Written by Jim Cunagin

It recently occurred to me that the act of not-voting has a pragmatic purpose beyond the several philosophical objections to voting that many anarcho-libertarians have either written or spoken about.  Until recently, I believed that the political process could be used to move in the direction of freedom.

If incrementalism worked to bring us under this much tyranny, I reasoned, then it could also work in reverse.  The widespread passage of concealed carry laws seemed to support my hypothesis.  People thought there would be blood in the streets after the first few states legalized concealed carry, but the rivers of blood were notably absent, and so other states followed suit.  So, if the government stopped doing X, Y, and Z somewhere, and proved that society didn’t devolve into some Hobbesian nightmare, then eventually, statelessness might be achieved.  “Gosh, I wonder what else we don’t need the State for?  I’m going to vote for some more freedom in November and see what happens.” Someone in my hypothetical world would think to themselves, while watching the sunset from the back of his unicorn.

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Hearing people say that all voting was aggression, and that voting just legitimatized the State all seemed hypothetical and borderline mystical.  I could understand and agree with it, in abstract.  But here in the real world, it seemed that a vote for Ron Paul would be a vote for freedom.

Then, I recently had two epiphanies.

The first was during a FaceBeef debate. A guy that I know was criticizing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. People voluntarily giving to charity with some element of attention-getting wasn’t to his liking, especially in the context of “draconian austerity” cutting back on NIH research funding, and he thought a better educated electorate was the answer.  Never mind the layers upon layers of flawed thinking he displayed, but my immediate internal reaction to his turning to the voting populace as his solution was to think “Bleh, voting is for people that want to control other people.” And there it was. That’s what voting is. That’s what it’s all about. Voters, by definition, want to control other people and force them to live according to their own rules, or more likely, under their selected ruler(s). Yuck.

The second epiphany was that, let’s say my idea of incrementalism of tyranny in reverse was working. Using the political process, and voting, is legitimatizing the State, not in some abstract, metaphysical, borderline mystical way, but in a very real and down to earth sort of way. We need to abandon the political process, not to achieve freedom, to to convince others to do so as well. If we keep using the machinery of the State, even for a seemingly good cause such as bringing liberty to the world, then why would less liberty minded people NOT use the machinery of the State for their own purposes? Of course they will! We need to ignore the State and all of the shiny trinkets and false promises of freedom, by allowing itself to be limited, that it offers.

If we ignore the State, and demonstrate that we can achieve good things without it, then we’ll be living as models for other people to follow.  Not just for achieving liberty, which isn’t everyone’s priority or highest idea, but for getting anything worthwhile done, without the State.

Feeding the poor, providing care for the sick, helping those who have lived through a natural disaster, these are things that can be done with or without the State. If we’re doing it without the State, what are the odds that we’ll do a worse job? Sure some of us will do a worse job, especially early on, but that’s where competition and market forces come into play. As we do things without the State, the State will attempt to forbid it. But we shouldn’t ask its permission, and should ignore its tantrums. By living freely, we stand a much better chance of getting people who happen to be less freedom oriented than we are to start wondering what they really need the State for, than we ever will by voting harder for more freedom.

I suspect that many people, even ones who seem to be die hard statists and socialists, are freedom-neutral in their attitudes, but will use whatever means they see as the most likely to achieve their goals. The State, for generations, has said that is is the most effective means to get many things done, and it keeps adding things to that list. It’s up to us to show that the State is wrong in this regard. Actions, after all, speak more loudly than words.

The State depends on the illusion of legitimacy it has on the initiation of force. It can and will punish some of us for ignoring its rules, but at some point, if we are living well, not hurting anyone, and demonstrating that the State is not necessary to do good in the world, then the State will be in the uncomfortable position of choosing to punish us, and damaging the illusion of legitimacy it depends on, or leaving us be and so growing weaker in the process. Much like the psychiatrist who recently saved lives by stopping an active shooter with his own concealed handgun, which was forbidden by the State, we can put the State in a position where it has to leave us be, or make itself look very bad in the process of punishing us.

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Ultimately, the One Ring only has as much power over us as we give it.  But, struggling to gain control of the Ring is exactly what gives it its power! Even if it wouldn’t corrupt the user, others will try to wrest it from any liberty-minded person who does gain control of it. The Ring does not, however, need to be thrown into a volcano. It need only be ignored. If enough of us ignore the Ring and go about more productive and enjoyable activities, then eventually one person will be left holding it, shouting in triumph. We will all glance over and say it looks nice on them, and resume going about our business.

This last person, after realizing the pointlessness of the Ring, will eventually lose it between the cushions of their couch, or maybe put it away in that junk drawer in their kitchen full of half-dead batteries and rubber bands, where its power will die as certainly as if it had been thrown into a volcano.

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