There are a lot of different ways to think about voting, most of which are just quasi-religious white noise to me. But the issue of voting — do it or don’t, and, if so, how and why? — has gnawed at me all my life. It’s not a major huge deal; the millionth part of anything is nothing. But I have never resolved in my own mind how to approach the idea of voting in elections.
Until now, that is.
As a matter of philosophical principle, voting could only be just in a club, a fully-voluntary organization — and I don’t join clubs. Voting in government elections is necessarily unjust, since I am forbidden by that government to escape from it. In effect, when I vote in a government election, I am trying to dictate the terms on which my neighbors and myself are to be enslaved. I am not just influencing that evil, I am making myself party to it: I am effectively declaring that I have a fractional ownership of everyone else. This is the argument against voting you will hear from many serious libertarians.
Here’s a counter argument, also strongly libertarian: Voting for the most freedom-loving candidate in any race, and for the most liberty-seeking of the ballot questions, is the only way that someone like me has of communicating what it is that I want to temporizing, equivocating, back-side-covering major-party political candidates. I first learned of this strategy in an article in Reason magazine by 1984’s Libertarian Party candidate for president, David Bergland.
A third argument, especially in primary elections and when considering ballot questions, is to pursue self-defense-by-ballot-box, voting against the worst candidates and for the best ballot propositions. To the extent that I have voted in my life, this is what I have done.
But none of this has been satisfying to me. The lesser of two evils is still evil, but forbearing to rape the commons does nothing to eliminate the Tragedy of the Commons.
As above, this is not a major huge deal, so perhaps I’m over-thinking it already. But the lens of self-adoration leads me to rethink everything, and I have come up with a way of dealing with this that is more satisfying to me — and a greater expression of my own on-going self-love — than any of the ideas detailed above.
Here is my new voting strategy:
I will sign my mail ballot and return it otherwise unmarked. I want for no one to enslave me and my neighbors, so I will vote for no one. I want for zero laws to be enacted to limit my life or to expropriate my wealth, so I will vote for no laws. But I want for my would-be despoilers to know that I want no part of what they are doing, so I will speak volumes to them in the form of an elaborate silence. Going Galt? Going Gandhi? Going Swann.
I am not voting for None of the Above, which is simply a way of endorsing the system while rejecting specific candidates. I am explicitly rejecting the system by refusing to endorse it at all.
Is this a rain-dance? Oh, yes. Slave-masters do not begin to care about the opinions of their slaves until you run them out of Baghdad and trap them in a rathole. But not voting at all communicates nothing to them, where returning a blank ballot at least has the chance to send a shiver up a rubber spine. And it’s a way for me to express my self in a way that matters to me — and the purpose of my life — the only purpose of my life — is self-expression.
I’m not campaigning. Do as you will. But this is what I am doing with my mail ballot and what I will do in every election from now on.