Who Are The True Idealists And Defeatists?

Micha's and my plans to not vote tomorrow generated a lot of discussion. Matt McIntosh of Verisimilitude calls my post "idealistic" and references John Lennon's song Imagine. He furthers compares my stance to that of a pacifist. Yet, I am neither an idealist nor a pacifist. I am a pragmatist, and pragmatism is precisely what leads me to my radical viewpoints. If I thought that my single vote would result in some measure of tangible benefit that outweighed the strong subjective dissatisfaction I would experience by casting it, I would carry it out. This is not Afghanistan where voting would be an act of defiance against tyranny. Nor is this a war in which laying down arms unilaterally would mean death. Voting in the United States is merely an act of expression with no instrumental power, regardless of what the government schools say about 'making a difference' or 'civic duty'. Those who believe that voting has instrumental value are the idealists, not me. They are the ones 'imagining' another reality that doesn't exist.

Diana of The Write Wing asks in the comments below, "Let me ask you, who will hear your silence on Tuesday, Jonathan?" From what I can gather, Diana resides in Michigan. Michigan has approximately 7 million registered voters and during the last presidential election, approximately 4 million of them voted. Based on current polling data, here is a hypothetical approximation of what the vote tally will be based on Diana's potential votes:

If Diana votes for Kerry:

|| Kerry || 2,051,248 | 50% ||
|| Bush || 1,927,314 | 47% ||
|| Nader || 409,248 | 1% |
|| Others || 734,842 | 2% |

If Diana votes for Bush:

| Kerry || 2,051,247 | 50% |
| Bush || 1,927,315 | 47% |
| Nader || 409,248 | 1% |
| Others || 734,842 | 2% |

If Diana votes for Nader:

| Kerry || 2,051,247 | 50% |
| Bush || 1,927,314 | 47% |
| Nader || 409,249 | 1% |
| Others || 734,842 | 2% |

Whose voice will be heard Tuesday? Surely not Diana's by her vote.

A couple thousand Catallarchy readers will hear my silence, and it will be louder than any vote I could cast.

Frequent commenter Scott writes, "so you plan to do what, just post on the internet the rest of your life? i understand the urge to rage against the machine here, but i find your attitude much too defeatist. what, if anything, do you actually plan to accomplish?" My attitude is not defeatist. I'm one of the most optimistic libertarians you'll ever meet. Again, I am choosing to actively refrain from voting. It is not out of desperation nor resignation. The only thing voting accomplishes at the individual level is a small measure of self-expression than can set an example for others. It has no instrumental value. I want to express the view that politics is a never-ending fixed-sum game that would be better left not played at all. By voting for the Libertarian Party, I would be expressing the idea that politics is okay but that the wrong people are in power. That is not what I want to express. I want to express the idea that structures of government should allow differing conceptions of the good to coexist peacefully regardless of the people holding office. Further, I want to express the consequence of that idea-- that civil society should be the center of social interaction, not politics.

The only way to view not voting as defeatist is to believe that voting has instrumental value and that change can only happen from within the system. I disagree with both ideas. Democracy does not breed liberty. At best it stalls tyranny better than its predecessors. The liberty we have today did not come about directly because people voted for it. It came about because people believe that a free society is in their best interests, and because technology keeps a check on state power. Most Americans realize that banning speech that they are not in favor of would likely mean that their own speech could be similarly banned in the future - "I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it." They realize that allowing the government to torture people means that they themselves could be on the receiving end of that torture someday. The reason atrocities, mass graves, pogroms, etc do not happen in America is because of the culture of liberty that exists. Spreading ideas is much more instrumentally valuable at the margin than casting a vote. So yes, I do plan to post on the internet for the forseeable future. It will acccomplish much more than pulling a lever every four years for the rest of my life.

The most defeatist libertarians I know are the ones who believe that the only way for a more libertarian society to come about is for the Libertarian Party to win elections. They see no other way towards freedom. They get depressed every four years when the Party fails to make any gains. Yet, there are many other ways of taking steps toward a free society than voting, though voting may bring a false sense of self-satisfaction. Homeschoolers have been gaining the right to educate their the way they see fit by simply refusing to allow the professional child abductors to have their way. Phil Zimmerman single-handedly created more freedom for the average individual than the entire Libertarian Party did during the 1990's. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been defending our freedoms online since its inception. The Mises Institute and Cato Institute generate scholarship, fund conferences, and advocate liberty better than any politicians do. Send them a check. Write a computer program that incorporates asymmetric cryptography in a user friendly way into popular applications. Become a journalist that challenges the status quo. Work for change from within academia. Produce a television series that inspires self-reliance and personal responsibility. Start a blog. But most importantly, live your life and demonstrate to others that though the state may infringe on your autonomy, it cannot define your happiness nor your relationships with people that matter to you.

The future of liberty lies not with politics, but with technology and ideas.


Update: More thoughts on ways to create freedom: What Can One Person Do?
Also: Breaking Free Of The Vicious Circle Share this

I agree that spreading ideas

I agree that spreading ideas and taking action are more useful than voting in bringing about a free society. However, electoral politics is not valueless, it too can spread ideas. Personally, I doubt I would have ever found libertarianism if it weren't for the Libertarian Party. I am grateful to the guys that worked so hard to keep the party alive despite the discouraging effects of naysayers like you.

I find that the political season is the time when people are most open to thinking about and discussing politics. Every fourth year I spread liberty to more people than the intervening three years combined.

Also it should be noted that it is easy to multiply the value of your vote by convincing others to vote with you. I'd be willing to bet that I've convinced 100 people to vote for Badnarik this year. While it's true that a hundred is a small portion of the total vote, I am not acting alone. If every Libertarian Party activist could increase their voting power by two orders of magnitude, we should soon see a different reality.

In a way, yes, you are right. The internet is gonna screw up the political establishment worse than Harry Browne ever did. But don't knock Harry Browne, without Browne I would have never read Rand, without Rand I woulda never read Rothbard, without Rothbard I woulda never read Mises, without Mises I woulda never read Friedman and Friedman, without those guys I woulda never read Locke, etc. etc. etc.

Thank you Harry Browne, thank you Michael Badnarik.

Most Americans realize that

Most Americans realize that banning speech that they are not in favor of would likely mean that their own speech could be similarly banned in the future - â??I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.â??

Sadly, this isn't true based on polling data. It may have been true at one point in time, but now, the only thing that keeps the government from banning offensive and unpopular speech is the intellectual elite from both sides of the isle who strongly value freedom of speech. The average American, apparently, does not.

Jacob, you're right: the

Jacob, you're right: the Libertarian Party is instrumentally valuable as a tool for spreading ideas. I too discovered libertarianism through their efforts.

However, just because we grant that point does not mean that the LP is the best use of our resources, both in terms of money, time, and effort. People like Jonathan and I believe that other methods have vastly more potential, both in terms of spreading ideas and in terms of putting those ideas into practice.

I don't knock those who find value in spreading ideas through party politics. And who knows - maybe you'll even get a few elected ala Ron Paul. As I said in my original post on this subject, I wish you guys the best of luck. But party politics is simply not for me. And I think if most libertarians would rationally analyze the incentive structure of voting and government office, they would realize that it is not for them either. Voting as a defensive tactic is morally defensible; voting as an instrumental tactic, when compared to the alternative uses for those same resources, is not.

The future of liberty lies

The future of liberty lies with individual actions -- employing the technology and ideas you speak of. By not voting your message is confused: it is sending along a signal of inaction when at the same time you adovcate supporting these & those private institutions. I would think it is more correct to say the future of liberty lies in our own hands -- it is what we do privately in our communities & lives that matters, but since the gov't threatens our liberty too then one of the best individual actions one can take is to vote. Not voting will make it that much easier for liberty to be threatened, even when the choice is between the lesser of two evils. Liberty needs to be actively conserved & defended -- inaction, by not voting, undermines that belief.

there's nothing wrong with

there's nothing wrong with spreading ideas through other means as well, i'm sure it is more effective, but do you really think that an activity with such an incredibly small cost is not worth the effort? sure your one vote may not count much, but voting tends to be done more for psychological reasons than anything else. so why not do it if it makes you feel good?

if i vote libertarian, i do it because it has meaning to me personally. probabilitistically sure it has about 0 influence, but so what? it's a small task for a small reward.

let's face it, you can try to influence people as much as you want via blogs, speeches, debates, whatever. but in the end to get things to change government will need to be involved. they are THE law. and voting, as small a thing as it is, has more effect on government than anything else. so yes, use this to gather the libertarian base. and when you get enough, then vote. maybe not federally, or even at the state level, but at some level where you can have an influence strong enough to satisfy you.

you need government's permission to really change things, and you claim you want to, but then you abstain from government. give me a break.

[...] oughtful post up

[...] oughtful post up regarding voting, and why he will be abstaining.  The post is titled "Who Are The True Idealists and Defeatists [...]

I am grateful to the guys

I am grateful to the guys that worked so hard to keep the party alive despite the discouraging effects of naysayers like you.

Why am I a naysayer? Because I wrote something that you don't find pleasing? Have I ever written anything critical of Badnarik on this blog? I hope the Libertarian Party does well. While some other libertarians have called him "nutty", I am of the opinion that Bush and Kerry are infinitely more nutty. The Prescription Drug plan and Leave No Child Behind are nutty. Success for the Libertarian Party would be something that would please me as it would marginally weaken the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Also it should be noted that it is easy to multiply the value of your vote by convincing others to vote with you. Iâ??d be willing to bet that Iâ??ve convinced 100 people to vote for Badnarik this year. While itâ??s true that a hundred is a small portion of the total vote, I am not acting alone. If every Libertarian Party activist could increase their voting power by two orders of magnitude, we should soon see a different reality.

This is simply not true. You cannot 'multiply' your vote, nor its value. You only have one vote out of 100 million. That is a fact that many here seem to be forgetting.

In a way, yes, you are right. The internet is gonna screw up the political establishment worse than Harry Browne ever did. But donâ??t knock Harry Browne, without Browne I would have never read Rand, without Rand I woulda never read Rothbard, without Rothbard I woulda never read Mises, without Mises I woulda never read Friedman and Friedman, without those guys I woulda never read Locke, etc. etc. etc.

Thank you Harry Browne, thank you Michael Badnarik.

I have not 'knocked' any of those people. You can check any of the recent posts or archives.

The future of liberty lies

The future of liberty lies with individual actions â?? employing the technology and ideas you speak of. By not voting your message is confused: it is sending along a signal of inaction when at the same time you adovcate supporting these & those private institutions. I would think it is more correct to say the future of liberty lies in our own hands â?? it is what we do privately in our communities & lives that matters, but since the govâ??t threatens our liberty too then one of the best individual actions one can take is to vote. Not voting will make it that much easier for liberty to be threatened, even when the choice is between the lesser of two evils. Liberty needs to be actively conserved & defended â?? inaction, by not voting, undermines that belief.

I agree; liberty needs to be actively defended. Casting a vote does not accomplish this. The wrong message is sent when libertarians say that their private lives should not be the government's to rule over yet ask permission anyway.

if i vote libertarian, i do

if i vote libertarian, i do it because it has meaning to me personally. probabilitistically sure it has about 0 influence, but so what? itâ??s a small task for a small reward.

letâ??s face it, you can try to influence people as much as you want via blogs, speeches, debates, whatever. but in the end to get things to change government will need to be involved. they are THE law. and voting, as small a thing as it is, has more effect on government than anything else.

You contradicted yourself there. First you stated that casting a vote has zero 'probabilistic' influence. (After you said below that voting is actually 'accomplishing' something whereas blogging is not). Then you said that voting has more effect on government than anything else.

I agree that voting has zero 'probabilistic' influence. Voting also has high subjective costs for me.

The only thing casting a vote does is allow you to express yourself. I choose to express my disguist with politics. My vote has no instrumental value.

you need governmentâ??s permission to really change things, and you claim you want to, but then you abstain from government. give me a break.

You're only seeing the society in terms of laws. I agree that laws are important, and I think the best way to influence laws is to influence people's opinions of laws. Yet, it does not follow that the Libertarian Party has to win elections for laws to become more favorable. The Guardian, NY Times, and Washington Post all came out in favor of free trade in the last couple of years. Even most leftist professors support free trade (though I bet it eats them up on a deeper level.) It wasn't the Libertarian Party winning elections that caused this to happen. Ideas can affect *everyone*, not just Libertarians.

However, laws are often irrelevant. It isn't any law that guarantees freedom of speech today. It's technology. I can say express any idea I want and the government cannot stop me. The idea will get out there.

The post office may have a monopoly on the delivery of first class mail, but I can communicate instantaneously at essentially zero cost in real time with any of my co-bloggers with instant messaging. There may be laws against gambling in most states, but most people I know who want to gamble online have an easy time of it.

The peer-to-peer society is decentralizing power and making big government costly. This is only the tip of the iceberg. As it grows more robust, real taxation will become very costly. The greater the portion of the economy goes online, the freer society will become. Data havens, blacknets, digital cash, cryptography, etc will eventually win out over any laws that governments may pass.

To summarize: You may think that casting a vote 'accomplishes' something. I disagree. Voting results in strong subjective costs to me. Any expressive power of vote I have I wish to use in expressing my view that politics is a losing proposition to the vast majority who participate.

but do you really think that

but do you really think that an activity with such an incredibly small cost is not worth the effort?

You are only looking at one side of the equation. You are correct: the act of voting has a fairly small cost; voting is certainly less costly for us than it is for the Afghani women Jonathan referenced. But is has a very small benefit as well. The impact of a single vote, even in terms of publicity rather than actual election outcome, is infinitesimal. The cost is much greater than the infinitesimal benefit, despite being fairly low.

sure your one vote may not count much, but voting tends to be done more for psychological reasons than anything else. so why not do it if it makes you feel good?

Sure, if it makes you feel good. Going to Church makes some people feel good; avoiding cracks so as not to break one's mother's back makes some people feel good; washing one's hands three times in a row when once is sufficient makes some people feel good. But none of these are instrumentally rational activities, and those who don't find comfort in mysticism or irrationality don't see much of a reason to engage in these activities.

I don't think Jonathan or I or any other intentional non-voter here is arguing that you shouldn't vote if it makes you feel good. We don't believe it is immoral to vote, as some other libertarians believe. But for the same reason I might try to convince a close friend that the mystical practices of a religion are only worthwhile insofar as the actor enjoys the act in and of itself, and that any instrumental effects the Priest claims will result are non-existent, and once my friend realizes this, he may not find prayer quite as worthwhile, so too, we argue with voting.

you need governmentâ??s permission to really change things, and you claim you want to, but then you abstain from government. give me a break.

We don't claim this. If I believed the only way to make the world a better place was with the government's permission (and vicariously, the majority of the voters' permission), I wouldn't bother doing anything to achieve that unreachable goal, nor would I believe the world would ever become a better place.

Further, even insofar as change in government is necessary for change in society, one can influence government without voting. One can influence government by influencing other voters. One can influence government by influencing politicians, judges, and bureaucrats, either directly or indirectly. And one can influence government by competiting with it and making it more difficult and costly for government to implement illiberal policies.

any other intentional

any other intentional non-voter here is arguing that you shouldnâ??t vote if it makes you feel good. We donâ??t believe it is immoral to vote,

Well actually, I do believe it is immoral to participate in the advanced auction of stolen goods. And thus I will not be participating in tomorrow's auction, not even to get back what is rightly mine.

You contradicted yourself

You contradicted yourself there. First you stated that casting a vote has zero â??probabilisticâ?? influence. (After you said below that voting is actually â??accomplishingâ?? something whereas blogging is not). Then you said that voting has more effect on government than anything else.
I agree that voting has zero â??probabilisticâ?? influence. Voting also has high subjective costs for me.
The only thing casting a vote does is allow you to express yourself. I choose to express my disguist with politics. My vote has no instrumental value.

by 0 probabilistically i meant close to 0, sorry i should have clarified. the smaller the level you are voting on the more influence you have. would you consider voting in a small city election worthwhile? at what point is the proportion large enough to matter for you?

why does voting have high subjective costs?

--You are only looking at

--You are only looking at one side of the equation. You are correct: the act of voting has a fairly small cost; voting is certainly less costly for us than it is for the Afghani women Jonathan referenced. But is has a very small benefit as well. The impact of a single vote, even in terms of publicity rather than actual election outcome, is infinitesimal. The cost is much greater than the infinitesimal benefit, despite being fairly low.--

your opinion i guess, some people find a stronger psychological benefit than others.

what's your alternative? it's not like you can't both vote and participate in whatever anarchist activities you normally do as well.

where are you really going in life?

---Sure, if it makes you feel good. Going to Church makes some people feel good; avoiding cracks so as not to break oneâ??s motherâ??s back makes some people feel good; washing oneâ??s hands three times in a row when once is sufficient makes some people feel good. But none of these are instrumentally rational activities, and those who donâ??t find comfort in mysticism or irrationality donâ??t see much of a reason to engage in these activities.---

rationalism is crap, i thought you felt the same way. who cares what is rational or not? so what?

---We donâ??t claim this. If I believed the only way to make the world a better place was with the governmentâ??s permission (and vicariously, the majority of the votersâ?? permission), I wouldnâ??t bother doing anything to achieve that unreachable goal, nor would I believe the world would ever become a better place.---

so what are you doing then micha? you do realize that what you want will never happen, correct? you are thinking "rationally" i hope.

there will be no libertarian revolution.

i mean for christ's sake, i just got into a fucking argument with someone today who claimed taxation wasn't coercive! we are completely fucked. there will be no freedom in our lifetimes.

---Further, even insofar as change in government is necessary for change in society, one can influence government without voting. One can influence government by influencing other voters. One can influence government by influencing politicians, judges, and bureaucrats, either directly or indirectly. And one can influence government by competiting with it and making it more difficult and costly for government to implement illiberal policies.---

so you are against voting, but then you go ahead and try to influence other peoples votes? if voting is just a waste of time, why would you do this?

by 0 probabilistically i

by 0 probabilistically i meant close to 0, sorry i should have clarified. the smaller the level you are voting on the more influence you have. would you consider voting in a small city election worthwhile? at what point is the proportion large enough to matter for you?

I also don't vote for any company decisions for shares of stock that I own, because I know it won't make a difference. Would I vote if the total number of people voting was merely 10,000 instead of 100,000,000? No. 1000? No. 100? Probably not. 10? Yes. (Obviously it also matters on what was at stake). But with millions of people voting in each state? No way.

why does voting have high subjective costs?

Because I find it degrading and insulting. I am not someone else's property.

Moreover, politics is a dead-weight loss for the vast majority of people. A small minority does benefit from politics at the expense of the rest of us. But the vast majority of Americans steal/bribe/coerce each other in nearly equal amounts. It's a huge dead weight loss. This vast majority would be better off not taking part in politics at all. I wish to express this view.

Well actually, I do believe

Well actually, I do believe it is immoral to participate in the advanced auction of stolen goods. And thus I will not be participating in tomorrowâ??s auction, not even to get back what is rightly mine.

I don't think anyone is obligated not to vote. I wouldn't blame someone for trying to get his stolen goods back.

Because I find it degrading

Because I find it degrading and insulting. I am not someone elseâ??s property.

but yet you are. and you will be regardless of whether you vote or not. so why not have a tiny say in who will be your master instead of none at all?

Moreover, politics is a dead-weight loss for the vast majority of people. A small minority does benefit from politics at the expense of the rest of us. But the vast majority of Americans steal/bribe/coerce each other in nearly equal amounts. Itâ??s a huge dead weight loss. This vast majority would be better off not taking part in politics at all. I wish to express this view.

can you back up the view that only a small minority benefit? how would one measure such a thing?

so what are you doing then

so what are you doing then micha? you do realize that what you want will never happen, correct? you are thinking â??rationallyâ?? i hope.

there will be no libertarian revolution.

Speaking for myself only, I hope there is never any libertarian revolution. Revolutions are bloody power grabs. (The American 'Revolution' was not a revolution, but rather a secession.)

i mean for christâ??s sake, i just got into a fucking argument with someone today who claimed taxation wasnâ??t coercive! we are completely fucked. there will be no freedom in our lifetimes.

If there is no hope for rationality, then democracy is doomed, because democracy filters out rationality. So voting won't get you anywhere in an irrational society. It would be less effective than spreading ideas.

I don't think that rationality is doomed, but rather that over the long long term, rational ideas have been slowly replacing irrational ideas.

Because I find it degrading

Because I find it degrading and insulting. I am not someone else�s property.

but yet you are. and you will be regardless of whether you vote or not. so why not have a tiny say in who will be your master instead of none at all?

Because as I said above, voting has no instrumental value.

can you back up the view that only a small minority benefit? how would one measure such a thing?

Public choice theory readings mostly. Nearly everyone belongs to some sort of interest group, PAC, union, protected industry, medicare beneficiary, medicaid, social security, trade association, etc. IMO, this is why democracies are much less likely to devolve into tyranny than other forms of government. Everyone gets a fair shot at the pie. Join a large group and gain sharply from dispersed costs to the rest. We all steal from each other at our own collective loss.

---Public choice theory

---Public choice theory readings mostly. Nearly everyone belongs to some sort of interest group, PAC, union, protected industry, medicare beneficiary, medicaid, social security, trade association, etc. IMO, this is why democracies are much less likely to devolve into tyranny than other forms of government. Everyone gets a fair shot at the pie. Join a large group and gain sharply from dispersed costs to the rest. We all steal from each other at our own collective loss.---

this isn't good enough. besides, if we all get a fair shot, what's the big problem? doesn't sound like the minority to me.

---Speaking for myself only,

---Speaking for myself only, I hope there is never any libertarian revolution. Revolutions are bloody power grabs. (The American â??Revolutionâ?? was not a revolution, but rather a secession.)---

you know what i mean. we will live and die with statism.

---I donâ??t think that rationality is doomed, but rather that over the long long term, rational ideas have been slowly replacing irrational ideas.---

what makes you think this?

Well actually, I do believe

Well actually, I do believe it is immoral to participate in the advanced auction of stolen goods. And thus I will not be participating in tomorrowâ??s auction, not even to get back what is rightly mine.

Whoops! Sorry about that, David. I should not have spoken for you.

you know what i mean. we

you know what i mean. we will live and die with statism.

I disagree. But we can save that discussion for another day.

what makes you think this?

Because everything I read the further and further back in time it was written is more and more irrational. Hobbes was pretty rational in some ways - seeing the consequences of the state of nature. But he was pretty irrational about the solution - totalitarian monarchy. But what else was he going to propose? Economics wasn't popularized till a couple of hundred years later. Political theory, political economy, etc was simply beyond the comprehension of the people of his times.

Reading something written by a classical Greek is even more mind-boggling - humors, impetus, gods and demigods, fate, etc. Everything drips with irrationality with rare slivers of rationality peeping out.

With more and more knowledge, better ideas are filtered through and bad ones are weeded out. More and more people are exposed to them. The current secular liberal democracies are evidence for this. I don't think anyone has proven that we're any smarter biologically than we were 2,000 years ago, but surely more rational ideas about the world are prevalent.

The recent growth of free market ideas over the last 50-60 years has shown more growth in rationality (IMO) - Mises's Economic Calculation Problem, the Public Choice revolution, game theory, evolutionary biology, etc. And we have a tool to spread these ideas far better than any classical Greek or Hobbes ever did.

this isnâ??t good enough.

this isnâ??t good enough. besides, if we all get a fair shot, whatâ??s the big problem? doesnâ??t sound like the minority to me.

Because it's a dead-weight loss. Imagine if you were stranded on an island with two people and all three of you spent the majority of your day stealing from each other instead of dividing labor and specializing in tasks. You spend an hour stealing from Bill. While you are doing that, Bill steals from John. While Bill does that, John steals from you. There is very little benefit to any of you over that hour (though likely some benefit would exist based on what you stole and how much you desired it). But it would be much more beneficial in the long run, if you actually went out and hunted, fished, etc and then traded for your desires.

When law is a public good, people are successful in stealing from each other, but so is everyone else. It's a dead-weight loss.

You have a good argument for

You have a good argument for voting NOTA (none of the above). Unfortunately, that's not one of the options. I wish it were. Failing that, I agree with Diana that not voting doesn't send a message to anyone. You are counted (erroneously) amongst the slothful.

To make it work, there needs to be some coalition that might support a candidate, and has cohesion amongst its members. The announcement of such a coalition that it's advising its members to not vote would at leave have some visibility.

I think the same argument applies to the futility of voting. If I assume people vote randomly with a 50.1% chance (between the two leading contenders) of preferring X, my vote is immensely useless. It's not just 1 in 100M. It's much worse than that in statistical terms, if there is even a small bias in the rest of the electorate. However, if I'm part of a voting bloc representing 1% of the electorate, and that voting bloc has some cohesion (a big "if"), then my vote does matter. So, voting is something of a prisoner's dilemma played with other people in your voting bloc (i.e. now that you'll vote as agreed, I can stay home and have a cocktail since my vote won't matter).

whatâ??s your alternative?

whatâ??s your alternative? itâ??s not like you canâ??t both vote and participate in whatever anarchist activities you normally do as well. where are you really going in life?

I'm not sure where I am going in life; I hope in a good direction. But even if I wasn't, I don't see how voting would change that. Casting a ballot isn't like a self-help-group or 12-step-program. Or maybe it is... Serenity now! Serenity now! :grin:

I'm sure I can think of something more productive and enjoyable to do then voting. My life isn't that boring.

I suggested some alternatives in my new post, as did Jonathan in this one.

rationalism is crap, i thought you felt the same way. who cares what is rational or not? so what?

Well, in a certain sense you are correct. Many activities are not tools for achieving other purposes; the activities themselves simply are the purpose. Non-reproductive sex, smoking, movie watching, ice cream. Although one could say the instrumental purpose of these activities is to achieve pleasure, at the proper level of abstraction, these activities are simply pleasurable in their own right. They are only rational in the sense that they produce pleasure, and for no other reason. Activities like lawn-mowing, laundry folding, diaper changing, dieting, pickle-jar-opening, and so on, are merely means to other ends, and not ends in themselves.

If you find voting pleasurable in the former sense, I have no argument against that. Some people enjoy cheering at football games. Others enjoy cheering in the ballot box. I don't find either of these activities pleasurable. And while most people realize that cheering at a football team is not instrumentally rational as a form of helping your team win, they find it pleasurable nonetheless. However, rooting for the home team is easier to understand as an expressive activity, since it is a social public act. Voting, on the other hand, is a mostly private one. I think if most people understood the force of this analogy, they would realize that they could get all of the expressive enjoyment of rooting for their favorite candidate without actually having to vote. The reason why they do is because they still think of voting as partially instrumental. Perhaps you don't, but if so, my argument doesn't apply to you.

so what are you doing then micha? you do realize that what you want will never happen, correct? you are thinking â??rationallyâ?? i hope. there will be no libertarian revolution. i mean for christâ??s sake, i just got into a fucking argument with someone today who claimed taxation wasnâ??t coercive! we are completely fucked. there will be no freedom in our lifetimes.

This is precisely our point! There is no hope if the only way to achieve a better world is to convince a large enough segment of the voting population that taxation is coercive. You know as well as I do that this will never happen. If electoral success or political revolution are the only two solutions, then you are correct: not only will there never be freedom in our lifetimes; there will never be freedom in our great, great, grandchildrens' lifetimes either. That is precisely why we must look for other ways...

so you are against voting, but then you go ahead and try to influence other peoples votes? if voting is just a waste of time, why would you do this?

Because although one vote cannot influence an election, hundreds or thousands of votes often can. My act of voting is not rational; my influencing other people to vote is.

That said, I don't adopt this strategy either, for the reason mentioned above: political persuasion is difficult and largely futile as a means of influencing policy. Persuading academics, bureacrats, and politicians is a better strategy, while market persuasion, i.e. marketing, i.e. making it in people's financial interest to choose liberty (and included with that, making statism financially unsupportable) is best of all.

can you back up the view

can you back up the view that only a small minority benefit? how would one measure such a thing?

For the same reason that only a few industries benefit from protectionism, while everyone else benefits from free trade. It is difficult to measure all at once, because there are so many different people involved, and so many different forms of redistribution (most of which do not actually transfer wealth in the direction they are intended to). But it is a fairly simply conclusion, backed up by the many economic arguments for laissez faire.

this isnâ??t good enough.

this isnâ??t good enough. besides, if we all get a fair shot, whatâ??s the big problem? doesnâ??t sound like the minority to me.

We all get a fair shot - at stealing each other's lunch money. The gains we each enjoy from these transfers helps offset a portion of the money we lose from them. But only a portion. We cannot all get rich stealing from each other. And with each successive theft, more and more is lost through reduced incentives to produce and consume, and through administrative costs.

Ervan, You have a good

Ervan,

You have a good argument for voting NOTA (none of the above). Unfortunately, thatâ??s not one of the options. I wish it were. Failing that, I agree with Diana that not voting doesnâ??t send a message to anyone. You are counted (erroneously) amongst the slothful.

Non-votes are counted. Statisticians calculate, each election, the number of eligible voters and the number of votes cast. This gives them a figure for the number of votes cast for each candidate, and the number of abstainees.

Does this send a message to anyone? I think this gets the question backwards. It is true that voting, as an expressive activity, is all about sending a message. But that does not mean it is all about someone receiving that message. It is in that sense that voting is irrational; since there are so many signals being sent,and the structure of the system only counts the impact of the total group and not the marginal unit, the additional impact of sending of one more signal is nil. But the act of sending, for the sender, may be significantly above nil. Which is why people vote.

Viewed in this way, by placing the emphasis on the sending, not the receiving, intentionally not voting sends a signal too. And as I mentioned, abstaining also creates a signal, but this signal is lost in the crowd of non-voters, just as voting is lost in the crowd of voters.

if (benefit > cost); then

if (benefit > cost); then
act();
else
find_alternative();

I won't be voting. It's just not worth it.

...plus I didn't bother to register in this state!

jonathan, micha thanks for

jonathan, micha thanks for the responses.

i guess my real issue here is that while voting doesn't seem to do much, i still don't see much else to do. very few people are convinced by libertarian arguments. some of them don't even convince me (i'm more of a "moderate" libertarian). the only way i can see achieving liberty, outside of some bizarre scenario like seasteading or living in space, is to try to get more governmental control at the local levels were one has more influence, and thus voting does actually matter a bit. i think that is the only "plausible" first step, if that.

but i can't help feel that the goal of those on the blog (which i do enjoy by the way) is simply futile. i'm sure you would agree that the state has increased more and move over time, not less. perhaps technology is another plausible solution to those seeking liberty, who knows. but there will always be someone in power, always someone ruling over you. you want to abolish the state, however i understand that it can only be contained.

there is no reason to vote.

there is no reason to vote. the results will be exactly the same no matter if the individual votes or not. i will venture to say the results would be exactly the same if there were 10 voters, the power groups would control them like marionettes. its a silly waste of time for a libertarian individual. it takes just as long to fill out an offshore bank account form, and that my friend is REAL QUANTIFIABLE CHANGE!!! for the only person who matters. YOU.

Scott, Sometimes the urge to

Scott,

Sometimes the urge to Do Something Now makes me feel like voting, too. It is frustrating to have to bide one's time and search for innovative ways to decrease the impact of government on our lives. And if voting is the only scratch that satisfies your itch, go for it. There are certainly worse things you could be doing. Just try to understand why some libertarians look for other ways to scratch that itch.

Local level activism and things like the Free State Project are good ways to actually turn your expressive political action into possibly instrumental action.

Jonathan, Don't you wonder

Jonathan,

Don't you wonder at all what would happen if every member of a 3rd party -- be it the Green Party, Libertarian -- decided today NOT to give in to hopelessness and went to the polls and cast a vote for their candidate?

Diana

[P.S. Yes, I'm from Oakland County in Michigan.]

Diana, Donâ??t you wonder

Diana,

Donâ??t you wonder at all what would happen if every member of a 3rd party â?? be it the Green Party, Libertarian â?? decided today NOT to give in to hopelessness and went to the polls and cast a vote for their candidate?

But I don't control every member. I only control me. I only have the effect of one vote on the final tally. As I wrote above in the tables, this vote has essentially zero effect. Same with yours.

If We Ran Beer Like We Run

If We Ran Beer Like We Run Our Elections...
Brilliant post by Andy Stedman. Hat tip to Micha Ghertner, who also offers this amusing endorsement of Kerry. Also from...

[...] uite eloquent in their

[...] uite eloquent in their explanations for why they do not vote, as evidenced here, here, and here. Other individuals provide more [...]