slipping into the private booth…

    OK, I guess “masturbatory” is a fair label…

  5. Oregon votes totally by mail, which is a very good thing because it’s been pouring down rain in the Pacific NW for the last seven days. If I were to go to my polling place today, I’d need a rowboat.

  6. There’s an old saying: “Votes are counted, not weighed.” There is no way for the winner or loser to know if his support came from the “5% who want to limit government” or from
    rabid supporters of more social or economic injustice. Except, that is, if voters support a third party candidate or write in “Tom Jefferson” or in some way segregate their viewpoint from being submerged in the votes of the unwashed, ignorant and others driven to the polls by cries of “It’s your duty to vote.”

  7. However, I think it is critical that I show up at the poles and vote for every limited government candidate

    And right there is the error – with very, very, very few exceptions (Ron Paul, and….um….) those that use the rhetoric of “limited government” are lying. Why vote for person A or person B, when either one is going to violate most (maybe all) of the principles you stand for? Haven’t we learned anything from the massive screw-job perpetrated on us by the Republican party?

    But, hey, go ahead and vote for your “limited government” candidate, and then just sit back and watch them increase the size and scope of the government, just like we’ve seen over, and over, and over….

  8. I’m just glad this silliness will finally be over today…I don’t think I could stomach another day of political advertising.

  9. Show me a limited government candidate and I’ll show my “I just voted!” sticker.

    While you’re at it show me chupacabra and the G-spot.

  10. If even 5% voted consistently to limit government, one of the two pro-government growth parties would have to take notice and at least modify their platform a little to win those votes back, or risk having a third player (heaven forbid) be considered as a potential winner.

    I don’t think they would. These people regard a victory by the narrowest of margins to be a clear mandate and ringing endorsement of their policies.

  11. I will grant you that rarely, if ever, an election of any sort is decided by a single vote, however in a country where government is growing out of control on every level the limited government folks need to show up, not so they can get their candidate elected, or their issue passed or defeated, but to make their voice heard.

    How much of the growth in government is apparently legitimized by elections?
    Indeed, we might even blame the invasion of Iraq, at least in part, on the mistaken belief that free elections somehow legitimize government intrusions into people’s lives. In that respect, I agree with those who don’t vote in that voting for one of the two large parties is like helping the hangman build your own gallows.

    …but I don’t see how voting for the Libertarians contributes to that. It’s my little way of saying to the politicos on both sides of the aisle, “I’ve listened to your arguments, and I’m giving you both the finger.”

    So what if they don’t care? I care.

  12. I see divided government as the least-bad possibility in a world of fourth best. So I vote for that.

  13. I vote for the same candidate every time: Congressman Gridlock. He’s my number-one candidate every single time, and his policies are the best!

    I had an epiphany in the car on the way to work this morning. Some commentator on the radio mentioned the fact that as soon as this election was over, the presidental election begins. My first reaction was, “don’t these assholes ever work? Or is it just one big campaign all the time!?” Then, I realized what I had said…and I thought, hell, the more they’re out there campaigning, the less bad shit they’re trying to cram down our throats in the Capitol. In that spirit, I thought, why not have elections every single year!? That way, everyone would be distracted by campaigning all the time…and then there’d be no time to ban online blackjack or hate on teh gays. The only flaw in my plan comes from the fact that elections campaigns are publicly financed…which is such an egregious theft of my money, I just can’t express it. SO, get rid of public campaign money, and have an election every year. It’s kind of like putting your rambunctious little bastard child in front of a Thomas the Tank Engine video and putting it on repeat…

  14. I would just like to say, as a former and hopefully future candidate for a state and / or federal office, hats off to anyone who takes the initiative to do something about the situation our country is in by running for an office, any office.

    To those who choose not to vote or participate, I say, you can’t change anything by whining about the sucky choices. Get involved with a candidate or run yourself. Sure, it is hard on the ego, but it beats the hell out of sitting by and not trying. Who knows? You might just make a difference.

    We have a lot of smart articulate people in the Libertarian Party. Just on this blog alone, I am blown away by the intelligence of the people here. Why aren’t more of us running for office?

  15. The idea that anyone’s vote “doesn’t count” is ridiculous and slightly offensive.

    Agreed. Unfortunately, however, it is also true if by “count” one means stand any chance of deciding an election beyond the smallest local contests.

    There are good reasons to vote, good reasons not to vote and very good reasons not to be required or even pressured to vote. I have voted or not voted on various occasions, voted for candidates and voted against them. I never considered doing so a waste of time, let alone a civic responsibility, but neither did I delude myself into thinking it mattered much to anyone but me.

    So too, the silly “If you don’t vote, don’t complain” or one Reason writer’s converse claim is also, frankly, ridiculous and slightly offensive. My voting doesn’t encourage them (in case no one noticed, they don’t need any encouragement) nor does it mean I have volunteered to prop up a bad system (it’s plenty well propped up without me as it is) and neither is my not voting an abandonment of responsibility, especially given the system we are all supposed to “work within.”

    My advice? Do whatever the hell you want to do about voting and leave others to do the same.

  16. It would be great if “None of the above” was required to be offered in every election, and when it prevailed, two new candidates had to be submitted to the polls two weeks after the initial election, with “None of the above” offered once again. After four elections, if nobody had defeated “None of the above”, the position stays empty, and those legislative seats automatically become a “nay” on every subsequent floor vote. In about ten years we might see a change for the better.

  17. I would just like to say, as a former and hopefully future candidate for a state and / or federal office, hats off to anyone who takes the initiative to do something about the situation our country is in by running for an office, any office.

    I hope you appreciate the point that government doing something about the situation is the problem. Their solutions, almost always, are the problem.

    If government isn’t the answer, and you want to do something about the situation, something positive that is, why would you run for office?

  18. The cathartic effects of voting are highly underrated. You can enhance the effects by sassing the various hacks who pester you on the way in.

  19. Cliff, to be of libertarian orientation is to be extremely skeptical of the efficacy of government (beyond having doubts about the moral legitamacy of state coercion in anything beyond limited circumstances). To be an effective candidate for office, it helps a great deal, in terms of a candidate getting people to vote in the desired way, if the candidate fervently believes that broad-based state action is of vital, central importance to the functioning of society, thus allowing a candidate to more easily transmit that sense of urgency to voters. Therefore, alas, libertarian thinking does not easily translate into effective political campaigns for office.

  20. “I think it is critical that I show up at the poles and vote for every limited government candidate, and vote down every tax-spend-regulate proposition offered.”

    You might want to show up at the polls, although the poles (at your local strip club) might be more fun. Or do you mean the Poles? They can be a lot of fun too.

  21. We have a lot of smart articulate people in the Libertarian Party. Just on this blog alone, I am blown away by the intelligence of the people here. Why aren’t more of us running for office?

    Because those that can, do. Those that can’t, run for office.

  22. I also have to say that prior to becoming purely a cell phone user, with no land line, I often voted for whichever candidate bothered me less with telemarketers. This year, in two races, I’m voting for the candidates which either did not send anyone to knock on my door, or sent me junk mail with less frequency.

  23. One could certainly argue that it’s irrational to vote, as the cost of voting (time, etc.) often outweighs the benefit of one vote (assuming you gain no utility from the act of voting itself).

    On the other hand, it’s also irrational to actively promote this argument to like-minded individuals, as the cost of their vote to you (nothing) is outweighed by the small benefit of that one vote to you (assuming they vote for a candidate you approve of), and the time wasted promoting this anti-vote argument gives you no tangible benefit.

    So for all you, “I’m to rational to vote” types, you’re apparently not rational enough to keep your anti-voting cynicism to yourself.

  24. I just heard a listener commentary on the radio. She spoke of voting as her “most important right,” and she appreciated the sense of community when voting at the polls with her fellow democracy-exercising Americans.

    I, on the other hand, would trade my “right” to vote for a pittance of actually guaranteed rights — e.g., the right to trade with anyone I want from anywhere in the world.

    Nonetheless, I enjoy voting, and doing it at the polling place. Where else do you feel the boot of the government so viscerally? You stand in your little booth, doing your little part by voting against every pro-government proposition and for candidates who will never win. And the whole time you see the people of your community around you. And you recognize that those people believe at the bottom of their hearts that they really do have the right to choose your rulers for you — that doing so is actually their civic duty.

    Cathartic is the right word!

  25. And right there is the error – with very, very, very few exceptions (Ron Paul, and….um….) those that use the rhetoric of “limited government” are lying. Why vote for person A or person B, when either one is going to violate most (maybe all) of the principles you stand for? Haven’t we learned anything from the massive screw-job perpetrated on us by the Republican party?

    But, hey, go ahead and vote for your “limited government” candidate, and then just sit back and watch them increase the size and scope of the government, just like we’ve seen over, and over, and over….

    I think you’re missing the point. You’re still stuck in two-party-system think. You took “limited government candidate” to mean “Republican candidate”. We know that the current Republican crop has failed this principle miserably. That is no reason not to vote for a third party candidate who is on the record as having a principled anti-government-growth position.

  26. “And you recognize that those people believe at the bottom of their hearts that they really do have the right to choose your rulers for you — that doing so is actually their civic duty.”

    And we see the persecuted libertarian in his natural habitat.

    Sorry, but those people believe they have the right to choose not “your rulers,” but their representatives to government. It is an important difference.

    “trade my “right” to vote for a pittance of actually guaranteed rights –”

    And you would be assured of those rights being enforced how? What mechanism would you use to keep the government from stepping on those rights?

  27. “If government isn’t the answer, and you want to do something about the situation, something positive that is, why would you run for office?”

    Because I want to reduce the size and influence of government, especially at the federal level. Maybe it’s tilting at windmills to some of you all, but I think it is important to stay engaged in the fight for our freedoms.

    Cartridge box or the ballot box is our only route to freedom. I choose the latter.

  28. And you recognize that those people believe at the bottom of their hearts that they really do have the right to choose your rulers for you — that doing so is actually their civic duty.

    Well, if you’re going to get all anarcho-capitalist and everything. . . .

  29. Sorry, but those people believe they have the right to choose not “your rulers,” but their representatives to government. It is an important difference.

    MSM,

    I agree with your sentiment, but I think that difference is lost on the representatives themselves.

  30. Sorry, but those people believe they have the right to choose not “your rulers,” but their representatives to government. It is an important difference.

    Somehow their choices seem to have large impact on the government claiming to represent me. If you know how to fix this, do tell.

    And you would be assured of those rights being enforced how? What mechanism would you use to keep the government from stepping on those rights?

    “Assured?” Having the vote myself or the vote across the population does not “assure” me in any way now. Well over half of what the government does doesn’t even abide by its own Constitution! How can I imagine that the popular vote will stop all but the most egregious and broad-based usurpations of rights?

  31. Somehow their choices seem to have large impact on the government claiming to represent me.

    And let me clarify… By ‘me’, I mean the royal me. I think juat about everyone would be better off if the sphere of government in society were smaller.

    Unfortunately, that’s not what politics is about. As others have noted above, politics is about taking the reins of government to “do something.”

  32. I will vote No on every Amendment, unless it is repealing something…also, I will vote against any incumbant running, if unopposed i will leave it blank…
    This is the best I can do with regard to elections…
    I would stay home, but I want those people/amendments defeated!

  33. I don’t think I could stomach another day of political advertising.

    Don’t know about elsewhere, but in California, every commercial break is a continuous block of political ads, with maybe one ad for a good ol’ capitalist product. I started wondering how hard is it for a regular business to buy advertising time during election season. Could all the political ads actually be causing measurable damage to the bottom lines of businesses who can’t do their normal amount of advertising?

  34. I’m voting telephathically…

  35. I’d just like to note that I have seen elections decided by a single vote. Yes, multiple, along with one that came out at a dead tie and was decided by drawing a name out of a hat. All of them were very local elections with turnouts in the triple digits, but they had an impact and one vote the other way would have made the difference in every one.

  36. To those who choose not to vote or participate, I say, you can’t change anything by whining about the sucky choices. Get involved with a candidate or run yourself. Sure, it is hard on the ego, but it beats the hell out of sitting by and not trying. Who knows? You might just make a difference.

    Sitting around not trying is pretty underrated. Most of the problems we have can be attributed to people “Just trying to make a difference.”

    Besides, productive people don’t go into politics. If you really want to do something for your community, start a business and provide some work.

  37. David:

    Well of course. With 3 people voting, you have a 100% chance of being decisive (assuming two choices). With a few hundred the chance you have of being decisive is fairly remote but not unheard of. With a few hundred thousand or one million voters your chance is astronomical.

  38. Mike:

    I live in Northern VA near DC. So I get to see ads for both Virginia (Allen and Webb ads run pretty much on a continuous loop) and Maryland (ditto for Cardin and Steele and Ehrlich and O’Malley ads). They damn near take all the pleasure out of watching football on the weekends and Simpsons/Seinfeld reruns during the week.

  39. Could all the political ads actually be causing measurable damage to the bottom lines of businesses who can’t do their normal amount of advertising?

    Well, Mike, you’d have to beleive that advertising did measurable good to the bottom lines of businesses who advertise…in the meantime, the candidates are paying for their airtime, so at least the TV/Print and Radio dinosaurs are getting a chance to make some scratch.

  40. The last time I voted I was rewarded with an imbecile representative, a philandering president, jury duty and a week’s lost wages. Thanks, Democracy!

  41. “Because I want to reduce the size and influence of government, especially at the federal level. Maybe it’s tilting at windmills to some of you all, but I think it is important to stay engaged in the fight for our freedoms.”

    “Cartridge box or the ballot box is our only route to freedom. I choose the latter.”

    Part of what I was trying to get at is why you would want to work to diminish the size and influence of your own efforts?

    …and I assure you, there are more options than the ballot box or the cartridge box. Off the top of my head–start a business! Have you considered the influence you could have on a local church? Have you read an issue of Reason magazine–Gillespie and company have done more for freedom over the past few years than any American politician I can think of, and they’re neither ballot nor cartridge. There are a plethora of private charities that could use your help–addressing any problem you care to mention.

    …I sometimes volunteer for one that actually feeds hungry people.

    So, anyway, before you take the plunge, if it isn’t too late already, if you have some talent and energy, if you can apply your intellect to the problems around you, I’d ask you to please reconsider! Please, don’t squander your talent and energy on a career in politics–your country needs you.

  42. With a few hundred thousand or one million voters your chance is astronomical.

    A statement of statistical fact for sure…but what is it about those ‘mericans who think the individual franchise to vote is the same as having it decided your way? Do the anti-voters really think their self interest lies exclusively within themselves?

  43. “And you would be assured of those rights being enforced how? What mechanism would you use to keep the government from stepping on those rights?

    “Assured?” Having the vote myself or the vote across the population does not “assure” me in any way now. Well over half of what the government does doesn’t even abide by its own Constitution! How can I imagine that the popular vote will stop all but the most egregious and broad-based usurpations of rights?”

    Well now. You have noticed that life doesn’t work as well in reality as it does in theory. Good for you. Now explain to me what mechanism you would suggest that has a better chance of success than one based on the vote. Would you prefer that those with the money and the guns decide without a mechanism to even get your opinion on the matter? There is a long history of this style of government. Or maybe we could choose our representatives to government based on genetics, a lottery, some type of physical or mental competition. These have also been implemented at times in history. What concrete changes to the current system would you suggest?

    If you can’t make one better than…”Screw you guys, I’m outta here” then don’t expect me to take you seriously.

  44. What concrete changes to the current system would you suggest?

    Well, since you asked…

    I would like the US government to abide by the Constitution. In particular, having it abide by Article I, Section 8, and Amendments 9 and 10 would go a long way toward shrinking the sphere of government in society.

  45. I voted. Felt like a great dump. With the same long term results: zero.
    But I just remember watchin the peasants line up, before a cold dawn, in back of beyond, El Salvador in ….91? These hard pressed folks trusted me & my friends would both keep them from being slaughtered (the UN gets the nod for that, I was unarmed) & see the ballot boxes got to Chalatanango & thier results duly & openly recorded.
    Aint missed election day since. Even if I cast a blank ballot, I show up, wait in line, & cast a ballot. And think about how we’ve blown it (as Capt America said to Billy) But thats just me.

  46. I can think of 1000 good reasons to vote and none for “principled non-voting.” Not voting is just giving these bastards permission to screw you even harder because you’ve made it clear you won’t lift a finger to stop them. You can’t rinse your hands of the system by pretending the system doesn’t exist.

    If libertarians win 5% or 1% of the votes it’s not likely to influence any politician, I agree. But voting isn’t all about getting some jerkoff elected; it’s also about influencing other voters. No one wants to go vote for the guy who’s sure to lose, but if more libertarians would actually bother themselves to go pull the lever for whichever libertarian moonbat is running then it becomes possible in the next election to influence more people to pull that same lever.

    Why vote FOR the moonbat? Right now we’re stuck with running fringe element candidates who know they’ll lose but don’t care. However, if even the moonbats start getting more than a handful of votes then BETTER candidates will be interested in running. Why, it might even be possible to get a libertarian who’s NOT a complete moonbat to run for office.

    Or you can keep your head in the sand and hope those bad politicians will just go away. Sure, that could happen. Wouldn’t rule that out.

  47. “How can I imagine that the popular vote will stop all but the most egregious and broad-based usurpations of rights?”

    Isn’t the fact that it does seem to stop those pretty well important and enough of a justification?

  48. Isn’t the fact that it does seem to stop those pretty well important and enough of a justification?

    I’m not arguing that voting isn’t the best way to select a government. Indeed, voting’s power to replace government officers who egregiously offend the general populace is its best characteristic.

    But that’s a pretty low bar compared to sentiments like, “Voting is your most important right.”

  49. I just got back from voting. Actual soliloquy from one voter as she talked with the poll workers on her way out the door:

    Whenever someone complains, I always ask them, “Did you vote?” And if they say, “No,” I tell them that if you don’t vote you lose your right to complain.

    This person clearly has not given a thought to what the word ‘right’ really means…

  50. “This person clearly has not given a thought to what the word ‘right’ really means…”

    Please enlighten us.

    I haven’t seen a libertarian definition that is much more clearly defined.

    I’ll get the party started by using a common source:

    18. a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral: You have a right to say what you please.
    19. Sometimes, rights. that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.: women’s rights; Freedom of speech is a right of all Americans.
    20. adherence or obedience to moral and legal principles and authority.
    21. that which is morally, legally, or ethically proper: to know right from wrong.
    22. a moral, ethical, or legal principle considered as an underlying cause of truth, justice, morality, or ethics.
    23. Sometimes, rights. the interest or ownership a person, group, or business has in property: He has a 50-percent right in a silver mine. The author controls the screen rights for the book.
    24. the property itself or its value.

    26. that which is in accord with fact, reason, propriety, the correct way of thinking, etc.

    Which of these do you feel this person intended? Or did she mean something else? How is your sense more accurate than hers?

  51. SOme more, this time from Websters…

    Main Entry: right
    Pronunciation: ‘rIt
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Old English riht, from riht righteous

    2 : something to which one has a just claim: as a : a power, privilege, or condition of existence to which one has a natural claim of enjoyment or possession -see also NATURAL RIGHT b : a power, privilege, immunity, or capacity the enjoyment of which is secured to a person by law c : a legally enforceable claim against another that the other will do or will not do a given act d : the interest that one has in property : a claim or title to property -often used in pl. -see also REAL RIGHT e plural : the interest in property possessed (as under copyright law) in an intangible thing and esp. an item of intellectual property

    1 : as an absolute right
    2 : demandable or enforceable under the law

    I think she was referring to “a just claim.”

  52. Which of these do you feel this person intended? Or did she mean something else? How is your sense more accurate than hers?

    Fair enough: point made. Perhaps I’m the only one who has inalienable natural rights on his mind at the voting booth…

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