Jokers, Voters, and Rockers

In a month’s time, the greatest political circus on the planet will take place in India – the general elections. And the political parties have unleashed their clowns, and opened their bags of goodies. Actually the “goodies” phenomenon is a perpetual one. And Sauvik wrote about it – government schemes whose only intention is buying votes. He refers to a band and their song that tells people to “Shut Up And Vote” and tells the band to “Shut Up And Think” instead. That didn’t go too well, as you will find if you read the condescending comments on the posts from people who (as far as I can tell from the comments) have no clue of either libertarianism, or liberty, or politics. Well, I don’t care about rockers, however famous or infamous they may be, but I do care about freedom, and that is why I agree with Sauvik when he says – “As a libertarian, I insist that those of us who believe in free markets, free trade, liberty and property, should NOT vote.” But I don’t agree with his reasoning:

We are not allowed to compete for votes in this socialist monopoly of a democracy. The Representation of People Act restricts democratic participation to those who swear by socialism. Since we are avowedly anti-socialist, we are debarred from forming political parties and contesting elections. Why should we vote in such a system?

nor his support for NOTA:

If we want genuine competition between political philosophies and political principles, we must mobilize public opinion on our side – and reject socialist democracy. Hence my endorsement of the NOTA vote – None Of The Above.

I could write a few paragraphs on why voting is a scam, about how the Jaago Re campaign is inane and insulting, and the Times of India campaign dishonest – the people who swear on their children that they will vote must surely hate their kids very much. But I can’t, not now. So read David King’s essays instead. They are brilliant-

Voting is an indicator of personal intellectual and moral inadequacy: anyone whose memory is strong enough to recall the claims made during past elections–and what was subsequently done by the winning candidates–will realize full well the fraudulence and futility of electoral politics.

By voting, you advocated an undertaking you didn’t fully understand. You were a participant in an activity you failed to supervise. You did not check on the behavior of a man whom you knew from experience to be a liar, and you permitted that man to screw around with the most dangerous technology in human history. I’d say you shirked your responsibility.

There is a conflict in voting which is not found in the marketplace. Market choices conflict only in the sense that buying a given good leaves you LESS money (not NO money) for the purchase of other goods. While you can buy some pretzels and some pizza, you can’t vote for some Bush and some Clinton. In a market, the individual is never placed in the position of being a dissenting (and powerless) minority. In America, voting is an all-or-nothing proposition: you either win all or you lose all. If you can get 51% of the vote, you get 100% of the power. No matter whether an office is filled by an 80% voter turnout or by a 15% voter turnout, the office holder has the full power of the office. If you are on the losing side–the minority–you get nothing. The alternative presented to the voter is absolutely exclusive: the selection of one TOTALLY precludes the other.

Electoral politics is the opportunity to choose among rulers none of whom you want, and the obligation to accept the ones you end up with.

Participation in electoral politics serves to legitimize the entire political process and the existence of government. Voting cannot do otherwise than reaffirm the government’s supposed legitimacy. If people did not vote, the democratic theory of government would lose its legitimacy and politicians would have to justify their rule on the basis of something other than the alleged consent of the governed. This, hopefully, would make the true nature of the State more obvious to the governed. And such a revelation might have the potential to motivate people to challenge or evade government coercion.

To commit a crime by proxy is to have someone else impose your will for you. The most convenient and frequent manner of committing acts of harm by proxy is to use government to commit the crimes you want done. All you have to do is vote for whichever criminal promises to use force in the way you wish. The very act of voting is an attempt on the part of voters to delegate to another person a power that they could not justly possess themselves.

When you vote you participate in the selection of an officeholder. Thus you acquire responsibility for his subsequent behavior–regardless of who gains the office. Your participation is your concession that there should indeed BE elected officials with the power of coercion. In voting, you give your sanction to the institution that enables the officials to coerce. Even though you may not approve of the particular officials who attain office, you DO approve of the enabling institution. Government is based on coercion, but individuals should not have the authority to coerce others, and therefore they should not put themselves in a position to delegate such authority to third parties, which is the essence of voting. Every time you step into a voting booth you license a potential killer or thief.

Some advocates of voting, when faced with the accusation that they are perpetrating this evil, will counter with the assertion that your means of control over the situation is to exercise your right to vote, and that if you don’t do so, you have no right to complain about the situation (“If you don’t vote, don’t complain!” is what they say). Consider the nature of the demand they are laying on you: your alternative is either to participate in the wickedness (by voting) or refuse to participate and thus be condemned to submit in silent acquiescence to being victimized by the wickedness. In fact, only those who do NOT vote have a legitimate moral right to complain: they are the only ones who give no sanction or support to their persecutors.

Imagine a neighborhood in which two bullies dominate and intimidate everyone. But they’re democratic-minded bullies: they allow all (well, almost all) the neighbors to vote every four years in an election to determine which of the bullies will be empowered to possess a big stick and for the next four years to rule the neighborhood, beating and robbing all the residents. Now imagine that one poor persecuted resident complains about being beaten and robbed, and in response is told: “Well, if you don’t like bully D then next time express your preference for bully R–but unless you choose one of these bullies, you have no right to complain about being beaten and robbed.”

Such a demand for willing self-immolation is an act of inexcuseable viciousness–worse even than the beating and robbing!

When they tell me “If you don’t vote, don’t complain!” I simply quote Thoreau to them: “I cast my whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but my whole influence.” If you don’t Shrug, don’t complain!

Voting is a willing participation in your enemy’s social institution. It is a form of collaboration. When you vote, you are devoting a part of your time and energy to making a contribution to the political system. Your participation itself constitutes that contribution, regardless of the intent of, or specific form of, that participation. Like they say, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, as long as you vote. Any participation in the electoral process can be used by tyrants as evidence of sanction for their actions. After all, they won–fair and square–didn’t they?

If you consider voting to be acceptable, then you must consider it acceptable for the winning candidates to hold power in a coercive government. The ultimate political issue is that of the Individual vs. the State. But the voter, by virtue of his behavior, has already cast his lot with the State. Each candidate wants to use the State in a different way–but each wants to use the State. Obviously, this is a game in which only the State can win. By playing the game, you demonstrate your conviction that the game should be played.

The difference between a bullet and a ballot is that a bullet can be precisely aimed at a deserving target whereas a ballot attacks innocent third parties who must endure the consequences of the politician who has been put into a position of unjust power over their lives. Whoever puts a man into a position of unjust power–that is, a position of political power–must share responsibility for every aggression he perpetrates thereafter.

There is plenty of mass-media crowing about the “high voter turnout” (about 55%–that’s high?), as an “affirmation of the system,” and a “strong endorsement of democracy.” Nobody mentions the message of the 45% abstention.

It is often said that refusal to vote means that one is left with no voice at all. But that implies that having a voice in the coercive proceedings of government is proper and desirable.

If voting could have kept this totalitarianism from happening, we wouldn’t have the police-state we have got, because people are forever voting and they’ve certainly had enough opportunities to stop it or turn it aside if that was possible. On the contrary, it is the process of voting that has made it possible.

Back during the Vietnam era, the protestors used to say “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” That represents only a superficial analysis of the political system. A more fundamental analysis is represented by the question “What if they gave an election and nobody came?” (But then, Australia has an answer for that!)

John Galt (Part3, Chapter8):

“It’s the attempt of your betters to beat you on YOUR terms that has allowed your kind to get away with it for centuries. Which one of us would succeed, if I were to compete with you for control over your musclemen? …. I’d perish and what you’d win would be what you’ve always won in the past: a postponement, one more stay of execution, for another year–or month–bought at the price of whatever hope and effort might still be squeezed out of the best of the human remnants left around you, including me.”

From Ayn Rand’s notes for ATLAS SHRUGGED:

By accepting his decisions, which she knows to be wrong, then by helping him to carry out bad ideas well, she only helps him to run the railroad badly and thus contradicts and defeats her own purpose, which was to run it well. She postpones the natural consequences of his bad decisions and thus leaves him free and gives him the means to do more damage to the railroad by more bad decisions, and worse ones. A bad thing well done is more dangerous and disastrous than a bad thing badly done. For example: an efficient robbery is worse for the victim than an inefficient one.

Thoreau (Civil Disobedience):

“All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked, I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting FOR THE RIGHT is DOING nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the actions of masses of men…. It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support…. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”

A black African guerilla, commenting on voting:

“Vote, what is a vote? I don’t have a vote in Mozambique. They don’t have the vote in Zambia or Zimbabwe or Angola or Tanzania. Nobody has the vote in Africa, except perhaps once in a man’s life to elect a president-for-life and a one-party government. Vote? You can’t eat a vote. You can’t dress in a vote, or ride to work on it. For two thousand rand a month and a full belly you can have my vote.”

Only if people are viewed as exclusively political creatures is the view correct that democracy is an important criterion of human rights.

Voting is like going into a room through one of two doors. Whichever one you choose you end up in the same room.

A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.

Voting would make ME feel like a swim in the sewer. It would leave me with a sense of spiritual pollution.

Majority Rule – Democracy
In America, it is claimed, we have “majority rule.” Just what do we have in fact?

To find out, let us analyze a recent presidential election. I chose the Johnson-Goldwater election of 1964 because the winner of that election received the greatest plurality of votes of any recent (during the past half-century) election: Johnson received 61% of the votes cast. But was this landslide victory an expression of “majority rule”? I think not.

Certainly Johnson can be said to represent a majority of the voters–61% is, after all, almost two-thirds. But when you consider the total number of eligible voters you discover that Johnson represents only 37% of them (they didn’t all choose to vote, you see). So Johnson represents only a bit over one-third of the voting-age population of the country. That can hardly be said to be a majority!

But even this is not a fair assessment of the situation. Johnson was, after all, not merely president over those who chose to vote for him; not merely president over those who were qualified to vote; he was president over EVERYBODY! And out of that “everybody” how many actually expressed a choice to have Johnson as their president? 22%. Yeah, only about one person in five expressed a choice for Johnson.

As I said, I deliberately picked this election as an example. Any other recent election shows even more strikingly that this so-called “majority” is a quite small fraction of the population.

The notion of “majority rule” is hogwash!
As L. Neil Smith observed: “The REAL majority always loses.”

Shortly after the 1964 election I realized that the American electoral process contains a fundamental flaw. When you vote, the only choice you have is to vote FOR one candidate or FOR another candidate. There is no way you can vote AGAINST any candidate. There is no “NO” choice on the ballot, only “YES” choices. This realization was one of the things that turned me off to the idea of politics. You have no doubt heard (many times) of a disgruntled voter going to the polls to choose “the lesser of two evils.” I realized that the lesser of two evils is still an evil, and to express a preference for that evil is to don the cloak of moral culpability for his subsequent behavior.

I observed with interest a peculiar electoral quirk during the 1976 elections. The LP, after the expenditure of an enormous amount of time, energy and money, was able to get “None of the above” placed on the ballot in Nevada. Thus there were three options available to the Nevada electorate when they went into the polling booth to elect their congressman: the Democrat, the Republican, and None of the Above. The outcome of this election was very interesting: the Democrat received 23% of the votes, the Republican received 29%, and NOTA received a whopping 47%. Can you guess what happened? Very simple: the Republican went to Washington as the congressman from Nevada. As of 1990, NOTA is still on the ballot in Nevada, but the winner of every election is that PERSON who gains the greatest number of votes. Votes cast for NOTA are simply wasted.

It is intrinsic to the American Constitution that there MUST be a government. The people CANNOT choose “No Government”–that is not provided for in the Constitution. Sure, the Declaration of Independence observes the right of the people to “alter or abolish” their government, but the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document.

I found it fascinating to watch the first post-Soviet general elections in Russia. They had an explicit choice on their ballots: Yes or No for any (and all) particular candidates. Such a large number of the Communist candidates (who ran unopposed) received a preponderance of “No” votes that run-off elections were held a couple weeks later. Those “No” votes were indeed counted–unlike the NOTA votes in Nevada.

I found it fascinating also to watch the subsequent Hungarian elections, which were held with the stipulation that unless at least 51% of the voting population did participate, the elections would be invalid. The Hungarian government has a more acute sense of “majority” than does the American government. In a recent election for the Fremont County, Wyoming, government, only 13% of the population voted, and yet the government selected by a majority of that tiny percentage does indeed rule Fremont County. Some “majority rule” that is!!

American voter turnout as percent of voting age population, during national off-year elections:

1966 – 47.9
1970 – 47.9
1974 – 38.9
1978 – 45.9
1982 – 48.5
1986 – 46.0
1990 – 45.0

Since 1972, when 18-year-olds first went to the polls, their election participation has steadily declined. In 1990 less than 19% of the 18 to 20 age group voted.

The majority is invariably wrong. Consider the fact that every major breakthrough in man’s understanding of the world has always been greeted with indifference or opposition by the majority. When private individuals in 18th century England introduced the “barbaric” practice of inoculating against smallpox, the majority, including virtually the entire medical profession, was appalled. Advances are made by individuals or by small groups of cooperating people who are obliged to overcome majority opinion or indifference. The fact that the majority is invariably wrong has interesting implications for the concept of democracy–a system which means, in fact, State control of the individual and his property in accordance with the supposed wishes of the majority. In a word, where majority rules, progress stops. The goal of free men should not be majority rule at all but self-rule, a society in which not political action but individual action prevails.

Political freedom for the individual has become merely a charming legend from the early years of the Republic when individual liberty–rather than the will of the majority–was actually considered the core of democracy. Nowadays, acceptance of the legitimacy of individual autonomy is a notion wholly intolerable to the democratic ideology. Under a democracy, when a man looks into a mirror he sees one ten-millionth of a tyrant, and one whole slave.

Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Simply because democracies, like all governments, maintain control by the threat and application of violence and imprisonment.

Some of the devastating consequences of the Ambiguous Collective fallacy can be observed in the phrase “we are the government,” where the otherwise useful collective term “we” has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the naked exploitative reality of political life. The government does not in any meaningful sense “represent” the majority of the people. But even if it did, crime is still crime, no matter how many citizens agree to the aggression. There is nothing sacrosanct about the majority; a lynch mob, too, is the majority in its own domain.

And also read Henry David Thoreau’s important essay – “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”

The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to – for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well – is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which I have also imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.

This “intellectual onanist” and his “onanism” influenced, among others, Mahatma Gandhi. But then, there must have been people who would have told Gandhi to make peace with the British when he began his freedom struggle. And the White Rose revolutionists to go and vote against Hitler.

Freedom has too many enemies – too many semantic warriors standing against it, and too many blind pragmatists hell bent on “doing something” without thinking about the consequences of their actions. No wonder it keeps dying.

The world and the idiots that inhabit it never cease to surprise me. No, that’s a standard sign off. Nothing surprises me – they only make my blood boil.

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  • you12  On March 22, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    So I suppose you have lost all faith in any statist measures?

    • Aristotle The Geek  On March 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm

      Not all (statist meaning government here). Not yet, at least. I am not clear about war and geopolitics.

      Just because you decide to become libertarian doesn’t mean the whole world will too. And that is a problem that will have to be faced sooner or later. Recently three “tax havens” were threatened by the OECD with “blacklisting.” A libertarian “nation” will face similar threats.

  • you12  On March 22, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Or is it just non conformity?

    • Aristotle The Geek  On March 22, 2009 at 9:34 pm

      Non-conformity is a nice bonus to have – not being part of the herd – but if you treat it as a primary, you deceive yourself because what you are doing then is mold yourself based on how others behave. Its self-defeating, and stupid.

  • pochp  On March 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    ‘The world and the idiots that inhabit it never cease to surprise me. No, that’s a standard sign off. Nothing surprises me – they only make my blood boil.’

    For a very long time, me too.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On March 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    mr. rastafarian should consider cutting back on his weed intake. that goes to all other similar junkies who call out for NOTA option. what a fucking waste of a good vote. were already in a process of inducting the “hung assembly” as one among our grand indian traditions and along come these people with an advise as silly and retarded as that.

  • sauvik chakraverti  On March 23, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for this excellent post. Learnt a lot. My endorsement of the NOTA vote was based on the idea of shaming the establishment, into making them realize just how illegitimate they are in the eyes of the majority. That’s all. In any case, a centralised socialist democracy is tyranny by another name. Socialists are democrats not because they believe in Liberty: they use democracy rather to fool the people. Thanks again, and cheers!

    • Aristotle The Geek  On March 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm

      # “…based on the idea of shaming the establishment, into making them realize just how illegitimate they are in the eyes of the majority.”
      The establishment has no shame, and the NOTA surely isn’t going to change that. A Hurriyat style noisy boycott, however futile and kooky that may be, is better.

      Another problem is that the majority still “believes” in “democracy” – even I did, till a few months back – and eventually you will have to vote someone in/ select someone because those NOTA seats can’t be kept empty. And nothing is going to change that.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On March 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    well, no sh!t democracy is a eye wash. at least in india were the majority have little or no say in governance(corruption) or foreign policy. in a way, its a good thing cause then the minority gets a golden opportunity to play ball against the majority. and the fact fucking part is that hindu’s are a divided stock. no wonder them short-sighted regional parties keep popping up like cockroaches since coalitions like UPPA have no problem sleeping with them be it separatist or regional or any other anti-national pests. the greatest flaw here is the caste system. you clean that out and you’ll get everyone in check.

    united we stand, divided we fall
    that seems to be the right slogan for this election – not “jai ho”. someone needs to re-remind the people of this country that.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On March 23, 2009 at 8:40 pm

      # “the greatest flaw here is the caste system. you clean that out and you’ll get everyone in check.”
      The solution is very simple – extreme Hindutva. Modi should dissociate himself from the BJP, call them sell-outs and start his own party. In a few years time, once Indian society is polarized enough, and the middle class cowers in fear in their bedrooms, he can play upon their fears and win.

      The only question is – after that, what? You think a Hindu rashtra is a solution to all problems?

      • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On March 23, 2009 at 9:53 pm

        Hindu rashtra is a solution to all problems?
        there’s no such thing as a hindu republic. what does it even mean? if it means to unite all hindus together then fine but if not then it doesn’t mean anything.

        it’s the “yindoo” factor that holds this country together. centuries of hindu-rule on societies have shaped a morality, conscious and beliefs in ways so complex that it’s no longer possible to even remotely narrow down or define hinduism or it’s followers. hinduism gave birth to several bastard childs but that didn’t meant it abandoned it’s project and stopped evolving. there’s a section of hindu’s who look back and admire there religion and stop in fulfillment and there are those who continue to take it further – even if it contradicts it’s basics. there is not a single religion in world that challenges it’s core beliefs and evolves or introduces reforms – even the bastard childs of hinduism lack that ability.

        the whatever form of hinduism that exists today isn’t the last. communal politics of minorities will shape hinduism in the future like always. one day the bottle of rage will give away and crack and militancy will pour out and consume india. it’s just a matter of time and the degree to which it gets pushed against the corner. and that can only be termed as “evolution”. like always.

        i keep saying this… the current political games advocate hindu militancy. wait for a massive depression and wait till a large chunk of indians get unemployed. a bomb blast during this period will be a triggering point. fuck your caste system.

        children of the grain stand master-less.true!

        ~~~the militant poet has spoken.

        • undercover Indian  On March 23, 2009 at 10:45 pm

          I agree with you. Hinduisms is even better than libertarians. Actually, no , it even includes an ancient form of libertarians still manifesting as weed smoking, nihilistic,state-less, ash-smearing sadhus often seen naked to symbolize man’s highest right, right to be free.

          • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On March 23, 2009 at 11:36 pm

            there ain’t nothing more dangerous than a pig with political aspirations.
            i feel that same thing about philosophers too. there like one of those “newly converted” jack asses who are so sure and head strong about there new found beliefs that there the one’s who’ll spew the most acid and try to convert as many people as they can to there line of beliefs. those refusing are called kaffirs or infidels… or pragmatists!!!

            My job is to kill if you forget to take your Pill(Capitalism)
            what lesson did capitalism teach you today?

            • Aristotle The Geek  On March 24, 2009 at 2:09 am

              undercover indian,

              I have absolutely no interest in converting anyone – I have found that doing that is akin to banging your head against a concrete wall. If my comments seem like proselytizing to you, I will stick to one word replies – I agree/disagree, yes/no etc – or better still, not reply at all.

              I blog because I don’t like what goes on around me and I want to know why. People who share my concern and my ideas, or don’t agree with them and can refute my arguments, I can converse with. People whose only aim is to attack every one of my “beliefs” without refuting them – the “you have red hair, so you are an idiot” kind of debate – I couldn’t care less about.

              In any case, I am a misanthrope. In Sartre’s words – hell is other people.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On March 24, 2009 at 10:48 am

    nobody’s attacking nobody. a bit of ridicule maybe which was necessary:) else you wouldn’t come out clearing yourself. it’s nice that your so head strong about your beliefs and maybe you’ll try to make me understand why that is. but im nobody to attack you. ameatures do that.

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