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11/20/2003 Archived Entry: "Bush's bill"
Don't plan to be raped, mugged, or murdered in Britain in the next few days because the police will be otherwise occupied. According to the Independent, "One in nine police officers in England and Wales will be protecting George Bush on his state visit to Britain...The bill will run to at least £7m, and the British taxpayer will pay for it." Doing the conversion...that's $11,921,020.57 USD at the current exchange rate. Words fail. Those who know me understand the uniqueness of this circumstance.
Fast...where are the cartoons!? Chuck Asay's latest The Economy Can Walk captures the Bush administration's joy at the least flicker of life-support in the economy they are killing; Jonik's Democracy -- Your Choice illustrates what I believe voting does about that or any other situation. Which leads me into the next section of my blog....
I often receive queries about and challenges to my arguments against voting, especially the arguments against the electoral variety. With the LP being prominent within the broader movement, such discussion is inevitable and healthy but I haven't had heart for it lately. I am not disillusioned, shifting in my beliefs, or tongue-tied...I am just generally tired of hearing myself talk on the same subject year in and year out. I remember Murray Rothbard telling me how tired he was of people asking, "But who would build the roads in a libertarian society?" The next time someone asked, he cracked under the pressure and snapped back, "No one! There'd be no roads! We'd all be walking through fields. And we'd be barefoot too because no one'd make shoes without the damned government."
But given that 1) I endorsed the pro-voting StopBushin2004 site -- which I still believe is well worth a gander by voters and does have non-voting strategies -- and, 2) I just received a thoughtful email from a young libertarian questioning my voting stand, I should take the time to explain why I do not advocate casting a ballot. (I will restict my comments to electoral politics; I would argue differently re: voting on referendums, etc. Also I reprint portions of the relevant email with permission from the author.) He writes, "You seem to be making the error of not considering the difference between power and the use thereof. With few exceptions, people have power over others. They have fists they can punch with, feet they can kick with, and can use many objects as weapons. There is nothing immoral about merely having this power."
I do not confuse a capacity or power with the exercise of that capacity. Assuming office *is* an exercise of a capacity and not merely a capacity itself. Casting a ballot to enable someone to assume office is also the exercise of a capacity. So we are talking about the exercise of a power. The real question is whether that exercise is valid and that power expresses libertarianism.
The questioner writes, "Furthermore, people can expand this power through such means as purchasing a firearm or running for political office."
I believe you are confusing and conflating two entirely separate issues. Purchasing a firearm is a right of self-defense that derives from an extension of everyone's right to self-ownership; it is an act that infringes upon no one's similar right and usurps nothing rightful from any other human being. Assuming political office is not a natural right. The office itself is a claim to authority over other people's lives whether or not they have consented to that authority -- indeed, whether or not they have rejected the authority by e.g. refusing to vote on principle. The peron who assumes office is saying that they have some claim to jurisdiction over the person and property of other and unconsenting people. But without the explicit consent of peaceful individuals, how can you (or anyone) claim to properly impose restrictions on their lives and properties. And *impose* is not too strong a word. Government is backed up with the force of police power, the force of a gun. If you do not pay taxes, if you do not obey law, the ultimate sanction is a gun to your head and the confiscation of what is yours...both in terms of your rights and of your goods.
You may argue that a libertarian politician would violate rights and confiscate goods (if only through taxation) less than other politicians...and you might be right in making that argument. Only time and experience would tell. But even in that sunny scenario, the libertarian politician would be the lesser of two evils, not a "moral good." As an anarchist, I reject the entire idea of anyone claiming jurisdiction over my peaceful actions and I reject the entire process of people being polled (of voting) as a mechanism by which anyone is handed a gun and allowed to walk into my peace-loving life and dictate terms. A libertarian society must be based on the voluntary association of every peaceful person involved, with no person being forced to relinquish what is rightfully his or hers. That's what the non-initiation of force principle means; and that principle is the platform upon which libertarianism is built.
To phrase my last statements in somewhat different terms, and ones that draw upon Lysander Spooner with whom I agree entirely on this point....Without a peaceful individual's explicit consent or delegation of authority, no one -- not government, not a lawyer, not a rug-cleaning service -- has any rightful claim over that person. What would such a delegation entail? According to Spooner, it would require that the person possess the right being delegates; that the delegation be explicit and not merely assumed; and, that the person be able to withdraw his delegation -- otherwise he would have given away not simply the exercise of a particular right but his entire liberty. In short, only those people who had voted for the politician could be deeme to have delegated their rights to him. Those who had not voted would be free from his jurisdiction. Moreover, even those who had voted for a particular politician could withdraw their support in much the same manner as they could cancel the services of a lawyer to whom they had assigned certain powers. Spooner asked: can one person rightfully occupy a position of power over the life of another peaceful human being is that human being has not delegated the power? He could discover no circumstance in which such power would be proper. Neither can I. It is, to its core, unlibertarian.
My questioner raises a separate issue: he writes, "You have argued that it is, that it lends the appearance of legitimacy to government." Unfortunately, the legitimacy argument is an entirely different thread and I must delay responding -- hopefully only until tomorrow -- due to time constraints. Stay tuned.
I will let my unofficial co-blogger, Gordon P, have the last word: Apparently, in spite of its infinite pretentiousness, NPR is now running an "advice show" for those with a "Radical Subsidiaritan" (AKA "left-liberal") political orientation called "Ask Brendan." Here is a blog entry with alleged excerpts from "Ask Brendan" RE: how Letting It Be Known That You Are An NPR Listener can Get You Laid."
Best to all,