Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Voting

I was once an enthusiastic voter.  I thought that I ought to use any tool I could to help promote liberty and that even given the worst view of government as a gang of thieves and warmongers, voting could be seen as a form of defense.  And even if my vote was insignificant, I saw my ballot as a signal to others of support for liberty.

But after a couple of elections, I did not feel so good about casting a ballot (especially after seeing some of the shenanigans of the Libertarian Party in using direct-marketing techniques to "sell" liberty).  In addition, I saw voting as lending moral support to the system.  If I truly believed government to be evil and wanted to withdraw my consent, wouldn't I be a hypocrite to cast a ballot?  In fact, voting might be seen as a way of trying to use force on others.

I don't really see either of these positions as strictly correct now.  I think the importance of voting (or not voting) has been exaggerated by most who debate the question (ironic that I am now spending such a long post on it).  A trouble with voting is that it does not lend itself well to analogy or abstraction.  "Voting is defense" claims a libertarian; "No, voting is aggression" responds an anarchist.  Who is right? 

The analogy I like best for voting is that of a suggestion box for slaves (hat tip to Free Talk Live).  In this view, a vote for someone like Ron Paul is like stuffing "please stop beating us" in the box.  A vote for most politicians is like stuffing "please beat Jim less and Bob a little more".

I won't fault anyone for hoping a vote will reduce government evil.  Who knows, maybe if enough people suggest it, the slave-masters will stop beating us so much.

I also won't fault anyone for seeing the suggestion box as below the dignity of a free man and refuse to participate in it.  Maybe just asserting our freedom will be the best long-term remedy for reducing the slave-masters.

I tend toward non-voting.  I’ve felt it to be a bit demeaning, and I’d rather not get caught up in rooting for politicians.  Still, I leave myself open to voting if inspired by a particular campaign that I think is of some value in supporting.

I am not inspired often. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Moving to the (A Little Bit More) Free State

There are still all of the regular institutions of American state government: prisons, schools (or do I repeat myself?), law enforcers, and bureaucracies.  But the people pay a little less in taxes than other states, and they put "Live Free Or Die" on the license plates.

We've moved from a condo in Massachusetts to a log home in a small "border town" in the state chosen by the Free State Project as the destination for liberty-minded folks. I wish I could list a multitude of freedoms I can now enjoy as opposed to one of the least free states, but New Hampshire still has a way to go.

In Massachusetts, we lived in a homeschool-friendly area with no evaluation requirements.  Now we'll be threatened with child-neglect or some other nonsense if we don't let a stranger into our home to ensure our children conform closely enough to whatever the government folks think a rightful education is.

The Massachusetts government heavily taxes alcohol, but it remains one of the premier markets for whisky.  I love the variety of liquor stores and how you might find an out-of-the-way shop on Cape Cod with one last dusty, old bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail on the shelves.  In New Hampshire, the government operates all liquor stores, which are unpleasant warehouses, all with the same selection and prices.  Even with the reputation of low prices, I'll still do most of my shopping in Massachusetts, where I can find much more and usually at a lower price for premium drinks.

But this move was not just about going somewhere freer now.  It was largely about community; living in a rural area where we can embrace the culture, and living in a place where there actually are a significant number of folks who get freedom (even if we are all still on the fringes).  It was about living where we can afford a few acres of land and have access to woods and natural beauty.  But mostly it was just about choosing the best place we could be a family.