"People have often been willing to give up personal identity and join into a collective. Historically, that propensity has usually been very bad news. Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought. Fascists, communists, religious cults, criminal 'families' — there has been no end to the varieties of human collectives, but it seems to me that these examples have quite a lot in common. I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob." ~ Jaron Lanier
When to Hold and When to Fold
I have been involved over the years with the Democratic, Libertarian, and Green Parties. I have been part of non-partisan electoral efforts to pass or defeat specific referenda or ballot proposals, too.
Not any more, though.
In the end, all parties seem to bog down into meaningless and time-wasting schisms and split-offs related to personality conflict and ego-trip issues that occur when the party is largely unsuccessful or irrelevant in its venue or efforts. If on the other hand the party is successful, the same things happen anyway, but the problems also include corruption, intransigence and intra-party food fights and other spoils of incumbency.
So after the 2000 elections, I said goodbye to all that. Unless issues emerge which are relevant to my ideas about living in liberty, are serious threats to my civil liberties, or cost me money, tough luck. I have engaged in a unilateral armistice with the State and its JBTs. I hope it is only a temporary one, though.
In 2000, property owners in my town were faced with a nasty rent-control law as a ballot proposal that would have given virtually complete control over both retail and residential rental property to a handpicked, city council-appointed board. Exempted of course (a bone thrown to the corporate and real estate interests) were the shopping malls, and big-box retail stores.
The equation of interests was this: Republicans, Libertarians, and free market-inclined independents versus most Democrats, the Green Party, and the usual suspects of the socialist and social democratic left.
Surprisingly, the GOP carried the banner highest despite being small in actual numbers. They raised the most money and did the most work in campaigning against the proposal. The Libertarians, for whom you would think that this would be a signature issue, raised a good sum, too. However, they sent most of it to LP headquarters in Washington to help elect Harry Browne POTUS. The local LP spent an inordinate amount of time passing out Browne-for-President flyers and yard signs, too, and barely ever mentioned that a good number of us stood to lose a big chunk of our property ownership rights.
Not entirely lost, mind you, for we could always go to court, but who wants to have to mount a long and expensive struggle to evict a destructive tenant or get a lease approved? Additionally, property owners would have to pay for the honor of having inspectors come out and issue code violation tickets to us on an unlimited basis.
We won that one (barely), but the writing was on the wall. Wifey and I opted out of all this. We sold our budding real estate empire we had built from scratch for fire sale prices and left this Midwestern Leningrad in our dust.
The lessons we learned were these: Sometimes Atlas has to shrug. Sometimes John Galt has to melt away. You cannot argue with the greedy and their demagogues. Worst of all, we learned that when the chips are down, the so-called 'Party of Principle' painted its ass white and ran with the other rabbits for the safety of the tall grass.
It was this experience, along with the racism and the steadily increasing levels of oppression directed at Arabs and Muslims post-9/11 that led me to conclude that conventional electoral politics is the wrong path for getting where I want to go. (I won't digress into what I decided was the right path for me here, but I have written of it.)
I have not completely given up working within the rigged game of wolves outvoting sheep that passes for politics in this day. However, I do keep a closer eye on what is going on, and I do pick-and-choose my political battles much more carefully.
Just as I would not buy into a long-shot investment opportunity if a payoff were not likely, (e-mailed Nigerian investment solicitations or state lottery tickets come to mind here), I am not going to invest time or money in the next big grassroots movement that comes along (remember Ross Perot and the Reform Party?), which are usually cult-of-personality ego trips of the rich (Ross Perot) or the vainglorious (Ralph Nader).
Trite as it may be, the old Kenny Rogers song The Gambler has a good amount of practical advice and wisdom in the stanza that goes:
'You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.'
You can vote at the voting booth or you can vote with your wallet. I will leave it to others to decide which will help their situation the most.