The Morality of Voting
***This is a DRAFT article that needs more work before its really ready to share.

In the mixture of people that self-identify as libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, voluntaryist, or agorist, voting is a hotly debated activity. There are the more subjective shame-based arguments that point out the disgustingness of playing the states game in begging for a little less tyranny as a slave might beg their master for less whippings. There are also the rational and ethical arguments such as Lysander Spooners work in No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority which describes a vote as a “bullet” fired in self-defense against the other vote bullets aimed at us with the intent to control us at the cost of our lives if resisted hard enough.

I self-identify using all of the above labels while at the same time have run a campaign in the Texas state gubernatorial election and intend to continue doing so[1]. This places me directly in the center of this controversy and has required much effort and thought in determining the correct moral position on the topic. This article will make a new argument in the space based on the non-aggression principle as a fundamental rubric for acting in a moral way; that is to say without initiating harm or coercion on any peaceful people. I will incorporate the strongest facets from Spooner and will iterate on the inaccuracies that I think are missed in most debates on this topic.

My Argument

Premise 1: People that assist in criminal activity are partially or equally culpable for the results of the groups actions. [2]

(IE: John disables a banks security systems for a group of bank robbers or serves as the getaway driver. John is at least partially culpable for the theft crime and bank robbery as a co-conspirator that provided material support to the groups efforts.)

Premise 2: Voting for a candidate has the effect of assisting them in winning office and gaining potentially coercive power over innocents and / or access to resources for harm and coercion.

(Voting provides material support to the effort of political crime)

Conclusion: If the supported candidate is subsequently elected, and those powers and resources are used to create innocent victims and to coerce, the person that voted for the candidate is at least partially culpable as a co-conspirator in the creation of innocent victims and for their coercion.

Lysander’s Vote-Bullet Argument

Lysander Spooner

“In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having ever been asked, a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments.

He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former.

His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man attempts to take the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot — which is a mere substitute for a bullet — because, as his only chance of self-preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power of numbers.

On the contrary, it is to be considered that, in an exigency, into which he had been forced by others, and in which no other means of self-defence offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one that was left to him.”

— Lysander Spooner

Vote Grenades

A better analogy than Lysander Spooners “vote bullets”.

Spooner is very right that someone voting is not an affirmation of consent to be controlled by government. Spooner is very right that people use government guns to force their ideas and way of life onto us. Spooner is very right that there is nothing wrong with attempting to fire the exact same government guns back at the people trying to fire them at you. However, the lever that is missing and that invalidates the claim of self defense in Spooner’s vote-bullets analogy is that there is no “ballot-trigger” we can pull that will launch defensive vote-bullets only at those firing offensive vote-bullets at us.

You cannot call an action self-defensive if it creates new innocent peaceful victims. Most votes are more like grenades that explode harming everyone in the room you throw it at; aggressors and innocent bystanders alike. The collateral damage can be so far reaching that its frequently impossible to quantify.

People vote-bulleted for the anti-war candidate Obama and helped a man gain power that was used in the murder of between a few hundred and a few thousand non-combatants and children [3]. And those victims werent even given the opportunity to send vote-bullets back.

Other people vote-bulleted for Trump to keep Hillary Clinton and her leftist socialistic policies away and helped a man get government power which he then used to coerce the owners and employees of General Motors to produce more ventilators than they otherwise were for the COVID situation. [4]

So not only are voters not getting the government guns pointed in the direction they are wanting, but in the attempt they are creating collateral damage the world over.

Consider the following analogy. There is a group of men with guns G (government) and three groups of slaves R, D, and N (republican voters, democrat voters, and non-voters). You get to chose one of the three slave groups to be in.

Group R points G’s guns at D and N to get what they want.
Group D points G’s guns at R and N to get what they want.
Group N doesnt point G’s guns at anyone.
(this is the group not considered in Spooners argument)

The question is which group is peaceful and which are aggressors? Which group is the moral one to stand in? We can easily grant that G is ubiquitously evil, of course, and is the prime issue… But as for the slave groups competing over the coercion, there is one that is unique in that they are not creating new victims of people not already attempting to coerce them; group N.

Groups R and D are caught in a mutual offense / self-defense scenario, a scenario which shouldnt even be possible except through inter-generational coercion facilitated by G, making it possible for both groups to be subjected to coercion from the other since birth. We cant point to a member of one or the other and determine who “initiated” the aggression; they are both actively participating in it while also claiming self defense from the very real aggressions of the other.

Neither R nor D can complain about the others pointing guns at them because such a defense would be precluded by their own commissions of the exact same aggressions. It is obviously self contradictory to complain that someone is committing the exact same crime you are presently inflicting upon them.

Group N, however, has every right to complain about R, and D! In the process of their war for control of power, or even in their attempts at self defense, these groups are pointing G’s guns at N as well, creating new innocent victims out of people that have never threatened or coerced them! In their attempts to defend themselves from each other they are helping G create more coercion and destroy more property.

The N’s might really like to defend themselves from the R’s and the D’s but there is no lever in democracies to pull that restricts their vote-bullets to only hitting other voters attempting to coerce them. The only available option is to join in with the R’s or the D’s in their actions that harm everyone including other N’s.

Whatabout the L’s?!

Some might be screaming about the L’s at this point and wondering where they are in the analogy. Well first — they’re not in the analogy because they arent currently winning any power anywhere so it would have just convoluted the analogy.

Second — most “Libertarians” running for office have barely a passing acquaintance with the principles behind the label. If most of them ever actually won power (something contradictory to libertarianism in and of itself) they would be creating victims out of the N’s no less (ok maybe a little less) than the R’s and D’s.

Most “libertarian pahtay” candidates support at least some elements of aggression spanning the entire spectrum of political coercion. From the existence of a non-consensually funded military, the reduction and even abolition of private property rights, state border enforcement, even some forms of taxation like my opponent Mark Tippetts did in the 2018 Texas gubernatorial race (where he won the nomination), to even socialized health care like my opponent Kathy Glass touted in that same race. Most L options have their supporters still assisting in aggressions.

Exceptions?

Going back to the syllogism at the beginning of this article lets look at problems commonly raised and see if there are any exceptions.

Premise 1 Problems?: I suppose you could wish to live in a society where the dispute resolution contracts functioned such that people were only culpable for their specific actions. IE: the get away driver would only be guilty of driving his car away from the bank and not for the stolen money or the people the robbers inside the bank harmed or killed in the process of their crime. This would lead to some absurd situations and which is likely why common law justice systems throughout history have held co-conspirators culpable for the crimes their group commits. I’ve never had a person contest this premise though so we’ll move on.

Is Premise 2 Sound?: I have had many people tell me that voting is ineffectual, that it does nothing, or that the winning candidates are decided by other people or processes nefarious or otherwise that are not influenced by a vote. If this claim turns out to be true then the argument is in fact defeated. Voting would then be as morally important as sleeping. One could vote all they wanted and still be culpable for none of their candidates actions. Though it does seem nonsensical that one who was convinced that voting did precisely nothing would spend their time trying to vote.

Are There Exceptions to the Conclusion?: There are two objections or exceptions that can provide for a vote that does not run afoul of this syllogism and one that fails.

  1. The supported (voted for) candidate does not win.

    If they dont win then there are no innocent victims, coercion, or other crimes for the voter to be a co-conspirator in. This means that most votes for libertarians, even the least-consistent and unprincipled ones, dont end up being immoral. Or do they? Are failed bank robbers let free or are they charged with “attempted bank robbery”?

    Is pointing the vote bullet gun at someone but not firing it still the crime of “threatening deadly force”? It would seem to be obvious that this is not the exception that some people wish it was. It is still wrong to threaten your neighbors with your vote bullets even if they dont end up hitting their targets.
  2. The vote is not for a candidate but for a referendum or ballot measure that creates no victims.

    Not having to trust that a candidate one assists in gaining power will do what just about every single politician in history has done (breaking promises and doing things their voters didnt want) makes for a simpler discussion for sure.

    A referendum to abolish the IRS, or reduce taxes, or eliminate some regulation for example would create zero new innocent victims and is therefore a fine exception to this argument. You would be able to fire your vote bullets specifically at the people that supported those things being done to you without subjecting innocent third parties to any coercion.
  3. The supported candidate wins and creates no victims.

    This is a high bar to reach but is theoretically possible. One could run on a platform of NAP (non-aggression principle) compliance, never use power to coerce, never use government resources to harm, vote no on every bill, end every government program and agency they had access to end, and never even so much as cash a paycheck filled with extorted tax resources.

    I attempted this with my campaign for Not Governor of Texas. While this position was clearly way too libertarian to actually get the nomination of the “libertarians” in the pahtay, I did prove it to be possible… At least in Texas and at least up till the point of nomination.

Summary

It appears that it is neither true that voting is always immoral nor that it is always morally permissible. It depends on what you are actually achieving with your decision to take action in support of a particular person or cause.

If you are assisting in the control and coercion of peaceful people that are not threatening you then you are culpable for providing that assistance even if you had the good intentions of protecting your own property or freedom.

If you are supporting political processes that are strictly limited to reducing and / or eliminating government coercion then there ceases to be a moral objection. This is not to say that these political processes are valid in the first place. If a thief robbing you in a dark alley gives you a button that hey says will cause him to stop robbing you, while you may say that it’s dumb to play his games, there’s nothing wrong with pushing his button in an attempt to defend yourself.

The point many miss in these discussions is that you cannot call something self defense that creates new innocent victims.

Author: Not Governor Patrick Smith

[1] - My campaign is ran with a specific focus on using the immoral game of thrones that is politics and the attention people give it to bring a principled message of liberty to the masses. The web site is NotGovernor.com. The primary message is one of realizing the power of withdrawing ones consent to be governed and provides an example method of doing so using a Declaration of Individual Independence.
[2] - https://criminallaw.uslegal.com/incohate-crimes/conspiracy/ Citing a US legal source is not intended as an appeal to US law as a valid authority, but as one example among examples that can be found in almost all legal systems that link the culpability for crimes across all participating conspirators.
[3] - With such a biased press as exists today accurate information is difficult to obtain. The governments own reporting admits to over 500 drone bombings with several hundred innocent non-combatants and child murders. Some non-government report a few thousand.

https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Press%20Releases/DNI+Release+on+CT+Strikes+Outside+Areas+of+Active+Hostilities.PDF

https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Summary%20of%202016%20Information%20Regarding%20United%20States%20Counterterrorism%20Strikes%20Outside%20Areas%20of%20Active%20Hostilities.pdf
[4] - https://publicpool.kinja.com/subject-memorandum-on-order-under-the-defense-producti-1842531124