The Future of Not Voting

Column by Alex R. Knight III

Exclusive to STR 

Given that those in government have designated this another election year, we’re going to be hearing a lot about this biennial farcical charade for the next several months. And in truth, one could compile a small library just out of the amount of writing voluntaryists have done on the subject since at least the 19th Century. Thus I’d like to hope my own latest contribution to this topic will not simply be a regurgitation of that long and honorable tradition.
 
While the merits of not voting have already been sufficiently expounded upon by myself and numerous others, the briefest of recapitulations is perhaps still warranted here: The non-voter takes the moral high ground by not only refusing to consent to be governed, but refusing willful endorsement of the arbitrary rule of others and their property. He or she also escapes the possibility of being compelled to “serve” on a jury in a government “court” (read star chamber) – or even being coercively forced to be screened by bureaucrats to possibly be compelled to be part of one. It also means the non-voter’s name, date of birth, and address is in one less government database and on one less list – to say nothing of the fact that on that preposterous Tuesday in November every two years, the non-voter can enjoy staying home or engaging in other unrelated activities with a wholly clear conscience. He or she has not participated in that day’s violence-by-proxy. He or she has not, in essence, elected to hire a host of hit men.
 
Now, all of this of course doesn’t even address the rampant fraud, abuse, and corruption inherent to the the entire election system – from “illegal aliens” being allowed to vote, to names drawn out of local obituaries, to obvious manipulation of electronic voting machines, to judges in Florida where a candidate’s brother happens to be governor determining the final outcome . . . and so on. And it doesn’t need to. It should be obvious to all but the willfully blind that such rampant dysfunctionality is a foundational aspect of government itself – as inherent to such a vile and backwards institution as air is to breathing. By virtue of all of the points indicated in the previous paragraph, we have already effectively eviscerated any need to delve into such predictable shortcomings. We have already elevated ourselves to a higher sphere of thought and circumspection.
 
What we have next to consider is what, if any, effect not voting can or will have on government in general. Can enough widespread non-voting assist in bringing a government down?
 
Already in America, the vast majority of the population doesn’t vote – either because government standards do not permit them to because of age, a history of having violated any one of a myriad of government “laws,” alleged mental deficiencies, etc. – or because they simply don’t want to. And this lack of desire to vote may range anywhere from the voluntaryist’s principled refusal to do so, to the middle-American’s “I don’t like who’s running,” or “It doesn’t matter.” However, it is the latter category that presently predominates. In numerous previously conducted polls and studies, American non-voters generally hold the same kinds of “mainstream” political and social beliefs as those who do vote. The purest libertarian refusenik, as it were, is clearly still in the minority of non-voters by far.
 
What is the net effect of this, then? Clearly, it would be preferable to the voluntaryist cause if at least most present non-voters (who number around 100 million, according to a documentary film produced within recent memory by two brothers visiting from France) were essentially conscientious objectors to the political process. However, it goes without saying that this process of philosophical conversion is still going to take considerable time and effort yet. Moreover, the numbers of people still voting are sufficient to lend the idea of government the perceived legitimacy it needs to stay in power. But let’s look at a hypothetical scenario for a moment: What if the attrition rate of non-voters were to approach some, say, 90% of eligible participants? 
 
In a future scenario in which even a significant minority (10% and rising, say) of the populace were committed voluntaryists, such a drastic drop-off in voter participation would simply be endemic to the radical philosophical shift occurring. Doubtless, at the same time, the filing of tax returns would be steeply diminishing, government employees would be walking off the job in record numbers, seeking work outside of the “public sector,” and so on. 
 
But let’s keep the horse pulling the cart, and suppose, sadly, that the dark taint of statism and its utterly backwards logic will continue to plague and pervade the brains of the American mainstream for a while longer – even in this proposed near-future event. What could we expect? Would those in government look at their lack of popularity as a sign that it was time to step down and actually start doing something meaningful and productive with their lives?
 
Here’s what I’d predict: As is already the case in Australia (which in turn has been the model for the American ballot system since it was first instituted Down Under in the 1850s), I would expect the politicians would simply make voting like paying taxes – mandatory. Sure, many people would object, muddleheadedly arguing that the “right” to vote also equals the “right” to not vote as well (I fail to see how one has any “right” to elect to misappropriate anyone else’s liberty or property by effectively hiring a group of thugs to do it for them), and the phony orchestrated news programs and talk shows would be replete with such staged talking heads putting on a phony resistance performance. But in the end, to be sure, the prevailing refrain would be that voting now needs to be compulsory (again, just like paying taxes) in order to “save freedom, and “honor our forefathers,” and that holy grail, of course, “save democracy.” Non-compliance would mean fines (i.e., extra taxes – similar to refusing to get health insurance under Obama’s plan for us all), or, in cases of hardcore defiers, community service or even jail time. Rather than suffer the embarassment of knowing no one trusts them anymore, the ruling elite would gladly institute such measures to cover up the tide of discontent. Anything at all, in fact, to remain in firm rule over us all.
 
Never forget that those who occupy the political structure everywhere –most certainly including America – are not instituting the array of police state measures we are seeing crop up around us with such blinding speed for no reason. Both the pace and character of these developments is not just a way of passing the time until a new shipment of Crayolas and coloring books can be delivered to the various legislative, executive, and judicial chambers. And to crystallize Emma Goldman’s point of over a hundred years ago, the only reason voting is allowed is because it doesn’t actually change anything. Thus, to not vote is to select the moral path, and it is also an example-setting talking point by which to spread the ideas of voluntaryism to the uninitiated. But it cannot, I believe, in and of itself eliminate government.
 
In speaking about his excellent and instantly classic novel about the parallels between overt savagery and the thinly-veiled barbarism of government, Lord of the Flies, the late William Golding once remarked: “The shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system, however apparently logical or respectable.”
 
Would that the disaffected masses will learn this simple truth – and the sooner, the better. 
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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 112

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.

Comments

Suverans2's picture

G'day Alex R. Knight III,

    "The non-voter takes the moral high ground by not only refusing to consent to be governed..."

Not true, except, perhaps, in his own mind. I believe you may be confusing participation with association.

If he consents, either tacitly[1] or expressly, to be associated with the government, (i.e. consents to remain in the government office of 'citizen'), whether he participates, (i.e. votes), or not, he is consenting to be governed. He is only "refusing" to participate in choosing who, or what, will govern him. Only by "withdrawing from membership in [the] group"[2], i.e. opting out of the government office of 'citizen', does he refuse to consent to be governed.

“How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." ~ Henry David Thoreau
_________________________________________________________________

[1] Tacit consent is synonymous with connivance, which is defined here as "tacit encouragement or assent (without participation) to wrongdoing by another."

[2] Secession. The act of withdrawing from membership in a group. ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1351

Suverans2's picture

The non-voter may be, in his own fashion, "...refusing willful endorsement of the arbitrary rule of others and their property."

Suverans2's picture
    "He or she also escapes the possibility of being compelled to “serve” on a jury in a government “court” (read star chamber) – or even being coercively forced to be screened by bureaucrats to possibly be compelled to be part of one."

Really?

    "The details may vary among states and between the state and federal courts, but the basics are pretty much the same.
    A court selects potential jurors from a list of names that are often obtained from lists of people with drivers licenses in the state..." ~ http://tinyurl.com/ccf9aa6
eugenedw's picture

They can't really force you to vote: they can only force you to show up at the polling booth and accept a ballot. They cannot force you to make a mark on it. But of course, if voting became compulsory, most people would likely vote.

It has occurred to me though that there is one vote that a voluntaryist can meaningfully cast. As I said in a comment on another article: if the option "none of the above" appears explicitly on the ballot, then perhaps voluntaryists can vote with a clear conscience? And if the government begins to make noises about making voting compulsory, then perhaps voluntaryists could organize some sort of pressure group with the one purpose of getting that NOTA option on the ballot?

Suverans2: You may be right, but how exactly does one give up citizenship?

Jim Davies's picture

Eugen, your NOTA idea is very tempting, especially if it eventually led to a large majority in its favor. But don't you think that even to turn up in their voting booth and make a mark (or punching a chad) gives legitimacy to their system? Doesn't it imply "I don't like any of _these_ candidates, but if _better_ candidates were on offer, I might choose one to rule everybody"?

Refusing to vote at all, on the other hand, repudiates that principle root and branch.

In any case, it's not a big deal. There is no chance at all that government people will look at a large anarchist vote and say "Gosh, golly, it's time to dissolve ourselves." They will vanish when nobody will work for them; then, and no sooner.

eugenedw's picture

Jim: I fear you may well be right. But as you point out, the NOTA idea is indeed likely to remain nothing more than a thought experiment.

I don't see any hope of getting rid of government any time soon. As they lose workers, they'll offer ever more attractive remuneration packages, and institute laws to ensure enough poverty that there will always be enough people willing to sell their souls. It's easy to take to the moral high ground when you are fairly well off; it's another thing when your kids are starving. But I'm sure you are well aware of all of this anyway; we just have to keep on trying. :-)

In the meantime, lovers of liberty have proven to be very creative when it comes to finding ways to live below the government's radar.

Jim Davies's picture

In contrast, Eugene, I do see a lot of hope of getting rid of government, rather soon. But you're right about its reaction to a shrinking work force: raise the pay. That's the first tactic. _Provided resignations increase exponentially_, it won't work; the race will be on. It may react next by prohibiting resignations (after which those thereby enslaved will go-slow and work to rule) and then perhaps by importing foreign labor... it's all in my "Transition to Liberty." The key, always, is that exponential growth.

Suverans2's picture

What are you smoking, JD?

Suverans2's picture

"Government is an organization that consists not only of those who are "given the mandate" to assume authority, but also of all the "citizens" who support the imaginary enterprise. The citizen is just as integral a part of the definition of government as is the King, President, Parliament, or whatever other fancy label some of the participating humans choose to affix to themselves. All governments must have citizens in order to exist." ~ A Theory of Natural Hierarchy and Government by tzo

Suverans2's picture

G'day eugenedw,

Giving up membership in the government (citizenship) is the easy part, giving up the benefits, privileges and protection is the difficult part.

If you would like to know more, start by reading this by Herbert Spencer, because what Herbert wrote in 1851 is just as true today. Then contact me via private messenger here at strike the root.

eugenedw's picture

Spencer may well be right, but I see little in the way of practical advice there. I cannot go to the South African department of internal affairs and announce that I wish to renounce citizenship. At least, I don't think it would work. And if it did? I would then no longer be on the radar, to some extent. I'd still be required to pay taxes, as resident, though it may be easier to dodge them if my name is no longer on their records. However, I would also no longer be able to get a job, or open a bank account, or get a driver's license, or study at a university, or travel out of the country, etc. etc. etc.

We regularly have such cases here: our department of internal affairs is one of the most corrupt and incompetent of the entire government, and simply through mess-ups with paper work, every now and then someone becomes a non-person who cannot get hold of an ID document or birth certificate. Such people have their entire lives destroyed, sometimes for months or years on end, as they struggle to get hold of the necessary documents. Some years ago, there was a big brouhaha over it when one man got so desperate that he threatened the bureaucrats with a gun. They then very quickly produced his papers, and he is now finally a legal citizen - in prison.

I'm getting too cynical here; lemme stop. :-)

Glock27's picture

My question is "Do you really believe anyone will really care?", and "Do you honestly believe enough Americans will stay away from the polls to vote to make a difference?" I really do not like the selection we have this year and I was affraid that would happen. The Republicans can't seem to get their heads out of their butts long enough to see something more than s***.
I also believe more people stay away from the polls because they believe that it is not going to make any difference at all who is elected in. They know democrats will go for more taxes and spending and that republicans will go for big business. Last month NRA-ILA reorted that it was the heaviest month for the sale of guns and ammunition and the Ruger manufacturing had to shut down taking orders so they could catch up with the current orders. This signifies that the American people are affraid of something and I will wager we will see more people at the polls this year than any other year before.
People are looking for solutions now and many are becoming preper to get themselves ready for the collaps of the government and the economy; yet our divine elected officials are so f*&%ing blind as to what's hapening or they really don;t give a damned. Not going to vote dosen't prove much because that is already a fact that is well known. Why do you think they do this dumb stuff like "Get out the vote" Solutions that are workable are not being provided and if they are no one is listening because it is going against party philosophy. I will vote this year as my protest vote against Odumba while seriously doubting Mint Rummy can do anything to change things.

Paul's picture

"But of course, if voting became compulsory, most people would likely vote."

I don't know about that... Americans tend to be a bit on the ornery side (witness all the buying of guns happening at the moment). It's likely they would simply deface their ballot. I suspect a popular write-in candidate would be "Fuck the Government". In fact I think they are ornery enough that it would actually be a plus for freedom if the government overreached with mandatory voting. How obvious can government illegitimacy get?

We have to get over this sneering at "sheeple". It does not serve our ends.

eugenedw's picture

Paul: You may well be right. I have not read up on what percentage of Australian voters spoil the ballot; perhaps many do.

The thing is, people tend to get used to a system and then begin to follow it somewhat mindlessly, and I am not just talking about the "sheeple." Virtually all of us do it that way - it takes a lot of energy to reinvent one's life every second week and is likely on average not a good survival strategy, hence I am going to guess that humans actually have an instinctive preference for stability and predictability.

The result is that once a thing has been law for long enough, people accept it as the correct way to go about things. An instructive example is, for example, the death penalty in Germany. From what I read, when they created their new constitution after WWII, a large majority of Germans were in favour of the death penalty. It was nevertheless abolished. Nowadays, six decades later, the vast majority of Germans are opposed to the death penalty. And this happened quite possibly simply because absence of the death penalty is what most of them grew up with. If they now re-instituted it, it would be against the wishes of almost everyone, but I suspect in another fifty years most Germans would once again be in favour of it!

Perhaps it works this way with compulsory voting? If you grow up in such a system, it is what you are used to so you don't question it as much as you should. It is almost always easier to go with the flow, and on average perhaps indeed even the most likely way to have moderate success too.

You nevertheless make a very good point that we should not get too cynical and sneering about "sheeple." People are not always quite as stupid as one thinks.

Suverans2's picture

G'day eugenedw,

I used to converse with a few men "down under", and they ignored the law and didn't go to the polls at all.

It's not that people are stupid, i.e. mentally incapable of learning; they are, in every culture, subjected to indoctrination[1], virtually from the time of their nativity, that makes them appear unable to learn.

"You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it." ~ Morpheus (The Matrix)

Truer words were never spoken[2].

This is indoctrination is so complete that when "individual secession" is brought up for discussion they immediately start denying that it is possible, (at least for them); it is their way of fighting to protect the system, and they don't even realize it.
_____________________________________

[1] indoctrination▸ noun: teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically ~ WordNet [Emphasis added]

[2] "You say Truer words were never spoken when you strongly agree with what the other person has just said."

eugenedw's picture

Well, let me ask you this: have YOU successfully seceded individually? If so, how did you go about it? Perhaps you should put an e-book about it online.

As for The Matrix, it was indeed a wonderfully perceptive film, with stacks of highly quotable quotes. Pity about the two dreadful sequels. :-)

tzo's picture

To quit an organization, you say "I quit." Does it matter if the organization does not accept your resignation? If they insist you are a weevil, do you believe them?

If the mafia controls the blocks around your house, does that make you part of the mafia if you don't want to join? Even if you make your payments under threat of violence? Even though you travel across "their" territory because you have paid the requisite extortion and have their permission?

Would you really worry about asking the mafia for the proper paperwork so they could officially recognize you as a non-member?

Simply tell yourself you're done, stop voluntarily participating with the organization, interact with it only when it is prudent to do so for your own safety, and do your best to live outside of its influence.

When enough people actually make that simple little mental shift, things will change.

eugenedw's picture

Well, I'm sure that is what all of us here already do. But if the Mafia has enough power so that without their paperwork, I cannot get a job or open a bank account or travel, then I have no choice but to go apply for the paperwork. Or become a hunter-gatherer, an option I did seriously consider in my youth.

Suverans2's picture

G'day eugenedw,

Yes, I have "successfully seceded individually". I am not associated with any man-made government at this time.

In answer to your second question, "how did you go about it?"; how did the colonists here on the North American continent go about seceding from their government? They didn't ask permission, they simply served notice[1] of withdrawal from membership in the government. And, since I am here on the North American continent I use their notice of secession, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, more commonly called as Declaration of Independence, as my template.

Here is my introduction to Individual Secession.

And, here is my Notice of Secession.

I would warn you, however, that just because one withdraws from membership in a gang, it does not mean that gang members cannot, or will not, murder that individual. Not having knowledge of what the government of South Africa is like, I give no recommendation for you to secede from that government; that is up to YOU, and you alone, to decide. In some cases expatriation may be a safer 'first step'.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] NOTICE TO PRINCIPAL IS NOTICE TO AGENT - NOTICE TO AGENT IS NOTICE TO PRINCIPAL.

eugenedw's picture

So let me get this straight: you have no identity number or social security number, and you do not pay taxes to any state? What kind of job do you do? How do you go about traveling to other countries if you wish to do so? What do you produce as driver's license if you get pulled over on the highway?

As for the gang of thugs and robber barons in charge of South Africa, our one saving grace is their utter incompetence. But I wouldn't go out of my way to mess with them. They can, and have, utterly destroyed people.

Suverans2's picture

Suffice to say I do not have an identity number or taxpayer identification number. I pay all taxes that I lawfully owe, or freely choose to pay. I work, but I am not "employed". I have never traveled outside the 'COUNTRY', since seceding, but I have flown to Hawaii, and back, once. I have gone to jail, a few times, for not having the STATE's permission (license) to use my own car and truck, I have lost one car to them, and had truck towed and impounded twice, but have managed to get it back. I will answer your questions in more depth privately, if you like.

"They can, and have, utterly destroyed [their own] people"; as have virtually all governments, to the best of my knowledge; but some are admittedly far worse than others.

eugenedw's picture

Looks like there is inevitably a heavy price to be paid for personal secession. You should one day write up your whole story and post it here, perhaps as exclusive STR article. I'm sure it would be instructive to many of us.

Suverans2's picture

Samuel Adams is said to have called it "...the animating contest of freedom..."

    AN'IMATING, ppr. Giving life; infusing spirit; enlivening. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

I agree, Sam.

eugenedw's picture

I just remembered another thing about this voting business, that I read a year or two ago in some book that I can't remember the title of. It concerned a study that was done in Switzerland on voting patterns.

They tried to encourage higher voter turnout by arranging a system whereby people could vote electronically, from the comfort of their own homes. They thought this would induce a larger voting percentage because they assumed that low voter turnout happens simply because going to vote is a bit of an inconvenience.

To their surprise, the voter percentage in fact dropped significantly. A possible explanation for this is that people consider it something of a civic duty to vote. When voting happens completely invisibly, you are not under any peer pressure to vote, so you may decide not to bother.

Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned in that for us.