Compelled to Vote? Why?
Questioning the current get people out to vote campaigns & a
Review/Recommendation of Leonard E. Read's "Anything That's Peaceful -
The Case for the Free Market"
by Christine Smith
I believe in personal responsibility. It's the reason I am very careful
and generally reluctant to join organizations and groups. Joining with
others, in my view, makes one personally responsible (to a large degree)
for the positions (which oneself may not agree with), actions, and
results that group does. I cannot draw some imaginary line, distancing
myself from what any given group does, if I have joined my name, will,
and support to it. Same goes for who I vote for. I view the voter as
culpable for whatever an elected politician does, that is if there was
ample evidence of who that person was and what they stood for, before the
vote was cast.
There is often what I consider a false emphasis on the importance of
voting in this country. I say this from the perspective of someone who
has voted in every election since I was of age.
I believe participation in the electoral process is essential to
achieving liberty in this nation, and voting, obviously, extremely
important. How else will we get those such as Ron Paul in office? But if
an office has no candidate who values liberty running, I see no value
(only harm) in casting a vote for someone who is anti-liberty. Harm,
wrong actions and the consequences reaped, and the corrupt status quo of
the current political scene remains the same as long as the same keep
My state of Colorado has the longest ballot in the United States this
November, with numerous ballot initiatives I consider important to vote
upon. We're considered a "battleground state" for the presidential
election. Simultaneously, there are a number of local offices one may
For all offices, in which I see no candidate whom I can, in good
conscience, vote for, I will cast no vote.
What amuses me is this popular correlation between voting and patriotism,
as if it's your "duty" as a citizen. Better vote and when you do better
not leave any empty spaces on that ballot or else you've failed to do
your duty is a message I've heard. That assumes your voice is reflected
in your vote. If only it were (how can it be when the "choices" actually
provide no choice?). When presented with completely unacceptable
candidates, I think the best (or most truly patriotic) choice is to
select none of the above, so to speak. That, in itself, can require more
thought and integrity, than blindly (or contemptuously and reluctantly)
casting a vote for any candidate who to a significant degree does not
reflect your principles and values.
When I look at the field of candidates for an office, I I view it as a
litmus test; to a large degree, on the issues I consider to be most
important a candidate must share my positions. Sure, it would be rare
(but not impossible) for a candidate for any office to be someone I agree
with wholeheartedly (I say it's possible, because I can imagine such
candidates based upon the fact there are libertarian writers, whose work
has been consistent for many years; if such trustworthy individuals
exists, it is feasible that such a trustworthy candidate could present
themselves- though that would be rare). But, usually, there will be
disagreement between any given voter and any given candidate - that
doesn't rule out my casting a vote for them. But on key issues - it does.
I don't care whether it's a choice between voting between the lesser of
two evils or the lesser of five, I will not knowingly cast a vote for
someone who I believe will harm others internationally, this nation, my
state, or my county or city. To know that a candidate's fundamental
positions will harm others means to partake in that harm if one votes for
them. The majority of those holding elected office in this country do not
care what is in the best interest of this nation and its people. They
are, in my opinion, focused on their agendas (consider how many vote on
bills without reading them - that's because they already know how they
are going to vote - exactly in the way expected of them not by their
constituents but by those who got them that office and those who will
Regardless of the political party of a candidate, I vote (or withhold my
vote) based upon who they are and what I believe they will do.
Voting is important, just as is encouraging good liberty candidates to
run. But I have no illusions, under this current system, all odds are
stacked against any candidate who isn't beholden to someone. True liberty
candidates (those with the integrity to never compromise their positions)
find every step of the process against them. I shall not look to the
likelihood of such candidates being elected, but to casting a vote for
someone who truly expresses - by thought and deed - liberty. And,
likewise, such candidacies provide opportunity to discuss the issues they
stand for with the populous - be it in your city, county, or state. Use
such campaigns to share with others the "why" behind your vote.
I just finished reading another book by Leonard E. Read, "Anything That's
Peaceful." I highly recommend it (as I highly recommend any of Read's
books and essays). In it, I was pleased to find a chapter devoted to this
prevalent notion that one must vote. Never before have I read such an
articulate accurate analysis of voting. Read articulates the tragedy all
of us now see - when not a single candidate is any good...when the
candidates seek only to advance themselves by promising all to everyone,
changing their positions dependent upon whom they are speaking to, and
all the rest of the deceitfulness witnessed in every election.
Read refers to such candidates who place political expediency above
integrity as `trimmers," which he defines this way: "A trimmer, according
to the dictionary, is one who changes his opinions and policies to suit
the occasion. In contemporary political life, he is any candidate whose
position on issues depends solely on what he thinks will have most voter
appeal. He ignores the dictates of his higher conscience, trims his
personal idea of what is morally right, tailors his stand to the popular
Such candidates with blatant agendas could never gain such power in this
nation if it were not for Americans with their own personal agendas. It
is the weakness of wanting something from government, which makes the
situation where those wants are exploited by the candidates. In any
situation where two forces have agendas, the stronger (more manipulative
and powerful of the two) usually wins - and at the expense of the other
who also thought they would achieve their agenda.
Until we demand candidates of integrity, this situation will remain.
Style and handouts seems to be what elections seem to be about - where is
the demand for authenticity and character? As long people keep casting
votes for those lacking these qualities, those of integrity (who will
face a tremendous battle when they seek office) will be discouraged from
running. As Read says, "For a while we would continue to get what we now
have: a high percentage of trimmers and plunderers in public office, men
who promise privileges in exchange for ballots - and freedom. In time,
however, this silent but eloquent refusal to participate might
conceivably improve the situation. Men of integrity and high moral
quality - statesmen-might show forth and, if so, we could add their
numbers to the few now in evidence."
To cast a vote because you feel compelled to do so by social dictates is
disingenuous, as you deceive yourself into thinking you are doing
something of value. No action should be taken due to other's expectations
or a sense of obligation - all such decisions are based on fear. Rather,
let your conscience, your heart and the values and beliefs you have
placed there, guide you. Voting is still one of the means we can and must
use to advance liberty. That may mean casting votes for only some of the
offices on a ballot, writing in a vote, or at times not voting.
As for me, I'll be voting this November, but not for every office, since
I see few "of integrity and high moral quality" seeking office.
I highly recommend Leonard E. Read's "Anything That's Peaceful" to you.
It is powerful and enlightening. It's one of several books I recommend to
those who are sincerely interested in better understanding
libertarianism. The entire treatise is excellent, with a most truly
beautiful ending chapter which all libertarians would be better to
Christine Smith is a writer from Colorado. You may visit her website: