L.A. Liberty

A Libertarian in Leftywood

Here we are, on the morn of Election 2012<TM>. The media will have us believe that there are only two options. And while it’s true that there are only two likely outcomes, your choices are far greater.

But first, let’s briefly analyze the two major party candidates.

The Big Two: Obamney 

Obama and Romney, for all their agitations and finger-pointing, are truly two sides of the same coin. Butler Shaffer calls them fungible

The disconnect between their rhetoric and reality is astounding, both in highlighting their differences and obscuring their true positions. 

Peter Suderman flatly noted that both candidates are “full of it.” Romney, or rather Robo-Romney, is a serial flip-flopper. Though in many ways, Obama out flip-flips Romney

But duplicitousness is nothing new - from Bush Sr’s “no new taxes” to Bush Jr’s “humble foreign policy” to Obama’s, well, pretty much everything. Broken promises are standard operating procedure for presidents. You may be psychologically likely to believe political lies, but do try to shake yourself free of this shortcoming. 

When not distracted by deflections of opposition, their positions are strikingly similar.  

As I noted back in June, Romney is a central-banking Keynesian corporatist who supports The Fed and (some, though admittedly not all) bailouts. Romney believes that economic stimulus can be engineered by government spending. His presumed cabinet and advisors will, like the current administration, be filled with Wall Street lobbyists (both have been heavily supported by the likes of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan). Romney does not understand that price inflation is merely, and always, a by-product of monetary inflation (expansion of the money base). He is supportive of automatic increases to the minimum wage. He agitates about foreign countries “stealing jobs” and threatens free trade by continuing or erecting protectionist policies. He is willing to wage war, even humanitarian and so-called “preventive” war, and will leave “all options on the table.” Indeed, he plans to increase military spending and his budgets will continue the current trend of outrageous expansion. He is a drug-warrior supportive of prohibition and passing legislation against peaceful people for their “own good.” He opposes online gambling. He presided over one of the first “cap and trade” legislations in the country. He supports the Patriot Act and the NDAA. He’d continue, and perhaps even intensify (if that’s even possible), the current administration’s harsh immigration and deportation policy. Like Obama, Romney supports REAL ID. He supports “enhanced interrogation techniques” and will continue “extraordinary rendition.” He wants to increase Guantanamo’s capacity and keep prisoners from legal counsel. Romney may be willing to make tiny tax cuts, but he does not question the legitimacy of the income tax (In fact, he’s a progressive redistributionist: Contrary to popular rhetoric, Romney (1) doesn’t want to reduce net revenues to the federal government because he (2) doesn’t want to cut government, and he particularly wants to (3) fund medicare now more than Obama and even (4) make benefits progressive so the poor receive more than the wealthy (even increasing lower-income benefits)… but he might (5) lower taxes a little bit on the middle class and pay for it by (6) making the rich pay more because, as he says, he wants to “maintain the current progressivity” in the tax code. Indeed: Romney understands how the big government he loves must be paid for, which is why he is against “austerity measures.”). And, of course, we all know that Obamacare was modeled after Romneycare. He wants to increase subsidies to “power generation, fuel cells, nanotechnology, and materials science” industries. 

Any of that sound familiar? It should, as it’s essentially Obama’s record.

They could be running on the same ticket.

Romney is highly protectionist, and Obama is no different. Neither seem to understand international trade. 

Both support a foreign policy of arrogant meddlingNeither are interested in defense cutsRomney is a big fan of Obama’s drone warfareObama and Romney are both conceited enough to think a U.S. president can and should orchestrate events in the Muslim world. Their imperial grand strategies are overwhelmingly indistinguishable. Former CIA anti-terrorism expert Michael Scheuer offers: “vote for whoever you want [between Romney and Obama], but vote with the certainty that all Americans are joining you in voting for a president whose interventionism will bring all of us more war.” 

But above all, it is Obama and Romney’s mutual support for indefinite detention and assassination of american citizens without due process that make them truly unfit for office. Grounds for immediate repudiation.

With the two-party status quo, whether the red team or the blue team wins often won’t make much difference anyway. Obama has killed children. Bush killed children. Clinton killed children. The death of innocents is all but guaranteed. Republicans and Democrats have both supported the expansion of the welfare state, the warfare state, the surveillance state, the corporatist state, etc. Fiscally, observe the steady increase in per capita expenditures and see if you can spot party differences. 

But there are some areas of disagreement between the two candidates, to be sure. Abortion in particular is a big wedge issue for many (or, rather, what the debate is mostly about: when life begins). And although Romney once shared Obama’s position, they are now ostensibly opposed. And naturally, those who are pro-life or pro-choice will be disgusted with the other option. Often, they feel this issue is most important - above all others - and that if it takes voting for a lesser evil to stop such a greater evil, so be it. But both sides should keep in mind that if the über-neoconservative George W. Bush with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress wasn’t able to overturn Roe v Wade, once-pro-choice Romney won’t do it with a likely split Congress. Not to mention that five of the six conservative justices at the time voted in favor of Roe v Wade. Concerns on this issue seem unfounded.

On possible outcomes

The worst of all possible outcomes - which is, in my opinion, the most likely outcome - is an Obama re-election. However such an outcome is analyzed or parsed, it will stand as an affirmation and approval for all the atrocities Obama has already committed. Romney may be worse, of course, in many of the ways I’ve already mentioned - particularly with the pro-war republicans goading him on. But Obama is at least a confirmed killer of innocents. Wherever anyone draws the line, we should all be on the same side of killing children.

But not far behind this outcome is Romney as president, and not simply because he vows to escalate Obama’s foreign policy foolishness (which were themselves a continuation of George W. Bush’s). The false narrative has been promulgated by the left that Romney/Ryan champion “free market” principles and would “slash” spending. Of course, they don’t. They’re central-banking Keynesian corporatists whose so-called ‘draconian' budget plan “doesn’t actually slash the budget.” 

As Danny Sanchez explained, one may be less disastrous in the short run but would be moreso in the long run in the very same area:

“Romney’s big-government economic policies would sow the seeds of further crises and depression. Yet this failure would be blamed on his ostensibly “free market” orientation, thereby giving capitalism a bad rap. This has happened before. The reputation of, and prospects for, capitalism are still reeling from the presidency of George W. Bush.

Similarly, Obama’s continued foreign meddling would sow the seeds of further conflict and global instability. Yet this failure would be blamed on his ostensibly “soft” foreign policy, thereby giving peace a bad name. We have already seen this as well. The current wave of unrest in the Arab world is due largely to Obama’s recent meddling in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere.  It is the U.S.-sponsored Arab Spring recoiling, as springs inevitably do.  Yet, this Arab Recoil is being blamed by many on America’s failure to “lead” (i.e., meddle even more) under Obama.” 

This is an argument I made with another blogger over the summer, when he claimed that Romney ‘would buy the liberty movement some time’: “How much of the minuscule and short-lived gains to liberty that might be gained by a Romney presidency be offset by all the effects of his other liberty-crushing policies being blamed on the ideals of “small government”? That would not be buying the liberty movement time, it would be setting it back.” 

The least bad outcome of all possible candidates, by far, is Gary Johnson. He represents greater fiscal sanity, a moderate taming of the police state, a significant retreat in the drug war, and relative peace. He is a significant departure from the status quo. But I cannot quite endorse him outright. For starters, while his foreign policy is a stark improvement over Obama and Romney, he still maintains that the United States should play an interventionist role in the world. He may want to audit the Fed but he doesn’t think ending the fed would do any good. He has shown a lack of fundamental economic principles (though certainly not to the extent of the other candidates). His support for a fair tax falls well short of Ron Paul’s pledge to end all federal taxation. And even Romney sounded more libertarian on disaster relief. In discussing prohibition, he further demonstrated some intellectual disconnects, as I noted at the time: “This is what’s wrong with Gary Johnson. He skirts right up against a true libertarian stance, but then his lack of philosophical fundamentals keeps him from coming to the proper, educated conclusions.”

Still, I can understand that some may not want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Since it is all but assured that he wouldn’t win regardless, Johnson would make a very strong protest vote. Indeed, if one is compelled to vote, it is certainly the most effective form of registering dissent (short of not voting, of course). Furthermore, a successful Johnson disruption to the outcome could have strategic considerations to the consequential machinations that would ensue. Not only could it mean greater support the next time around, but, most importantly, it could mean greater exposure to libertarian ideas. 

On Voting

Republicans argue that a vote for a third party (or no vote at all) is essentially a vote for Obama. Democrats argue that a vote for a third party (or no vote at all) is effectively a vote for Romney. But how can both be true?  

The statists argue that sometimes a vote for a lesser evil is necessary to stave off a greater evil. But the current government is the direct result of many generations supporting lesser evils. If you endorse or vote for “lesser evils,” don’t be surprised when evil claims your consent. 

Voting is often referred to as a duty, but in truth it is nothing more than a state ritual - complete with all the faux pomp and regality required to render it a “serious” event. But the only serious treatment of an election is contempt, ridicule, and subversion. 

This is what Albert Jay Nock was referring to back in 1958:

[A man] can take our national politics as supplying him with a recurrent sporting event, a sort of extravaganza, in which the actors appear to him as more or less clever mountebanks, and his own relation to it is that of a spectator who is only mildly stirred. He may walk out on it, and usually does so whenever anything more attractive comes along; that is to say, as a rule, when he is not wholly idle. He may use it as an occasion for the display of resentment; indeed, the returns seem generally to show that this is the most nearly serious use he ever makes of it. To expect more than this of him seems to me unreasonable

Therefore, not only is there no shame in refusing to vote, but it can be argued that it is the most moral option. After all, it is the only option in which you are not forcing others to conform to your ideals. People who voted for George W. Bush believed they were getting a “compassionate conservative” who believed in a “humble foreign policy.” Instead, the world was saddled with eight years of one of the worst presidents in history, who expanded the every aspect of the state, at great cost to individual liberty. More wars, more deaths, more laws against peaceful behavior, more corporatist favors, much more government in general. And the voters are responsible. 

On the tumblr election blog, Ernie of shortformblog offered the following: “Votes don’t work like line-item vetoes, so you’re allowed to vote for someone even if you disagree with [some policies]. It does not make you a terrible person that you vote for someone based on 51 percent of what they represent.” 

Such an opinion simply serves to absolve voters of any responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Because a vote for a candidate is not the expressing of an opinion on a single issue, all the candidate’s positions must be considered. Voters may - and of course will - disagree on some issues, but by voting for a candidate they are accepting and permitting that which they disagree with in the mere hopes that the candidate will follow through with that they do agree with. 

Because a vote for Obama is not “a line-item veto,” it therefore validates his signing of the NDAA, his unitary power to assassinate American citizens, his penchant for murdering innocents - including children - with drones, his record of deportations, his escalation of the war on drugs, his favors for banks and certain corporate interests, his broken promise of a more transparent and accountable government, and so on. 

And a vote for Romney works the same way: a voter cannot support only the parts he agrees with anymore than he can drink the water out of the wine bottle and leave behind the alcohol. A voter is either all-in or all-out - and thus is culpable for all inevitable attacks on liberty perpetuated by his candidate.

As I noted early last year, voters are enablers:

“The state is only as powerful as the people who make it so. Ergo, it’s the statists who enable and use the state as a tool to harass and aggress against me. I hold them accountable for the state’s actions because their votes, their support, their acquiescence, their fears, their beliefs make it so. Their actions have directly lead to erosions of my family’s liberty, wealth taken from my daughters’ futures, and compromised the safety and wellbeing of us all. How can I not look at the statists as aggressors?

If you agree that there are two types of evil people - those who commit it and those who permit it - then how are the enabling statists [which include voters] not at least one of the two?” 

If voters are comfortable with that, then we’re at an impasse (at the very least) - but the important first step is to acknowledge that voting for tyrants makes them willing accomplices to countless atrocities, even murder

I appreciate the urgency to want to do something, to not feel powerless. After all, there will be an outcome whether you vote or not. But your choosing not to vote - to not participate in an illegitimate popularity contest choosing new masters (and new rules) for you and your neighbors - is doing something. Besides - and this is absolutely true - it will be the same outcome whether you vote or not. And that knowledge itself is empowering. 

Your vote doesn’t count:

“In all of American history, a single vote has never determined the outcome of a presidential election. [T]he chance of a randomly selected vote determining the outcome of a presidential election is about one in 60 million. In a couple of key states, the chance that a random vote will be decisive creeps closer to one in 10 million, which drags voters into the dubious company of people gunning for the Mega-Lotto jackpot.” 

This is a matter of simple mathematics: the greater the number of participants, the less important any single vote is. This, ultimately, renders your vote meaningless.

Murray Rothbard explains:

“Voting is a highly marginal activity because (a) the voter obtains no direct benefits from his act of voting, and (b) his aliquot power over the final decision is so small that his abstention from voting would make no appreciable difference to the final outcome. In short, in contrast to all other choices a man may make, in political voting he has practically no power over the outcome, and the outcome would make little direct difference to him anyway. It is no wonder that well over half the eligible American voters persistently refuse to take part in the annual November balloting.” 

Doug French elaborates:

“No matter who wins, the government gets elected. The millions of government employees will wake up on Nov. 7 and trudge off to their assigned work areas. They will march to the beat of their bureaucratic drummer — just like any other day. They will do all they can to spend their budgets, keep their jobs, and convince elected officials they are important. They never go away. The elected politicians and their political appointees are transitory decorations; the real structures of the nation-state are permanent and constitute the core of what is called “the state.”

The idea that you can change all this by spending a few quality minutes making your enlightened choices in a voting booth is complete fantasy. There comes a time in a person’s life when they should face the facts and stop believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and change through politics.” 

But we can take this reasoning a step further. Not only is voting a mostly futile endeavor,  but it often represents the “hiring” of a third party (the government) to initiate aggression on a neighbor in order to coerce him to comply with your wishes.

Voting, thus, can be seen as "an unethical act, in and of itself. That’s because the state is pure, institutionalized coercion. If you believe that coercion is an improper way for people to relate to one another, then you shouldn’t engage in a process that formalizes and guarantees the use of coercion.” 

An election, then, "is one method of legitimating the use of violence of one human being against another.” 

And there’s no ned to feel alone: many people already recognize the futility of the entire charade. About 40-50% of all eligible voters skip elections, and have for the last half-decade

And so the next refrain is often, “What do you expect to change or achieve with your protest vote or your non-vote?” Well, it is just as crucial to the outcome as your vote - which is to say not at all. Except I can live with myself afterward, having not registered support for evil, even if it may be lesser than another evil. I can sleep soundly knowing that I did not give my blessing for any aggression against peaceful people. And in the event of a non-vote, I will find great comfort in having withdrawn my consent from the entire illegitimate enterprise.

A Better System

There’s a man I care deeply about who is a lifelong-democrat and a staunch Obama supporter. He often cites the stupidity and selfishness of the masses as the raison d’être for government’s existence. To paraphrase, he believes “most people” are uninformed, selfish, stupid, gullible, reactionary jerks (and often racists, too). But if this were the case, why would he champion turning over decisions to those very same “most people”?

The answer is the same the slave-owners gave not that long ago, “it’s not perfect, but it’s the best system we’ve got.”

But in fact, it’s not the best system. There already exists a system that is diametrically opposed to force and is defined by consensual, mutually beneficial exchanges: the free market.

Rothbard makes the case:

“Thus, we see that the free market contains a smooth, efficient mechanism for bringing anticipated, ex ante utility into the realization of ex post. The free market always maximizes ex ante social utility as well. In political action, on the contrary, there is no such mechanism; indeed, the political process inherently tends to delay and thwart the realization of any expected gains. Furthermore, the divergence between ex post gains through government and through the market is even greater than this; for we shall find that in every instance of government intervention, the indirect consequences will be such as to make the intervention appear worse in the eyes of many of its original supporters.

“In sum, the free market always benefits every participant, and it maximizes social utility ex ante; it also tends to do so ex post, since it works for the rapid conversion of anticipations into realizations. With intervention, one group gains directly at the expense of another, and therefore social utility cannot be increased; the attainment of goals is blocked rather than facilitated; and, as we shall see, the indirect consequences are such that many interveners themselves will lose utility ex post.

Jim Fedako fleshes out the idea some more:

“In a free market, those at the margin perform an essential task. It is their individual decisions to enter or abstain from buying and selling in the market that decide future prices. Their choices direct scarce resources toward the desired wants of consumers. But the choice is not A or B, the choice is A or B or C, or any of a number of choices, limited only by man’s imagination and the then-current capital structure.

The decision is not Pepsi or Coke for the next four years. The decision is the factor pricing that leads to the enjoyment of Pepsi, Coke, RC, apple pies, and automobiles by all. And that decision is subject to recall votes on a daily basis.

But the ballot is different. Both presidential candidates have designs for my money and my freedom. One side may tilt toward taking more freedom than money, but neither candidate desires to return either. And in all of this, the guy who has no real interest in the matter decides the issue – a man who is more concerned about returning to regular programming than understanding the concepts of liberty and property.

In my house, I favor Pepsi, while my wife favors Coke. In fact, I will not drink Coke. So an electoral win for Coke is a loss for me. But instead of letting my juice toting neighbor decide which pop we drink, we buy both and are happy. We both can choose and neither loses.

Of course, the market is voluntary while politics are force. So the marginal voter, on a whim, hands the gun to one of two thieves. While the margin serves a purpose in politics, that purpose is pernicious.” 

As I’ve explained, political democracy is illegitimate:

Why is “democracy” legitimate? Subset A has more numbers than Subset B or Subset C, ergo all must abide by the wishes of Subset A? That’s tyranny of the majority. That’s a lynch mob. That’s, as the old adage with the unknown originator goes, two wolves and a lamb deciding on what’s for dinner. There is no minority smaller than the individual, and no majority can usurp the individual’s fundamental claims to his self-ownership, his rights to life, liberty, and property.

How individuals wish to live their lives should not be subject to majority opinion.

Now in some circumstances, voting can be an act of self-defense - particularly in local elections and single-issue ballot measures where the effects are greater and the act of voting less ambiguous. And a principled stance explicitly against the totalitarian status quo is without doubt the least wasted of all votes.

But in a truly free, stateless society, only voluntary associations would be legitimate and no one - not even a majority - may initiate aggression against any peaceful individual. There’d be discussion and debate and advertisements and studies and counter-studies and demonstrations and trade and countless other peaceful interactions between autonomous individuals - but naturally, there would be no voting for new masters. Why not practice the ideal, and withdraw your consent? After all, your vote won’t count anyway.


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