With another fall election season picking up steam, The New Yorker’s Sam Wang wonders whether the 2014 election will “be a wave or a ripple.” A wave, Wang says, occurs when “one party makes massive gains and overturns the existing power dynamic.” But notwithstanding Wang’s intended point, the “existing power dynamic” in the United States will go undisrupted regardless of the election results and who controls the Senate.
Politics is the great vampire capitalizing on the masses’ desire for meaningful change — siphoning vitality and resources from worthwhile projects, ventures that have a real chance of turning people away from the state and the ruling class. Political libertarians of every party affiliation are quick to scoff and sneer at those of us who don’t vote, who avoid practical politics at all costs as a futile sinkhole for precious time and assets. Anarchists are anti-political by definition — how can we hope to use political participation to destroy politics?
Still, supposing that participation in politics isn’t wrong in itself, that it is a perfectly legitimate means of expressing opinions and preferences, we are no less left with serious questions and concerns. Ultimately, politics offers a ontes virtually guaranteeing a winner who is either a Republican or a Democrat, a victor who is neither being well nigh a statistical impossibility. “So what?” you say. “Certainly there are observable differences between the Red and Blue sides of the American political class.” True enough — differences exist, no doubt. We hear about them from our “public intellectuals,” from news anchors and our politicians themselves, all of whom insist that elections are high stakes battles between sworn ideological enemies.
Yet while there may be trace differences between the candidates in a given election, no Republocrat would dare question the fundamental, structural elements of the American political and economic status quo. As Albert Jay Nock wrote, “But what was I to vote for? An issue? There was none. You could not get a sheet of cigarette-paper between the official positions of the two parties. A candidate? Well, who were they? Both of them seemed to me to be mediocre timeserving fellows who would sell out their immortal souls, if they had any, for a turn at place and power …”
But let us grant at least the possibility that important policy questions might turn on election results. As with any other area of study or inquiry, be it automobile mechanics or microbiology, genuine, thoroughgoing understanding requires time and dedication, a careful and systematic approach to the subject. That almost no one is willing to undertake this kind of commitment to politics is one of the many reasons anarchists cite in favor of reducing political control over individuals’ lives to level zero.
What’s more, beyond the pesky fact that they have no right to rule over others in any case, even ostensible experts disagree on political questions. Surely it is an ill-conceived system that would leave any important policy outcome to the whim and caprice of an American populace that is by and large completely ignorant of political subtleties. Hence if elections aren’t just exercises in ritualistic state worship, they are expressions and celebrations of sheer idiocy. Either way, elections turn out to be a very bad idea, a waste of time, money and mental energy.
Market anarchists believe that individuals should make the decisions about their own lives — not politicians, election results, or arbitrary laws. Elections are one way that the State legitimizes its usurpations and brutalities. Want to make a real statement? Stay home this November.