Thursday, October 04, 2007

On Voting

The morality of voting is a significant point of disagreement among anarchists, so it deserves some attention.

I don't vote, and don't plan on voting. I don't see it as a remotely effective means of getting anything. You can't vote the state out of existence. No election will change the state's innate tendency to grow. The most you'll get out of voting is temporary relief, with an overall extension in the life cycle of the state. That's why I don't vote. It's got nothing to do with whether voting is ethical, and everything to do with whether voting is effectual. It's not, it's a waste of time and energy.

But I think I have a relatively unique understanding of natural law and justice. At least, I haven't heard my views from very many other people, including anarchists, irrelevant of adjectives. Whenever I have discussed systems of market justice and natural law with other anarchists, they have said something extremely different. So I'm gonna try to analyze voting from my perspective on justice, because I don't know of it being analyzed in my framework anywhere else, and people are still going nuts over Ron Paul.

A lot of the arguments I've seen have to do with whether or not one is "free" to choose whether or not to vote in a condition of state coercion, but with voting being voluntary. In other words, who has ultimate responsibility for your having voted, you, or whoever created the conditions that drove you to vote? Because if it is the voter who is the responsible party, then a case can be made that doing so is wrong. If the state is the responsible party, then your actions taken under it's duress are not something you may rightfully be held accountable for.

My approach to the problem is a little different.

In my view, all illegitimate interaction between people creates a cause of action. A cause of action begins when damage is done by a responsible party. If I tresspass and run across your property to get to the other side, you really won't have any cause of action against me because I did no damage (unless I've done it many times and worn down your grass, but that's different). If you went to demand restitution, you'd be able to demand almost nothing of me (and keep in mind that if you demand restitution for damage I never did, I will have cause of action against you for enslavement). I would be the responsible party, but you've got no substantial cause of action because I've done no substantial damage to you or your property, nor threatened you in any way.

If we assume that the voter is not the responsible party, then obviously voting cannot be wrong. If we assume that the voter is the responsible party, then we have merely opened up the possibility that voting is wrong. You'd still need to prove an actual wrong that the voter could be held responsible for.

The damages caused by voting have other responsible parties than the actual voters. The damage occurs when bureaucrats enforce policy. The bureaucrats do not take action in the name of the voters and under their directive, with the voters to be held responsible for all actions of the government. "The state" is the responsible party. The state practically acts as an insulator of responsibility, not a conductor, not a conduit, not something through which responsibility flows on to some other entity. The state is the endpoint of responsibility. The responsibility for the actions of the government are not passed on to the voters. In the "United States", as Lysander Spooner pointed out, there's no way the voters can be held responsible for the acts of the government because a secret ballot is used.

The voters have the power to choose the politician, but responsibility can't flow back onto the voters because of the secret ballot. The politician has the power to choose policy, but then there's another one-way gate, because the politician chooses policy, but it is not the politician in whose name the policy is enforced. Policy is enforced in the name of the state. Neither the politicians nor voters may be held responsible for any damage done by the enforcement action, and the bureaucrats themselves merely act as agents, all responsibility for the actions of bureaucrats falls onto the state unless the bureaucrat acts out of it's capacity as a bureaucrat.

Cause of action may be against the bureaucrats, or against the state, but not the politician, and not the voters. The disconnections involved prevent the voter from being responsible for the damages at two points.

And then, even if you managed to somehow break through that and determine that the voter is the ultimately responsible party, you'd still have to prove how much damage his having voted caused. What would the difference have been had this one voter not voted? In almost every case, it would have made no difference. It is illegitimate to try them as a class of voters to try to avoid this, because then people would be held responsible for the actions of others.

So, there's some good arguments against voting. It's counterproductive. It discourages independent action. It encourages thinking in terms of statist nonsense. But the immorality of voting is, in my view, not a good argument against voting.


Anonymous Eugene said...

Voting legitimizes and sustains the murder machine, whether the voter intends such or not, so I consider the act "immoral" on those grounds alone. Clearly, though, this can easily become a slippery slope toward collective blame, as you pointed out. I do agree that a better case can be made for the sheer ineffectiveness of ballot-casting as a means of achieving liberty.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Ineffabelle said...

I actually do use that "cause of action" argument quite a bit when debating with friends about theoretical common law, though I don't use those words.
The idea of the state acting like a insulator of responsibility is a pretty nifty metaphor.

1:14 AM  
Blogger FSK said...

If you think there's a really promising candidate, and you think it's really worth your time, go ahead and vote. For example, Ron Paul might be such a candidate according to many people.

On the other hand, when you consider the vast hordes of clueless voters, and potential vote counting improprieties, then voting probably really is pointless.

7:28 PM  

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