Like many of my libertarian and/or Bama bloggy compatriots, I will be headed to the polls tomorrow. Though not necessarily out of any sense of civic duty or other moral compulsion, but to give my support, as I have in previous elections, to the Libertarian Party, which, despite its flaws, is the political party that most closely represents my view of how the polity ought to be administered–though, like many of my anarchist friends, I believe that nearly every function that is now performed by governmental entities could be performed just as well or better by voluntary, peaceful collaboration among individuals, i.e., privately.
Though some say such a vote is wasted, I think that voting against your conscience is a wasted vote and that strategic voting usually makes us worse off in the long run. Though I always try not to make the perfect the enemy of the good, I can see very little that is good about either of the major party candidates. Although a bit too cute, “voting for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil” is at least accurate. (Please note: I am not calling you evil if you vote for the Republican or Democrat candidate.) Add into the equation that you’re more likely to win the lottery than affect the outcome of the race and you’ve got quite a recipe for staying home tomorrow. Though I think voicing your disapproval of the entire system by refusing to participate (or as one of my good friends colorfully put it: “Don’t give these sociopaths the satisfaction of participating in their charade.”) is completely legitimate, as is any type of peaceful civil disobedience, I am voting for Bob Barr to protest the virtual duopoly of the major parties over the political process and to give the Libertarians the percentage vote necessary to qualify for the ballot the next go-round. The fact that third parties have to jump through more hoops than the Democrats and Republicans shows the stranglehold that the majors have over the political process. They have effectively limited competition and choice through onerous ballot access restrictions and ought to be prosecuted under the antitrust laws for doing so. Of course, many people don’t give a second thought to this injustice because they’re right at home with the majors and have never heard of the alternatives or, if they have, think it’s fine to marginalize the “kooks”. I’ll also be writing in myself or a friend or relative’s name instead of selecting anyone running unopposed.
One thing that this campaign season has proven over and over again is how national politics tend to divide and incite, if not hatred, then intense dislike for others simply by reason of which political label they happen to wear. Dividing the world into in-groups and out-groups and then blaming all the problems on the latter is one of the most evil and destructive forces the world has ever seen. I know I reserve a lot of ire for politicians and bureaucrats on these pages, but I do not hate them. Nor do I hate or even dislike people who disagree with me politically or in any other way. I realize that most people have so much invested in the status quo of their particular persona and circumstances that to suggest the current order should be upset in order to make like more just, free and peaceful will cause loud howls of protest from those likely to be displaced. (I also realize that nearly every individual or organization clamoring for change believes that the realization of their goals would make the word a more just, free and peaceful place and that my designations of “most” or “many” constitute an outgroup:) This investment (emotionally, psychologically, etc. as well as economically) leads folks to resist any truly radical, in both senses of the term, reforms though cloaking moderate reform proposals in terms of genuine change is a successful strategy. Recognizing that all of us are guilty of such grouping to some extent or another (and that it is a natural human proclivity that is nearly impossible to overcome) is a good first step in reducing that tendency and the attendant blame, which often leads to bitterness and venom and sometimes to violence.
I’ve begun to ramble, so I’ll try to wrap things up with choice selection from (the 1852 preface of) one of my new favorite books, Charles MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds:
In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple; and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity.
Book available online here and in physical form here. The book reminds me very much of Eric Hoffer’s excellent The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, available here. (By the way, I don’t mind either of these book’s (especially Hoffer’s) criticisms of Christianity, some of which are valid and some not. A lot of blood has been shed in the name of God. That is sad and truly heinous, but also a subject for another post.)
I believe that many people’s obsession with politics and with the political is a dangerous delusion and that concern and effort would be better directed toward helping your neighbor, picking up litter, founding or volunteering at a community education center, taking in a stray animal, cleaning up your house or any other of a number of voluntary and peaceful activities that don’t involve appropriating other people’s time and money.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope I haven’t wasted your time or led you to the conclusion that I’m a cynic, madman or, what’s worse, someone who is infatuated with himself and his own opinions. I am cynical about the current US political process, but very optimistic that the long-run will prove me wrong.
Two more recommendations and then I’ll close.
Low voter turnout a bad sign? Not necessarily.
Lamenting America’s infatuation with executive power, an excerpt from Gene Healy’s book: The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power.
If all of the above seemed like incoherent and/or milquetoasty babble, keep in mind that “they’re are a lot of strands in ol’ duder’s head” and I’ve probably left out some useful segues or connectors. Feel free to comment or shoot me…a note at: pintpundit-at-gmail-dot-com.
Update: Here’s a humorous take on why “Voting might be helpful” (Some may find language offensive.)
Update II: Here’s a video on why voting is irrational (unless you really like voting). I will make a prediction: if voting lines are really long tomorrow, the turnout won’t be nearly as high as expected.
Along the lines of the last item, here’s another excellent book for this election season.