Abstain From Beans
by Robert LeFevre
Athens, those who admired the Stoic philosophy of individualism
took as their motto: "Abstain from Beans." The phrase
had a precise reference. It meant: don't vote. Balloting in Athens
occurred by dropping various colored beans into a receptacle.
To vote is
to express a preference. There is nothing implicitly evil in choosing.
All of us in the ordinary course of our daily lives vote for or
against dozens of products and services. When we vote for (buy)
any good or service, it follows that by salutary neglect we vote
against the goods or services we do not choose to buy. The great
merit of market place choosing is that no one is bound by any other
person's selection. I may choose Brand X. But this cannot prevent
you from choosing Brand Y.
When we place
voting into the framework of politics, however, a major change occurs.
When we express a preference politically, we do so precisely because
we intend to bind others to our will. Political voting is the legal
method we have adopted and extolled for obtaining monopolies of
power. Political voting is nothing more than the assumption that
might makes right. There is a presumption that any decision wanted
by the majority of those expressing a preference must be desirable,
and the inference even goes so far as to presume that anyone who
differs from a majority view is wrong or possibly immoral.
shows repeatedly the madness of crowds and the irrationality of
majorities. The only conceivable merit relating to majority rule
lies in the fact that if we obtain monopoly decisions by this process,
we will coerce fewer persons than if we permit the minority to coerce
the majority. But implicit in all political voting is the necessity
to coerce some so that all are controlled. The direction taken by
the control is academic. Control as a monopoly in the hands of the
state is basic.
In times such
as these, it is incumbent upon free men to reexamine their most
cherished, long-established beliefs. There is only one truly moral
position for an honest person to take. He must refrain from coercing
his fellows. This means that he should refuse to participate in
the process by means of which some men obtain power over others.
If you value your right to life, liberty, and property, then clearly
there is every reason to refrain from participating in a process
that is calculated to remove the life, liberty, or property from
any other person. Voting is the method for obtaining legal power
to coerce others.
LeFevre (19111986) was a businessman and radio personality,
and the founder of the Freedom School in Colorado Springs, Colorado,
whose purpose was to educate people from all walks of life in the
libertarian intellectual tradition. Before it closed in 1968, it
had featured among its rotating faculty Rose Wilder Lane, Milton
Friedman, F.A. Harper, Frank Chodorov, Leonard Read, Gordon Tullock,
G. Warren Nutter, Bruno Leoni, James J. Martin, and even Ludwig
His library and papers are housed at the Mises