A Vote For Not Voting

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There
has been a lively discourse on LewRockwell.com concerning whom to
vote for, or whether or not to vote at all. Gene
Callahan
, Bob
Murphy
, Gary
North
, and Harry
Browne
, among others have given their learned opinions on this
subject. Lew Rockwell has generously allowed me to give my view
below.

The
purpose of political activity is to gain control of governmental
activity. Governmental activity today primarily comes in two related
flavors, constituency herding and rent seeking. Constituency herding
consists of taking wealth from the general population and redistributing
it among various groups to buy their votes. Rent seeking consists
of taking wealth from the general population and directing it to
small interest groups in return for campaign contributions and future
kickbacks. To keep the public from recognizing this state of affairs
political dialogue is reduced to a series of half-truths and outright
lies. In this atmosphere it is difficult to be involved in any election
without becoming ethically challenged.

Thus
politics is like a sewer. One cannot enter into political activity
without getting slimed. The residual of this slime is that anyone
who has even run for office cannot be truly trustworthy. There is
only the very rare Ron Paul or Harry Browne that are the exceptions
that make the rule.

As
some people say they believe in God but not organized religion,
I believe in good government without organized parties. The Democrats
and Republicans are not worthy of the slightest consideration. In
many ways I do sympathize with the Libertarian and Constitution
parties, but I can't bring myself to vote for their candidates or
any other ones. As far as voting goes the one sympathy I can act
on, following Gary North, is to vote against all government bond
issues.

You
might think that my views are too cynical and negative. A compelling
argument maintained by my brother is that our forefathers fought
for the right to vote and we should not renounce this legacy. Furthermore,
if we do nothing politically how can the system ever be improved?
In fact, I think non-voting is an optimistic and positive political
act that could resurrect what the founders originally created.

The
gist of the situation is that limited, constitutional government
is nonexistent and no politician can be trusted. So how can change
be affected? Violence is not an option. In fledgling, so-called
democracies like Afghanistan and Iraq it is generally conceded that
there is some quorum of votes necessary to give legitimacy to the
new governments. Why can't the inverse occur? Why can't we delegitimize
our government through a no confidence non-vote?

The
quantitative question to be considered is what percentage of the
electorate must participate to make an election legitimate. There
is probably no a priori answer. It certainly depends on the
time and place. Specific examples or judgments are not widely available
but some do exist. The various states require a minimum percentage
of votes from the previous election to recognize parties that range
from as much as 20% in Connecticut to as low as 1% in West Virginia
.
In Russia for some Duma
elections a minimum of 25% of the registered voters
must participate
to make the election valid. A former Conservative government in
the UK proposed a referendum for Scotland and Wales. To be enacted
the referendum had to secure a majority of at least 40% of the registered
(Scottish or Welsh) voters, whether they participated in the election
or not. If
less than that percentage turned out to participate in the referendum
or even if the total favorable vote came to less than that, the
measure failed
.

There
is no legislated minimum participation for presidential elections.
Nobody knows the precise percentage of non-voters that will be necessary
to provoke true reform, but when it happens I can imagine something
akin to the 1989 revolutions in Czechoslovakia and East Germany
occurring here. We don't have a wall to bring down, thank goodness,
but perhaps something else as spontaneous and magnificent will occur
like an en masse resignation of the staff of the IRS.

So
you see, non-voting is not cynical and defeatist. To the contrary,
it is positively optimistic. I am ready to donate my time and money
to Non-Registration Drives. Instead of getting out the vote,
we can get in the non-vote. Believe it or not, the movement
has already started. This tentatively hopeful bumper sticker is
now available that even
I might display
: "If we all stop voting, will they all
go away?"

October
16, 2004

Ira
Katz [send him mail] teaches
mechanical engineering at Lafayette College.  He is the co-author
of Handling
Mr. Hyde: Questions and Answers about Manic Depression
and
Introduction
to Fluid Mechanics
.

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