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[The following is the text of a leaflet entitled “The Folly of Voting” published by Freedom Press in 1904.]
I shall not vote in the coming general election.
I am fully aware that this will be of little consequence so far as the result of the contest is concerned, and that is one of the reasons for not voting.
But I have other reasons, chief among them being that I do not believe in government by the majority, nor the minority either.
I do not believe in government at all.
The ballot system of government is a dismal failure, even supposing it, for a moment, to be right in theory.
Thus, some of those who seek election do so either for direct emoluments they hope to gain, or indirectly to advance their own interests and satisfy their vanity. Such men will not sacrifice their own ends for the public weal.
Many candidates are, however, in the beginning, fairly honest in their motives and intentions. But a man who enters the political world soon finds out that, fraud, cunning, hypocrisy, and trickery, are freely used by his opponents, and to successfully cope with them he must adopt their tactics.
He thinks he is justified by expediency in doing this, and perhaps honestly believes that he can use these weapons to gain victory for an honest cause. But he is mistaken. Fraud and falsehood can never serve a righteous end. The man who uses trickery, even to vanquish wrong, is already a trickster and is no better morally, than he who uses trickery for avowedly dishonourable purposes.
But, unfortunately for the honest candidate, zealous for the public good, who refuses to sully himself with deception and fraud – all the political forces are against him. By refusing to be all things to all men, and failing to pander to popular prejudice and ignorance, he fails to secure the favour of the mass and the unscrupulous demagogue, who makes many vain promises, wins.
The really honest man who falls into the snare of politics ever figures as the unsuccessful candidate.
Political corruption and dishonesty is so notoriously apparent that even believers in government, advocates of the political action, are fully conscious of it. Yet they go on voting, with the faint hope that, in some mysterious way, conditions will be changed, and that, after a while, enough pure men will be elected to ensure an honest administration of public affairs.
Their hopes are never realised. New men are put in and new parties assume control, but the same results ensue. The real trouble is with the system, not with those who administer it. The very nature and principle of government, of human authority, is demoralising, corrupting, and wrong.
As long as human nature is what it is, we cannot expect men in power to disregard their individual interests, nor to escape the damning influences of power of their better self.
The man who votes, even though he votes for the defeated candidate, gives his sanction to the whole scheme, and process of election, authority, and coercion.
I do not wish to be governed, I do not acknowledge, and will not admit the right of any man, or body of men to rule over me; I do not wish to govern others. I know of no moral or social right that I have to do so, and consequently I decline to impose my views on others through the agency of the ballot, and thus set in motion; the whole paraphernalia of force and violence –policemen, judges, executioners, soldiers, tax gatherers, etc., used to coerce others into doing as I think they ought to do.
I want for every man, woman, and child, the right to govern themselves, to direct their own affairs, to live their own lives. This can never be whilst private property, the be-all and end-all of government exists.
Think, workers, and you will acknowledge that it is for the defence of property that all this electioneering, this legislating, this making and unmaking of laws whose name is legion, takes place. To defend the property you have created, the houses you have built, the food you have grown, the clothes you have made – from you, the rightful owners.
And you maffick and lose time and quarrel with one another and act like lunatics generally because your masters generously allow you to make a cross on a piece of paper; and if you have been good and voted as they wish you to, they throw you a crumb from the loaf you have toiled to make and which they have stolen from you and you smugly return them thanks.
Learn to be men, free men, who depend on no master, who feed no idle, gilded loafers, who cower not beneath oppression, but who assert their right to life, liberty, and all the pursuits of happiness.
I believe that you can become this; I believe you can if you will, attain a free life, socially, economically, industrially, that is why I beg you to leave off following the red herring of politics, and instead, to refuse to obey the dictates of the gabblers of St Stephen’s and to support the lazy thieves of the thrice damned trinity – landowners, capitalists, parsons.
He who must be free, himself, must strike the blow!
Utah Liberty Alliance seeks to be the voice of anarchism in Utah. We publish articles and media that give an anarchist perspective to issues and events that affect Utahns, make our work free to share and republish without permission, and submit op-eds to publications throughout Utah. If you can write and want to raise awareness and inspire action in the Beehive State, please submit your work to us using one of the following methods:
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Help tear down hierarchy in Utah and bring liberty to those who thirst for it!
[This article was first published at C4SS.org by mutualist and individualist anarchist Kevin Carson.]
In “Empire of the Rising Scum,” Robert Shea observed that, regardless of their ostensible mission, hierarchical institutions tend to be headed by people whose primary skills are careerist climbing and bureaucratic in-fighting. As I’ve said before, you simply cannot become a President of the United States, or a Fortune 500 CEO, unless there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. The same is true of the intellectual capacity of those who manage to advance upward within hierarchies. Being a team player, engaging in groupthink, demonstrating an ability to shut off critical thinking when evaluating the communications of a superior — these are qualities that authoritarian institutions select for.
But in addition to selecting for stupidity and meanness, such institutions impress those traits even on those who didn’t previously possess them. Hierarchies are systematically stupid. No matter how intelligent the people running them are as individuals, the internal dymanics of the hierarchy make them functionally stupid. That’s because power distorts communications, rendering them incapable of conveying accurate information. The reason, as R.A. Wilson pointed out, is that nobody tells the truth to someone with a gun — or with the power to fire them, or any other kind of unaccountable and unilateral power over them. The result is one-way communication flows, the utter isolation of institutional leadership from accurate feedback about the effects of their decisions. When an individual’s perceptions are so distorted that she receives no accurate feedback on the effect of her actions on her environment, she’s mentally ill. And hierarchical institutions, likewise, are functionally psychotic.
Authoritarian institutions tend to be governed by “best practices” and management fads based entirely on what their leadership hears from the leadership of other authoritarian institutions — people who are as clueless regarding the actual effects of these practices as they are. The reason is that the people at the tops of the pyramids — in the C-suites — communicate much more effectively with people at the tops of other pyramids than they do with those at the base of their own pyramid.
As organization theorist Kenneth Boulding said, those at the tops of hierarchies tend to live in almost completely imaginary worlds. Hierarchies are mechanisms purpose-evolved to tell naked emperors how great their clothes look.
A similar process, based on the distorted incentive structure when one possesses unaccountable authority over others and can externalize unpleasantness on subordinates while appropriating rewards for oneself, takes place in the ethical realm as well. Many simulations of authority relationships — perhaps most notably the Stanford Prison Experiment — have shown the nasty things that happen when subjects are randomly divided into those with and without authority. People who are randomly assigned the role of guard or master, and put into a position of exercising unaccountable authority over fellow subjects assigned the roles of prisoners and slaves, quickly grow into their role. The “guards” in the Stanford Prison Experiment, given authority to impose unpleasantness and otherwise make decisions affecting others without the latter having any feedback, soon so dehumanized the “prisoners” and so enjoyed brutalizing them that the two-week experiment had to be terminated after only six days.
So if you wonder why your CEO has no qualms about collecting a $20 million bonus while downsizing half the workforce and increasing the workloads of everyone else, the answer is simple. On an emotional level, she’s long ago convinced herself that you aren’t even human. People in authority, in their organizational roles, tend to experience the functional equivalent of a psychotic break with reality, and to act like sociopaths toward their subordinates.
Power over others, by its very nature, degrades those who wield it, turns them into monsters, and poisons their every relationship with their fellow human beings. There’s no “reform” that can change that, short of abolishing authority itself. And that’s what we anarchists want to do.
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.
- Noam Chomsky
On Tuesday the US presidential cycle reached its first major milestone, with Iowans caucusing to determine the fates of the GOP’s contenders. As the unofficial start of 2012’s election madness (in fact already well under way), Iowa offers an opportunity to reflect on what rehashing the whole fatuous pretense every four years actually means.
In the systems prevailing around the world today, those of political decision-making, public policy is crafted by an infinitesimal fraction of society — one whose interests are not at all representative of the general population’s. Historically, the state has provided the means through which a circle of rich, ruling elites shifts its costs onto an unwary public and monopolizes the benefits of productive activity.
Since its naissance as the institutionalization of conquest and theft, however, the state has come to be regarded as something else entirely. Today, the state, the great predator of the innocent, enjoys a reputation as guardian of the weak and attendant of justice. And practical politics — that liturgy of the modern state in which the opera of elections is substituted for a government of, by and for the people — has been instrumental in varnishing that reputation.
Intermittent rituals like Iowa, rather than presenting a real opportunity to influence government, serve to pacify a populace victimized by government at every opportunity.
As a matter of course, allowing a privileged few to formulate rules for all results in rules calculated to favor those few. Free and open competition, based on equality in rights and fairness in exchange, is never the operating principle in an arrangement whereby some people have a legal prerogative to decide how everyone can use their resources, both tangible and intangible.
Instead, the modus operandi of the political process has always been and will continue to be that of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. As Duke University economist Thomas J. Nechyba succinctly described this phenomenon, “[T]he ‘winners’ are a concentrated few for whom it is easy to organize politically while the ‘losers’ are a diffuse many who barely notice why it is they are losing.”
Such is the nature of monopoly and the reason that it necessarily relies on the coercive, preclusive power of the state.
Among campaigning politicians, the constant rhetorical refrain is fixed on practical solutions to problems facing the country, on “making government work” for ordinary folks. But the representative politics that Americans recognize just isn’t designed to do anything outside of cementing and legitimizing a system of state-enforced corporate capitalism.
Whoever ends up in Washington, money and influence will be waiting there to secure privileges, expressed as laws and regulations that shackle competition. Politicians and their votes will go to the highest bidder, the benefits of obstructing genuine individual rights and voluntary exchange going to the most well-connected.
Getting money out of politics is made impossible by the very nature and definition of politics. The state is an agency of an economic ruling class, and elections are its exiguous attempt at public relations. Real democracy in a stateless society would mean consensually organized groups administering their own affairs, free from aggressive, external rule.
Corporate execs and our “public servants” were the big winners in Iowa. The best the rest of us can do is pull out our votes, withdrawing our participation and getting down to creating the kind of society we want outside of politics.
[This article was first published at C4SS.org.]
It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.
– Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (1949)
Utah Liberty Alliance seeks to bring about a free society through journalism and activism, starting right here at home.
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