Don’t Vote, Don’t Run for Dog Catcher

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The late mafia leader John Gotti, who understood a thing or two about men, once told his daughter: "Regardless of how much a man tells you about how smart you are, he really has only one thing on his mind. You may see a certain man and think of him as grandfatherly, just remember, he has only one thing on his mind."

There is an analogous situation in the world of politics, no matter how much a politician tells you how he wants to fight for your cause, keep in mind that he has only one thing on his mind: getting or maintaining power.

No matter how well groomed or smooth he looks, no matter how well he delivers his lines, he has only one thing on his mind: getting or maintaining power.

In a democracy, in a two man race, a politician must be concerned with the percentage 50% plus one vote. (In a three man race, it’s 33% plus one vote, but to keep things simple I will assume a two man race. In a three man race or more, the general idea is the same, just different percentages.) To be a successful politician, a politician must look at each and every voter and determine whether that person is going to bring him closer to 50% plus one, and how much closer.

In other words, you as an individual voter are not very important to him. Think, I’m kidding? Try getting an appointment with one of your U.S. senators to discuss some tax loophole you would like for yourself, so that instead of sending 25% of your money to the IRS, you get to use the money on a three month per year trip to the Bahamas, which you then are able to deduct from your tax bill. Go ahead, call your senator now and try and get this done.

If you understand politician math and the importance of 50% plus one vote to a politician, you will understand that individuals, who represent large groups of voters, can get appointments with senators. A Citibank lobbyist, and other bankster lobbyists, are also going to be able to get meetings with senators. They bring money that the politician can use in his campaign that will help him advance toward 50% plus one vote. That’s why banksters get tax loopholes and you don’t.

Understanding this math should help you understand why, for the liberty lover, politics is mostly a waste of time in present day America. Judging by the votes Ron Paul received in the recent primaries, and if we use that as a rough guide for the number of liberty voters, it is under 10%. There is no politician, outside of maybe in a fluke congressional district, that is going to win an election on a purely libertarian campaign. He will need to get from 10% to 50% plus one voter by appealing to groups beyond the 10% libertarians and that means appealing to groups that are decidedly non-libertarian and want something from the government. It has to be, there is no other way. The math says so. Ron Paul was an outlier, but he also did it on a congressional district level. The minute he considered running statewide in Texas for the U.S. Senate, which is a more powerful position and which caught the attention of political power players, Phil Gramm was brought in to run against Dr. Paul and neutralize him.

Bottom line, it makes no sense for an individual to vote, endorse, or work for any politician, especially if you are a libertarian. Democracies are about power players and divvying up the lucre and power. If on the other hand you somehow can deliver a vote of 10% or more because you have a following, you may be able to make a marginal incremental influence in favor of liberty. You won’t get much, especially when you will be vying against other power players, who want to grab and take and steal and expand government power, but on a practical level, the mathematics work in that you may be able to get something.

This brings us to the curious case of Senator Rand Paul, who arguably once could have delivered to Mitt Romney the Ron Paul supporters and perhaps some Tea Party voters. This would have some weight with Romney and he would have listened to a Rand request for something in return for an endorsement. Rand, however, botched it by the timing of his endorsement (immediately after Ron Paul said he could not win, which gave the impression that Rand couldn’t wait to endorse Romney), by the enthusiasm of his endorsement for the statist, war hawk Romney and because of his absurd attempt to give the impression that Ron Paul and Romney held similar views on the Fed and war.

Rand did nothing but damage his libertarian base, big time. Good luck with your next money bomb, Rand. Think more bomb and less money.

In addition to damaging his base, Rand also had very little to negotiate for in the first place. The power players associated with war and the Fed, that Romney aligns himself with, are much more powerful than Rand. He wouldn’t be able to change Romney’s views on those positions. Perhaps if Rand was a skilled political negotiator, he could have gotten the VP spot from where he could have used it for something akin to a bully pulpit for liberty. But Rand immediately came out in his endorsement of Romney and threw Ron Paul’s liberty positions on war, and the Fed, under the bus.

This does not mean that endorsements and political contributions can never be used by libertarians, but they need to be used carefully and with skill. There is nothing wrong, for example, with a libertarian billionaire who makes contributions to presidential campaigns and senatorial campaigns that result in, say, his gaining more freedom by getting politicians to write tax loopholes for him (as long as he does not use the power to infringe on others) and there is nothing wrong with a libertarian religious leader with a following, say, endorsing an anti-war candidate against a pro-war candidate.

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with a skillful senator endorsing a presidential candidate in order to gain the vice presidential spot, with the plan to use it as a post from which to launch a daily barrage of pro-liberty statements, but it would take a very rare, very courageous, very clever senator to pull it off. The manner in which Rand Paul showed a lack of courage in standing up for freedom in his endorsement, and his lack of skill in executing the endorsement, shows that he is not such a senator. And, I don’t see any others close that could currently fill this role. They are all just about 50% plus one vote.

Indeed, in his interviews since endorsing Romney, in every one of them, Rand really talks about nothing but politician math. He talks about how the support he has lost because of endorsing Romney has been nothing but the hardcore libertarians, "most of whom don’t vote anyway," says he. He has been adding up in his head on live television the dynamics of the 50% plus one vote for Romney and his role in delivering that vote.

Democracy, despite the reverence and lip service placed on "one man one vote", is really about power blocks, get out the vote machines and the power players who control the blocks, machines and money. It has nothing to do with the individual.

The individual is only served away from government. The only chance an individual has to get his unique quirks met is not from government, where a quirk could never possibly result in a power block to influence government, but in the private property free market society where businessmen are out to serve all–not just the power crazed.

In comparison, unless you are super wealthy, or have a power bloc you can deliver, politics is a waste of time. This is even more the case for the libertarian, since politics is, in the end, mostly the fine art of delivering for the power players by destroying liberty, while talking gibberish about serving the people.

If you buy into the gibberish, you are a sucker.

You are much better off studying about freedom, practicing freedom and writing about freedom, than you are joining and working a political campaign for what ultimately must become a liberty destroying outcome.

Reprinted with permission from Economic Policy Journal.

2012 Economic Policy Journal