November 2008

 

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

being elected.

 

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

vote upon.

 

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

reward them).

 

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

fancy."

 

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

ponder.

 

Christine Smith is a writer from Colorado.  You may visit her website:

http://www.christinesmith.us