Re: A Qualified Defense of Voting

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Tom, I think you make some valid points. As far as I know, I haven’t been able to bring myself to declare voting immoral publicly, because I agree with Anthony that voting in itself is not a crime, nor is it inherently unlibertarian. I even voted for Ron Paul as a delegate. I didn’t vote in the general election that year, but I voted at the state convention which, as I noted on LRC, infuriated the usual gang of neocons. But, I certainly participated in the electoral process, which some libertarians would denounce as cooperating with evil, but anyone who was there would hardly have described the Ron Paul faction as “cooperative.”

I do like to highlight the practical reasons to not vote such as the proven fact that one vote is never decisive in a medium-sized or large election. This is probably because I throw up a little in my mouth a little every time I hear some Vote or Die nut declare that “your vote could make the difference!!!”

Also, how about voting “no” on retaining judges? Every time a judge is thrown out of office by a “no” vote to retain, I do a little dance inside. If only we had a “no” vote option for every single government official. We could simply vote “no” every time, and I certainly don’t see anything unlibertarian about that.

And then there are those votes for actual laws such as we have here in Colorado where the constitution requires a vote of the people every time a tax hike is considered. Naturally, the state has gotten very good at getting around this constitutional requirement by declaring taxes to not be taxes, but when taxes actually do go to a vote, I don’t see anything unlibertarian about checking the “no” box when asked if a tax should be raised. This, by the way, I think applies more to your “steak vs. human flesh” analogy. Voting for candidates would be more akin to letting concentration camp prisoners vote on whether Dr. Mengele or Eichmann would be the warden. Obviously, it would be immoral to vote for either.

Nor do I think it is a moral duty to vote.  This last election cycle, I just rolled my eyes every time a priest or bishop exhorted me to vote and told me it’s my moral duty. The religious pundits are even worse (all except Mark Shea who thinks politics is all nonsense). Voting can be okay, but it’s certainly not your duty.

And finally, I also try to look at voting in more of a global and larger historical context. One of the greatest liberals in history, Richard Cobden, was elected to office via a democratic voting mechanism. Cobden’s work for freedom was felt not just in Britain, but across Europe where he was a great force for peace and freedom. In fact, I think of Ron Paul as the modern Cobden. What if Cobden had never been elected? The world would probably be worse off.

9:14 pm on November 8, 2010
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