Are you a libertarian? Are you politically active? If you answered yes to both questions then I have a question for you: why? I came across a good article by Jason Farrell that addresses the contradiction of political libertarianism:
There’s a good reason libertarians remain at the ideological fringe: “Libertarian politics” is a contradiction in terms. Libertarianism is not a third party, like the Know-Nothings or the Whigs or a prescription of policy tweaks to make the government more efficient. It is a distinct value system that abhors political power itself, even if some of its adherents consider power a necessary evil.
Libertarians may disagree whether the state should be abolished or minimized, but the difference matters little to the average American: Both seem frighteningly outside his own experience. Even the most moderate libertarians will wax poetic about ending intellectual property or privatizing the welfare system. Moreover, virtually all voters are deeply invested in government services they have come to depend on, and libertarians have been unable to present hypothesized private-sector alternatives while the state forces dependence upon itself. Conceptually, libertarians are on a page that most people find bizarre.
Libertarianism is best understood as the latest in a long line of radical liberation ideologies, rooted in the principles of natural law and individualism, that have provided the intellectual basis for rebellion since the American Revolution. It is a reaction to the perpetual expansion of government power in the U.S. and its frequent abuses. But radicalism, by definition, is immoderate and cannot compromise its way to reforms. Rather than moving toward the “Overton window” of public opinion by moderating controversial views (as Rand Paul attempted), radicals must pull public opinion towards their own viewpoints. Rand’s straying from libertarian principles means that he likely has little unique appeal even for the tiny libertarian electorate his father created. David Boaz’s research shows that 70% of libertarian-leaning voters went with Mitt Romney over Gary Johnson in 2012, so we know even libertarians who believe in politics are willing to blunt their own sword.
Libertarianism is a radical ideology and therefore doesn’t enjoy popular support. Politics is a popularity contest. If your candidate doesn’t support the views of the majority of voters then they’re not going to get elected. And one need only look at some of the more popular presidential candidates to see what the majority supports.
The current frontrunner for the Republican Party is Donald Trump. Trump is a raging asshole. If it were up to him Muslims would probably be wearing armbands. Ben Caron, another popular Republican candidate, believes the pyramids were funny shaped grain silos.
On the other side of the field we have Bernie Sanders. Sanders spends most of his time bitching about economics, a field he demonstrably knows absolutely nothing about. He also supports dropping bombs on foreigners, which is something he shares with Hillary Clinton who is his primary competitor.
So the majority of voters want a candidate who will blow up foreigners, promise them free shit, or believes archeology is a made up science. They’re not interested in freedom. Quite the opposite in fact. They enjoy their comfortable slavery.
This is usually where some political libertarian tells me that victory can be achieved by slowly moving the political needle towards libertarianism. They will say Rand Paul isn’t perfect but he’s palatable to the masses. According to them his victory will show Americans that a tiny bit of freedom doesn’t hurt. This will supposedly make them receptive to a little more freedom when the next election rolls around. I’ve seen absolutely no proof of this. In fact my observations lead me to believe the opposite is true. The masses are always a crisis away from accepting more chains to wrap them in the false feeling of safety. Maybe the needle moves so slowly I can’t perceive it. If that’s the case I’ll be dead before any perceivable freedom is gained so what’s the point?
Politics is a lost cause for libertarianism just as it is for any radical philosophy. Instead you’re better off taking direct action to advance freedom:
Instead, libertarians might be more useful as single-issue activists and innovators. While U.S. politicians fail to shrink government, individualists like Erik Voorhees, Cody Wilson, Peter Thiel and the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto are using technology to forge a new path. Time will tell exactly where that leads. But Rand’s decline underlines the fact that libertarian ethics predicate disruption and revolution, not moderation and compromise. As such, it is unlikely to ever get big votes in American politics.
Cody Wilson and Satoshi Nakamoto accomplished more for freedom than Rand Paul ever will. Wilson showed the world how technological advancements will overcome restrictions against self-defense. Nakamoto gave the world a functioning alternative currency that is highly resistant to centralized control. Disarming citizens and controlling their money are two of the State’s biggest tools for dominating people.
Direct action, unlike politics, has the advantage of not needing popular support. Most people probably don’t support Wilson’s efforts to make firearms easy accessible or Nakamoto’s, probably inadvertent, contribution to empowering the underground economy. But the masses were powerless to stop either of them just as they were powerless to stop Dread Pirate Roberts from building and operating an online market for illicit substances. Even when the State managed to take him down nothing was really accomplished because alternatives sprang up like wildfire. The man that started the first major hidden service marketplace might have been taken down but the idea can’t be destroyed. Hell, the idea is only advancing. Now efforts are being made by projects such as OpenBazaar to create decentralized online marketplaces, which will be even more resilient to government interference.
Freedom is advancing but not because of libertarian politics. It’s advancing because people unwilling to accept their chains chose to rebel. If you’re willing to rebel you too can play an active role in advancing freedom. But if you’re only willing to beg the masses to see things your way you’re doomed to fail. The masses don’t want what you’re selling.
4 thoughts on “You Can’t Vote Your Way To Libertarianism”
For sure, voting by itself seems highly unlikely to produce a free society. It’s more about harm reduction — slowing, sometimes even rolling back, the growth of the State and keeping it from harming people and the economy as much.
Casting voting and direct action as opposed to each other is a false dichotomy. It’s not an either/or proposition — we can and should do both. If the only people who voted were those in favor of more statism, things would be much worse than they are. Same goes for activism outside the realm of electoral politics.
Voting isn’t “begging”, it’s making known your views on current proposals and individuals seeking office. The majority doesn’t always disagree with the libertarian positions on these matters — bad candidates and ballot measures are often defeated, despite the best efforts of the statists to impose them on us. They would be defeated even more often, if more pro-freedom people voted.
If you favor direct action, don’t waste your time trying to convince others in the freedom movement not to vote. Instead, show us what you are doing, and what they can do, in terms of advancing the cause via direct action. How about it, Christopher?
Either voting is entirely ineffective at reducing harm of libertarians have had next to no influence at the polls. Of all the politicians currently in power the only one that is even somewhat decent at the moment is Justin Amash. But he’s only one person out of a very large body and therefore has no real power.
Getting a politician or two elected doesn’t roll back the State, stop it from growing, or keep it from harming people. At most it means a less terrible politician a chance to speak on C-SPAN, which almost nobody by statists watch anyways.
Even at local levels, where many libertarian statists advocate electoral action should be focused, libertarian ideas tend to enjoy very little success. Getting one member of a city council still leaves libertarian ideas powerless as it doesn’t enjoy a majority in the voting body that actually matters.
You can certainly do both but one must ask whether the time required is worth the payoff. If I go to my polling place, wait in line, and cast a vote for the least horrible candidate I’ve just invested a half hour of my life for nothing. Sleeping in would have gained me more because I’d have personally felt a bit more rested.
Anyways, the option I want isn’t even on the ballot. The biggest joke about ballots is that they only allow for one actual option: perpetuation of the office. There is no box for abolishing the office entirely. If that option existed and would actually be honored if it one I might be convinced my half hour was worth something. But I’m not interested in having a master so the opportunity to choose one holds no value to me.
My view is the abolish the office, whatever it is. The most voting allows me to do is select which master I want sitting in the office. That is little more in my opinion then begging for, at most, some scraps from the table.
I think there may have been three instances where a bad candidate was defeated instead of replaced by another bad candidate. One of those instances was perhaps Ron Paul the second was perhaps Justin Amash and the third was perhaps Gary Johnson. In the end their positions didn’t change the State. It continued to grow, steal, and kill. And those elections were exceedingly rare by the simple fact OK candidates existed. In almost every election the only options on the ballot are bad. Look at the current presidential slates for both the Republican and Democratic parties. There are exactly zero good candidates available.
I’m not trying to convince others not to vote. I’m merely pointing out the futility of voting. What people choose to do with that information is up to them.
To see what I’m doing to reduce the State’s power one need only read my blog. It is, amongst other things, a catalog of various things I’ve been doing to weaken the State’s power. My work with CryptoPartyMN teaching people how to use cryptographic tools to communicate securely and maintain their anonymity is just one of the things I’m doing. Being a core organizer of AgoraFest is another.
I mentioned Rand Paul mostly because he’s the candidate most libertarian statists are enamored with. In my book he’s just another neocon. While I don’t know much about Darryl Perry I do know he’s running under a party that has no chance of winning. It’s not even the fault of the Libertarian Party per se. The entire electoral system is controlled by the two major parties and they merely change the rules whenever a third party candidate shows even the slightest chance of gaining some kind of noteworthy momentum. Even Gary Johnson acknowledged this, although not directly, last election cycle by making his platform about getting the Libertarian Party that magical five percent of the vote that would cause the rules on federal campaign contributions to be rewritten (again, that’s not how he worded it).
P.S. – Rand Paul is not the most libertarian candidate running for president of the United States in 2016. As far as I know, that would be Libertarian candidate Darryl Perry, but if you’re aware of someone in the race who’s more pro-freedom, by all means let us know.
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