November 3, 2002
Strakon Lights Up
You are not a number!
Or, Once again I'm voting for rain
Everyone in the business of propping up leviathan's facade of legitimacy is running off at the mouth right now about how important it is that everyone vote for various politicians on November 5, so I feel free to propose an alternative, good and loud: For God's sake, stay home!
Everyone's vote "counts," they say. But in fact your vote for one of the candidates the System has selected for you will "count" about as much as your vote on whether it will rain on Election Day. (I'm voting for rain a gully-washer a veritable Biblical run-to-the-SUV-and-head-for-Mount-Ararat deluge.) And that's if you're voting for dog-catcher. As you go higher up on the ballot and vote to fill offices that seem to involve some real power, your vote counts even less, if that's possible. Your one little pencil tick or lever flick has to compete with those of a steadily burgeoning oceanful of fellow lemmings. Long before you get to statewide or federal offices well, as Monty Python's Graham Chapman used to say, "This bit has just gotten silly!"
I actually feel embarrassed at pointing this out I have the feeling I should be analyzing something much trickier, much more arcane but if anyone ever seriously thought that his vote counted, surely the Florida freak show of 2000 blew that fantasy into tiny fluttering fragments, showing as it did that it's not the votes that count, but the counters. Whether or not they actually bring out the bearded lady and dog boy, Florida style, be assured that whenever an election is so close that one vote may make a difference, the final decision will be made by bureaucrats, pols, lawyers, and judges. In other words, if other words are needed: not by you.
Look at it this way. If voting could threaten the ruling establishment, do you really think They'd work to make registration and voting easier and easier every time? Would They really be so insistent on everyone's voting every Election Day, even unto Mama and Gramps and all the Urdu-speaking tramps? Now look at it from the other end of the telescope. Why do you suppose They are so insistent?
I've never really been bitten by the voting bug, and nowadays whenever I see the TV commercials for all those beaming, plump, shiny-faced ward-heelers I can't help wondering which one is the Peeping Tom, which the embezzler, and which the child molester. I recognize, too, that if a diligent and honest man should somehow slip through, his very diligence and honesty in office would probably make him more dangerous than any Peeping Tom, embezzler, or child molester could ever be.
So I'm not really sure what the attraction is. But I imagine that, for most people, voting must produce some kind of warm civic glow even though it's an endeavor that's worse than fraudulent. Let's not forget that we Americans are the folks who at one time all trooped out and bought cars featuring Genuine Plastic Imitation Wood Trim. On CBS's "Face the Nation," Sunday morning the third of November, host Bob Schieffer signed off with this appeal: "Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong." I am informed that certain recreational drugs have the same effect.
Certainly people want to feel big and strong, as good citizens should. But voting does not make you big and strong, and it does not make you a good citizen. It turns you into a number, and that number is both high and, in worth, pretty darn close to zero. (Kind of the same way inflation works.) Leviathan, to be sure, benefits from the mass accretion of the infinitesimal: no matter which of its candidates win, it wins the appearance of legitimacy as those vote totals mount. But by voting you keep yourself weak and nonthreatening and safely infinitesimal. In "The Prisoner," Patrick McGoohan's character declared, "I am not a number! I am a free man!" And he was Number Six. When you vote for, say, a congressional candidate, what do you make yourself, Number 194,258? That's a very high number. Infinitesimally high.
Libertarians do not find good citizenship in the voting booth. Before going further I should note that good citizenship is not restricted to believers in the state. Whether a man is political or anti-political, he is entitled to call himself an active citizen if, living as he does in a certain civilization, he knows something of his civilization's history and its ways, honors its virtues and virtuous achievements, and does what he can to make it better. For libertarians, citizenship entails, among other things, witnessing for Liberty, Peace, and Justice.
I have a friend you would know his name who remains seated whenever the state's anthem is played, no matter how surly the crowd of state-worshippers around him. (I'm more pusillanimous: I always slip away to powder my nose just before the event's wannabe Blues singer starts mauling the tune.) Even when my friend attended a John Birch Society meeting as a guest, he stayed in his seat, silent, as the other men in the room stood and pledged their allegiance to the state. Now that's witnessing, and it creates the opportunity for more witnessing because of course my friend is more than ready to explain if confronted. Many of our countrymen, though capable of thought, have probably never even conceived a sentence containing the words "state" and "illegitimate." After talking to my friend, chances are they would have heard such a sentence.
Publicly refusing the "mandatory" obeisances to the state is the sort of thing that makes a man feel big and strong, for real, because he has to make himself big and strong in character and courage before he can do it. And he makes himself even bigger and stronger, for real, every time he repeats it. My friend's manly refusals make voting look puerile. And not just puerile but ugly, when you think of all those who march, self-satisfied, to the polls at every opportunity but shrink with terror when it comes to exercising their freedom of speech, and shriek like the pod-people in the remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" when they hear someone else exercising his.
Instead of voting on Tuesday, why not talk to someone you know about Liberty, Peace, and Justice? Why not discuss some honorable alternatives with a niece or nephew who is in danger of joining the military or the civilian bureaucracy? Why not spend an hour or two trying to come up with ways to avoid, elude, or undermine leviathan, or cast it into disrepute?
Here's an idea. Practice remembering politicians' lies, contradictions, goofy promises, and failed programs so you can remind your neighbors of them two years from now when the pols try to sell the same confounded buncombe again. Or write a hard-hitting letter to the editor: as an old newspaperman I can tell you that the letters section usually attracts a big readership. (Don't bother writing "your" congressman, of course: for one thing, he actually belongs to someone else.)
If you're willing to deal with the state's court system and its lawyers even tangentially, donate a few bucks to some political prisoner's defense. Or help support his family while he's in the state's Rape Gulag. Give a few more simoleons to some forum devoted to Liberty, Peace, and Justice. Sit down on Tuesday and read some history some Robert Caro or some Walter Karp. Read a chapter of Thucydides. Study some free-market economics: get your intellectual ammunition in order. Or get your real ammunition in order and head for the range, because a man who would be free must be acquainted with the means of self-defense.
Just don't vote. It's silly and it's ugly and it makes you small and weak. You may not be a free man, but by God you needn't be a number.
November 3, 2002
Published in 2002 by WTM
Here's a column I wrote in November 2000 that makes some of the same points in a little different way, and offers some additional arguments, too.
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