(With inspiration and some tutelage from Walter Block.)
Bob Murphy described a horrendous and scary scenario in which terrorists attack America, the US government cancels the elections, and America becomes a concentration camp.
If it happens, which we cannot absolutely rule out, that would indeed stink big time.
But I don’t think any of the fascism that would inflict America could be blamed on canceling the elections. Suspending democracy might be a symptom of US martial law, but I wouldn’t call it the cause.
In fact, I’d say that canceling the elections has many silver linings. Walter Block has pointed out the silver linings of wrongful executions, drug prohibition and term limits. The other day over Chinese food — we went to a great restaurant in San Francisco with Walter’s wife, our friend Michael and his wife, their friend Ed, and my girlfriend — Walter told me I had his blessing to tell the world about the silver linings in canceling the elections. (Actually he said, “Anthony, you know there’s no such thing as intellectual property rights! Haven’t you read Stephan Kinsella? Steal my idea!”)
Certainly, canceling the elections would be a boon for America.
I’m serious about this. Can’t we see America becoming just as totalitarian while maintaining elections? What do elections really do to temper bad government, anyway? Canceling the elections will at least make Americans wake up and realize they have no control over the government. It will smash the illusion, held by many, that voting every four years, along with 100 million other Americans — when we all know that the winner will either be a Republican or Democrat — somehow means the government represents the people.
There are other silver linings. Certainly canceling the elections will reduce expenditures by government on elections. What Rothbardian wouldn’t gladly approve of any reduction in the size and scope of government? Think of all the money saved on printing ballots, hiring poll workers, not to mention on federally financed matching funds!
We could save millions, and convert it into tax cuts! What libertarian wouldn’t take that trade?
There’s also the time preference issue. Hans-Hermann Hoppe argues in Democracy: The God That Failed that monarchs are in some ways preferable to democratically elected rulers, because they care more about the long-term prosperity of the country, somewhat like property owners care about their long-term investments. If Bush were our president forever — oh joy!! — we could assume that he wouldn’t run the country into depression and failure, any more than he would his own business.
Oh, wait. I forgot that Bush ran most of his businesses into the ground. Well, this would be a silver lining, if Bush had more managerial competence.
Another great thing about canceling the elections is that we wouldn’t have to hear about elections all the time! We wouldn’t have to talk about whom to root for. Libertarians would no longer stress out about which candidate is the lesser of two evils, or whether to vote Libertarian or for another third party.
No one would hassle you for not going to the polls on Election Day. You could stay at home and watch television, just like everyone else, and prime time network TV wouldn’t be saturated with news from the vote returns. Tuesday evenings are great times to watch sitcoms, and why should we preempt our routine, even once every for years, just to spend hours watching that annoying map gradually fill up with a bunch of red and blue states?
America would no longer be so divisive! We wouldn’t have Republicans and Democrats anymore; we would all be happy nonpartisan subjects of the US government. Can you think of a better way to end all the bitter partisanship in America than to eliminate elections?
You wouldn’t have to remember to register to vote every time you moved. You wouldn’t have to read through those nauseating sample ballots that weigh twenty pounds and come in fifty languages. You wouldn’t have to deal with obnoxious petitioners outside grocery stores, when all you want to do is get home and microwave your pot pie and watch sitcoms. We could repeal campaign finance laws, because there would be no more campaigns, let alone campaign finance. Michael Moore’s movie would be advertised on television. Some Republicans might finally understand that Bush’s presidency is as indeed illegitimate as the Democrats complain.
Supporting the end of elections is hardly defending the undefendable; it’s merely pointing out the obvious. The silver linings are endless!
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly refuses to consider such a sensible libertarian policy as canceling the elections. I urge you to write your Congressman! Get involved in democracy, just this once, so we can help in getting rid of it altogether.
Truthfully, I’m just as frightened of the US government canceling the elections as the next guy, not because I believe so much in elections, but because it would likely coincide with real oppression.
But on the election question alone, who wouldn’t give up the right to vote for all his or her genuine, natural rights in return? One of the biggest mistakes in US history was giving women the vote. Instead, we should have taken the vote away from men, and told the politicians to pack their bags and go home. Democracy is a very dangerous illusion. It makes Americans think they have control over their government.
I prefer the real control I have in the marketplace, where if I want something, I buy it, and if I don’t want something, I don’t buy it. I wish it were that way with politics. Everyone could pay Bush or Kerry to be their rulers, while I would save a few bucks and see if I could govern myself without the wisdom and guidance of the omnipotent lords in Washington, D.C. I doubt terrorists would have much interest in those of us who didn’t pay for US imperialism in the Middle East, and I doubt there would be much US imperialism if the warmongers had to foot the whole bill on their own.
But until that day comes, we can at least spend our time thinking about what American politics would look like with some substantial, albeit gradualist, reforms in the right direction. Whether or not canceling the elections is one such reform is open to debate.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history at UC Berkeley, where he was president of the Cal Libertarians. He is an intern at the Independent Institute and has written for Rational Review, Strike the Root, the Libertarian Enterprise, and Antiwar.com. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.