"As for adopting the ways which the state has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways." ~ Henry David Thoreau
The Anarchist Vote
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The beatings will continue until morale improves. ~ Unknown
The Ron Paul for President Campaign has been the cause of much discussion among anarchists as to whether we should all jump on the bandwagon. The exposure of ideas we all hold dear during his campaign pertaining to the elimination of state agencies and policies, especially central banks, has reached a larger audience than any other source to my knowledge. The education of a willfully ignorant if not brainwashed populace has grown by leaps and bounds. As I have previously written, I am glad that Ron Paul is running and I hope that he wins the election. Further, I think he is a genuine, honest man of principle and appreciate his efforts to educate people on the evils of the United States Imperial Federal Government. But in the end I can't vote for him on principle.
The arguments used by the anarchists come minarchists (actually ministatists is more appropriate) to tempt the rest of us primarily include the relativist fallacy, appeals to fear and appeals to authority. The almost cult-like following that somehow has come to believe in the ability of a special man to turn decades of experience with obvious facts and sound logic on its head must raise an eyebrow or two among principled anarchists. I refuse to fall prey to exceptionalism, sacrifice my principles to fear or follow others who did. Still I can use the campaign as a useful tool to educate diehard mega-statists on the evils of the state and move ministatists toward a better understanding of self-government with a clear conscience. That is, I am not required to personally commit an immoral act in order to educate the masses.
Individuals who ritually absolve their immoral acts in the illusion of collective pragmatism greatly outnumber those who take the Non-Aggression Principle to heart. If every anarchist in these United States succumbed to this pressure to sell out, registered with the Republican Party and voted for Congressman Paul, it would not influence the outcome one iota. It would, however, set back the freedom movement decades.
Targeting diehard statists with a strategy of revealing economic and historic truths that have seemed heretofore mysterious if not repugnant to their miseducated, dogmatic belief in a corrupt system is all to the good. However, inspiring hope in this process that signals submission to tyranny in those who have heretofore rejected participating in that process is counterproductive to resisting the forces of tyranny. I still hold out hope that a President Paul administration will come about as the ultimate learning experience for statists of all stripes even though his principal desire is to save the system he loves so much. I also fear that too many will be inspired with false hope and get sucked back into the system.
I sympathize with and respect those anarchists whom oppose the Paul for President Campaign completely because they recognize this career politician's stated purpose of saving the United States Imperial Federal Government from collapse. But do not fear that he will accomplish this task and start the process all over again; it is way too late for that. Think Gorbachev. This purist opposition is healthy, as it keeps the true ideal of self-government alive. I hope that we can all avoid unnecessary and counterproductive animosity after the election, win or lose, because we will need to organize our efforts in the waning days of the empire and after the collapse due to bankruptcy. We certainly don't want another state to replace this obsolete one, much less end up with an American Putin coming to power.
The arguments attempting to convince anarchists to vote for Congressman Paul using appeals to authority (or the "Hey! even Murray Rothbard voted" argument) don't need rebuttal for most readers, but I would like to address the argument that mixes exceptionalism (or the way lesser of two evils argument) with an appeal to fear. This is supposed to be the show stopper. This argument infers that even if you believe that voting is an act of violence, and it is, and unless you are a pacifist, voting for Congressman Paul is an act of self-defense that any sensible person interested in survival must do.
The analogy used to deliver this coup d'tat to anarchist principles and relegate them to fungible commodities to be compromised in the crucible of situational ethics generally goes as follows. In this "life-boat" situation, you and your mates are the subjects of tyranny (slaves, serfs, taxpayers, prisoners, et al), and the brutal tyrant (master, lord, tax collector, warden, et al) using violence to force submission to his dictates makes you and your mates an offer that you can't refuse: He offers to let you (the group of subjects) vote in a democratic election for someone to directly supervise your activities with the choice of candidates being between a cruel taskmaster who beats you all the time and a kind custodian who offers little more than gentle persuasion. Of course, real freedom is off the table, and if you don't do as you're told, the cruel taskmaster will be called back in.
I have elaborated the analogy somewhat to point out its weakness. Typically it is presented as simply an offer to choose between getting beaten mercilessly and not getting beaten much at all. What rational human being wouldn't prefer getting beaten as little as possible? I like this analogy because it reveals how voting is an act of submission: When you no longer resist tyranny, but agree to submit to the threat or use of force and do as you are told, when you no longer question the higher authority because you are allowed to choose your supervisor. In the process you condemn your offspring and future generations to be subjects of this authority establishing an institution of tyranny that eventually is accepted unquestioningly, perhaps even celebrated.
The elite who exploit you no longer need to resort to the physical violence that is counter-productive. Increasing violence undermines productivity, and it must eventually escalate to the point where you revolt. If civil disobedience does not result in disengagement and freedom, then either the master beats you to death or you kill him in self-defense. Each way, the system collapses and the exploitation that was the original purpose of beating you into submission is no longer possible. Therefore, the offer to stop beating you if you submit peacefully was always the goal. The naked exploitation is impossible to hide in a master-slave relationship where violence is used. But clothing it in a process that offers an apparent choice of master-agents usually does the trick. The violence is always implied, it is just hidden behind a façade of respectability.
This choice to participate in legitimizing institutional tyranny is also different than accepting food, water, clothing, shelter or a place to walk from your master. These items are required to exist. I do not advocate suicide as a strategy of resistance. Voting is a choice that is not required for you to continue living. You could argue that it is an act of cowardice though (uncle, uncle, I submit to be your slave, please don't hurt me anymore!)
I also don't see how Paul and his followers can rail against Hamiltonian policies while at the same time supporting his blueprint for implementing them. When Hamilton, Jay and Madison wrote the Federalist Papers in support of the Constitution, they were vigorously opposed in what is known as the Anti-Federalist Papers. Guess who turned out to be correct about the dangers of centralized power, taxes and standing armies? So if you believe that the Constitution is how we should organize our government, then you are a Hamiltonian. This contradiction appears lost on many.
The Constitution is the greatest document ever created for the purpose of restraining state power. It unfortunately also still serves the purpose of creating and legitimizing state power. Oh, and it failed, miserably; because alas, that is the nature of the beast. In case you didn't notice, the revered Constitution resulted in the largest, most expensive, most powerful central state in the history of the world, with standing armies straddling the globe in the insane quest of being "The World's Policeman" with a Central Bank to match. So if the greatest, most liberty-loving geniuses in the history of the world could not construct a "social contract" that would not be abused, is it really possible to do? Do you think that starting over with Hamilton's pet plan will turn out any differently for our children? And ministatists chide anarchists for not being realistic.
The political campaign for Congressman Paul's bid to wear the ring of Presidential power can lead to a large number of people waking up to the folly and immorality of the political process itself, or it can suck millions into the endless loop of justifying the institution that perpetuates their slavery. We can use this opportunity to shine the beacon of freedom that is self-government to those who look this way even if they don't have the courage to leave the herd. And let's prepare for the next step in the evolution of social organization beyond statism. But let's not surrender the high ground to expedience and fear mongering.