There’s been a continuation of interesting and original content throughout June. Whether talking about the inability of vulgar libertarians to comprehend corporate power, or looking at poor defenses for the existence of the state. The content has been diverse and fascinating.
Here’s a few of the publications seen in the last month:
Kevin Carson has criticised another bad defense of the corporate state, this one coming from the Cato Institute. Within it, this particular vulgar libertarian makes the claim that corporations fail to realise that subsidies hurt their competitiveness. Carson rightly excoriates this, showing that corporations gladly partake of subsidies as it aids their economic position of monopoly power and cronyism.
Nick Ford explains that women being placed on the US military draft is equality that is not worth having. It fundamentally impedes freedom and does not in any way increase gender equality.
Billy Christmas looks at the naturalness of prosperity and its place within a society of freedom. He explains that a lack of prosperity is a deviation from the normal actions of a society, as is evidenced particularly by Venezuela.
Tommy Raskin critiques the main defenses of government that statist’s regularly present. Arguments ranging from the social contract to implicit acceptance of state action are intelligently rebutted by Raskin who shows that these arguments are lacking in logic and coherence.
Finally, I have critiqued a particularly poor attack on the idea of a basic income that comes from the Foundation for Economic Education. The author, Michael Gibson, fails to adequately understand the dynamics of a basic income, relying instead on non-definitive, irrelevant examples. In its stead, I present an argument for the need of a basic income in developing a truly free society and economy.
Thanks again to all of our readers and generous financial supporters. We rely on you to keep us going. If you’re new to C4SS and enjoy our work, please consider making a donation to C4SS via Paypal, Patreon, or any of our other countless giving platforms.
Today in, “Um, what?” Six Women Claim a Seattle Man Posed as a Female Porn Recruiter in Order to Have Sex With Them. I don’t want to borrow trouble here, but I can just see it now. “What did these women expect? Porn is a dirty business filled with scumbags.” Or, “Of course these women got duped. Only stupid women go into porn.”
Both Shearer and Bishop have gone to the police, filing reports with police who they feel aren’t taking the alleged crime seriously — basically because police don’t consider it a crime.
So, let me get this straight. Smoking weed = crime. Not telling the government about buying more than $10k in bitcoin = crime. Buying the wrong kind of orchid = crime. But assuming someone else’s identity in order to rape women = no crime.
But there’s no rape culture here.
Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women offers a comprehensive overview and debunking of the “rape culture” myth that has devastated campuses and is spilling into Main Street America. An ideological madness is grotesquely distorting North America’s view of sexuality. The book applies sanity to the claims that men are natural rapists and our culture encourages sexual violence.
Written by a libertarian feminist and rape survivor, Rape Culture Hysteria opens with a highly personal appeal to depoliticize rape and treat it instead as a crime. Victims need to heal. Politicizing their pain and rage is a callous political maneuver that harms victims, women and men.
I haven’t read the book, and perhaps I should. But I can’t help but see going out of your way to deny that our culture encourages sexual violence as incredibly tone-deaf. How could you? Brock Turner got three months in jail for doing this to a human being:
Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.
I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said “Rape Victim” and I thought something has really happened.
What do you call a culture in which a man gets three months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in the dirt behind a dumpster, by all accounts on his way to raping her if he hadn’t been physically prevented from doing so? What do you call a culture in which the punishment for failing to report a purchase is orders of magnitude greater than sexually violating a woman who is physically incapable of protecting herself? How could you deny that if our culture doesn’t encourage sexual violence, it at least tacitly condones it as less of a big deal than breaking some administrative rule?
I’m not saying there aren’t people who are currently working to undermine due process. I would never deny that there are people who are working to paint all men as rapists or potential rapists.
But working on fixing those problems does not require that we downplay or deny the very real problem of the way the criminal justice system violates rape victims and refuses to allow them to seek justice. Literally last week a dear friend of mine received news that our prosecutor has decided to refuse to proceed with her case. She was violently anally raped, infected with an STI, her knees and elbows were torn up. This is the clearest, most obvious case of violent rape you can imagine. Yet, after being called a liar by the cops, after a brutal physical examination. After having to disclose personal information to strangers, and after having to badger the detective for a year to get any progress on her case, she’s left with no way to get this guy off the streets.
So, fuck you, rape culture deniers. I wish I had the luxury of believing that anger of the way our culture treats rape victims is “hysteria.” I wish I didn’t know what victims have to go through just try (and usually fail) to do the right thing. I wish I hadn’t heard story after story of cops calling women liars, refusing to help them, refusing to administer rape kits, and refusing to prosecute their cases. I wish I didn’t know that on average people assume 30% of victims are lying, when less than 10% are. I wish I didn’t know that at least 90% of rapes are never reported, because women know what will happen to them. Their friends will turn on them. The cops will call them liars. The prosecutors won’t prosecute. And they’re left raped, alone, with nothing to show for their attempts to protect other women.
I wish I didn’t know. But I do. So I resent being told my anger is “hysteria” (a gendered term, don’t forget.)
I’m not hysterical. I’m livid. And you should be too.
PHILADELPHIA’S WOMAN ANARCHIST;
HER THEORIES AND VERSES
Offspring of a French communist and a New England Puritan Woman, She Was Born to Enthusiasm and Hobbies-Rabid in her Anarchism, and Believes in Unhappiness as Part of the Highest Ideal Life
Picture to yourself a tall woman – her age may be 26 years-with an oval face, pale as a student’s deep-set blue eyes, teeth white and even, a countenance grave far beyond her years save when a slow smile brightens it: picture this woman sitting opposite you, expounding calmly and clearly the doctrine of anarchy, and you are in the presence of Voltairine de Cleyre.
To the readers of newspapers the name is not a familiar one. Even among the Anarchists-that is, among the rank and file of those who attend the Anarchist meetings and listen in open-mouthed admiration to what the leaders have to say-it is not widely known. It is the name, however, of a young woman who is probably the cleverest Anarchist in this country, who, were she to work in that ostentatious fashion which seems to take well with Anarchists, might some day become their recognized leader.
A few months ago there was a meeting of Anarchists in this city to denounce the arrest and conviction of Emma Goldman, and among the speakers was Miss Voltairine de Cleyre. So eloquent a plea and so clever a speech as hers was had never been heard at a New York Anarchist meeting before.
“I have not a tongue of fire as Emma Goldman has,” she said. “I cannot stir the people. I must speak in my own cold way otherwise I would not be allowed to speak at all. But if I had the power,
Were I Brutus
And Brutus Anthony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar’s that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.
“If therefore, I do not give you the advice which Emma Goldman gave you, let not the authorities supposed it is because I have any more respect for their Constitution and their law than she had or that I regard them as being right in the matter.”
The influence which such a speaker could have upon an inflammable-minded audience can easily be imagined. THE SUN sent a reporter to find this young woman and learn something of her history, but she had disappeared as suddenly and seemingly, as mysteriously as she had turned up. And although, as it now appears, she made no attempt to conceal herself, yet no one to whom THE SUN reporter applied during those two months could tell where she lived.
The other day, however, one of the Assistance District Attorneys of this county received a pamphlet, of which the title page read as follows “In Defence of Emma Goldman and the Right of Expropriation. By Voltairine de Cleyre. 3,515 Wallace street. Philadelphia.” The next day THE SUN representative called upon Miss de Cleyre.
A little room on the second floor of a typical Philadelphia cottage, filled with books and the odor of books, and ornamented with many strange shells and dried starfishes, is Miss de Cleyre’s study. “Tell me what books you read and I will tell you what you are,” some sage one said. A glance at Miss de Cleyre’s library tells more eloquently than an elaborate essay could what Miss de Cleyre is.
Proudhon, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Lassalle, Adam Smith, Aristotle, Spinoza, and Conte stand shoulder to shoulder upon the shelves of her study, a silent index to her character.
At a writing table, upon which stood a portrait of Victor Hugo facing a glass globe full of water, in which little goldfishes were swimming, sat Miss de Cleyre.
“So you have come all the way from New York to interview me,” she said. “Now what can I say to you?”
Indeed, when he sat face to face with this young woman, and saw that she had bright eyes and that she was comely and young and very womanly in her appearance and her manner, the reporter found it difficult to concentrate his mind upon the fact that here was an Anarchist of the most radical type.
“Supposing you begin with yourself.”
She smiled-the slow, calm smile of a woman who does not smile often.
“Born in the year so-and-so, which of course you do not want to know-Voltairine de Cleyre is one of the most rabid Anarchists of this country.” That’s the way your story will begin. I’ll probably start off like that too, if you like, is that what you want? I see by your face that you are disgusted. Don’t mind telling me if you are, I like people who are outspoken, even if what they say is not flattering.”
“How did you ever take to anarchism?”
“Well, I supposed it was born in me, although I did not know of it until certain circumstances brought it out.”
She spoke very slowly, selecting each word with care, and concentrating her attention upon her answer as though she feared to make a misstatement.
“My father was a French Communist and my mother a New England Puritan, and you might know that the offspring of such a union was sure to become enthusiastic over something or other. I was born in Michigan, where I went to school. Even as a schoolgirl I devoted considerable attention to some of the subjects which interest me now, and although I had but ill-defined ideas, they were the foundation for my subsequent studies.
“When I left college I was a free thinker, and I delivered a series of lectures upon free thought. I had always been interested in the relation of the sexes, and after leaving college I devoted a great deal of thought to the subject. About six years ago, while I was delivering a lecture on free thought in Linesville, Pa., I met a Chicago lawyer whose name was C.S. Darrow. He attended one of my lectures and I became acquainted with him. A short time after that I heard him lecture on socialism, and in fifteen minutes I was a socialist.
“I remained a Socialist for about six weeks, and then I found the true solution of the social problem. I became an Anarchist. It was customary at our meetings to have short discussions in which anyone in the audience could join if he wanted. Among the regular visitors there was a jeweler named Morzersky, who was a communistic Anarchist. He frequently spoke at these meetings in favor of anarchism, using the Socratic method in his reasoning.
He took advantage of my own arguments to push me into a corner and make me admit that I was all wrong. I had many long talks with him, in which I stood up for socialism and he for anarchism-authority versus individual liberty. He could never convince me of the truth of communism, but what he told me induced me to study anarchism as a science. I read Stephen Pearl Andrew’s ‘Science of Society,” Lysander Spooner’s letter to Grover Cleveland, and Proudhon’s, “What is Property?” and gradually I became an Anarchist.”
“When did you begin to lecture?”
“I have never been what is commonly called an agitator, not that I have not been wiling to become one, but because I have not the ability. To become an agitator one must be able to speak without much preparation. My speeches must always be prepared, and it takes me quite a long while to prepare them. I don’t care much for extemporaneous speakers. Their speeches are disconnected and badly arranged as a rule.
“I have not lectured often on anarchism although my anarchist ideas have influenced my views on every other subject. I look at everything through anarchistic spectacles.”
“Upon what other subjects do you lecture?”
“I have lectured on ethics, although of course my anarchism is as much a system of ethics as it is a system of economy; on religion, in which I am a free thinker, on the race question in relation to the development of society and on the woman question. I have delivered more lectures on the woman question than anything else.”
“And what are your ideas on that question?”
Miss de Cleyre smoothed her dress, placed her hands on her hips and answered with considerable animation:
“I believe that woman is the equal of man and should have all of the privileges which he receives. I do not stop to fuss with the question of franchise. I do not believe in the ballot either for men or for women. I believe in the equality of woman as a worker, a thinker, and as an individual. She should have the right to own property and not be interfered with by her own husband.”
She hesitated for a moment and then, leaning slightly forward with her hands-clasped in her lap, her face animated she went on speaking quickly and with considerable fire:
“Yes, the earth is a prison, the marriage bed is a cell, women are the prisoners and you men are the keepers. A man’s wife is his property. His will is her law. She has no rights. Her mind must be subservient to his, her body is his, her soul, if she has a soul, is his. The wedding ceremony makes her his slave. A prostitute is better off than she. She must submit to her husband whether or no.
“And I am opposed to this. I do not think it is right. I believe the wife should have exactly the same rights as her husband. Women should enjoy themselves in life as men do. A woman should be as free to dispose of her property and her children as her husband is.
“But oh! they are ignorant. They are all ignorant, ignorant, ignorant. they have not the intelligence to be unhappy. They do not feel their own misery.”
“And do you think that people who have sense are unhappy.”
“Yes. The more sense they have the unhappier they are. But then I do not think that happiness is the object of life. I do not think that we should devote ourselves to being happy.”
“What do you think is the object of life?”
“Progress. The development of the human race. I want people to know more. If in their search for knowledge they meet with unhappiness, it is a good thing. If they meet with unhappiness, it is their fate. They cannot escape it. It is true I am a pessimist, but I do not think we were meant to be happy. We are merely the cogs in the wheel of a mighty evolution, which moves around slowly and steadily until its work is over.”
“And what will happen then?”
“Ah, that is the great goal of the race. What it will be, no one can tell. As the human race progresses and becomes perfect I think it susceptibility to unhappiness will become keener. Conditions that do not exist to-day, or, if they did exist, we would look upon the indifference, will add to the unhappiness of the race in the future. As I said before, the progress that I believe in, is not toward a happier life. It it is towards a perfect, an ideal life, in which men and women will be as gods, with a gods power to enjoy and to suffer.
It may be that this progress will merely be a race for unhappiness and the sufferings of one generation may increase the sufferings of the next. But they will make it easier for those that come after them to strive for that goal to which, even without their cooperation, the great, unconscious forces impelling human kind. Here, I will show you a little poem I once wrote in which I expressed my idea better than I can do it now.”
The poem which she produced read as follows:
A Soul, half through the Gate, said unto Life:
“What dos thou offer me?” And Life replied:
“Sorrow, unceasing struggle, disappointment;
Darkness and silence.” The Soul said unto Death:
“What dos thou offer me?” And Death replied:
“In the beginning what Life gives at last.”
Turning to Life: “And if I live and struggle?”
“Others shall live and struggle after thee
Counting it easier where thou hast passed.”
“And by their struggles?” “Easier place shall be
For others, still to rise to keener pain
Of conquering Agony!” “and what have I
To do with all these others? Who are they?”
“Yourself!” “And all who went before?” “Yourself.”
“The darkness and the silence, too, have end?”
“They end in light and sound; peace ends in pain,
Death ends in Me, and thou must glide from
To Self, as light to shade and shade to light again.
Choose!” The Soul, sighing, answered: “I will live.”
“Sometimes I think,” she went on, that it will all end in a great cataclysm of nature. At other times, when I am in one of my rare, optimistic moods, I have faith, just like a Christian, and believe that there will be a better and a nobler life for the generations that are to come long after we have returned to dust.
“Let me say here in fairness that these are only my own views. They are not the principles of anarchism. Most of the Anarchists are egoists, believing that happiness is the main object of life. In that I differ with them. I also believe in property, not as a theory or a principle, but as an established fact. There must be property. The world cannot exist a day without it.
“Another point on which I disagree with my fellow-Anarchists is in the theory of the administration of justice. They believe that justice should be administered by societies organized for that purpose. My theory is that of Jesus Christ: If a man smite you upon the right cheek, turn him the left. I do not believe in the administration of justice. I think that when we realize the ideal state there will be no need to administer justice. It will administer itself. When a man cannot profit by stolen goods, he will not steal.”
“Do you write much poetry?”
“Yes, I have written considerable verse. I will give you, if you like, a copy of some of the things I have written.”
That ended the interview. Miss de Cleyre gave the reporter some specimens of her poetry and prose writings, some of which had appeared in the periodicals, but most of which she had published herself. the style of her poetry reminds one strongly of that of a well-known “poetess of passion.” One of her poems, entitled “His Confession,” describes a man telling his sweetheart how he succumbed to temptation, after he parted with her one the previous night. The climax runs as follows:
Just as I reached the open, where the moon light fell broad and wide,
A woman’s figure in rustling robes floated out from the other side.
A woman-you do not know her-have probably never seen –
She was I;as a forest panther, stately and tall as a queen;
And her dress, a shimmering golden gauze, fell round her figure slim
Like a tissue of woven moonlight, revealing each sculptured limb;
And her eyes were like light beyond a light, dim ‘neath
a drooping lid,
Fiery and humid and soft and fierce, bidding what they
And her mouth was red, where a wondrous smile lay
on it like a wreath
Hinting the kisses that in it lay, and the passion of
strong, white teeth.
She held out a warm small hand to me, with a little
Like bacchanal belie that scattered my dreams of you
A maddening, sweet aroma stole over my senses then
And I kissed her, kissed her, kissed her, over and
What did I think or remember, what did I know or
As I panted, trembling, tangled in with the tawn of
her tig’rish hair;
I was drun with the wine of her lingering hips, with
the fume of her burning sighs.
I was drowning in the luminous languer that lay in her
And the world was forgot, and heaven forgot, and God
was forgot, and you-
Passion was a master, and I its slave-the False set its
heel on the True
I had fallen, without a struggle, at the first touch of
Lust’s red brands
Had flund the years to the winds, and took this Dead-
Sea fruit in my hands.
For the kiss of a beautiful animal I had bartered a
For the hand of a saint had taken the scene of a leman’s love:
I’m pleased to announce the publication of the second item from the Molinari Institute’s new POD publishing program. This one is my own Rituals of Freedom: Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism, a book-length expansion of a much shorter article I wrote in 2003.
Here’s the summary:
When scholars look for anticipations of libertarian ideas in early Chinese thought, attention usually focuses not on the Confucians, but on the Taoists. But in their account of spontaneously evolving social norms, their understanding of the price system, their penchant for public-choice analysis, their enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, their preference for noncoercive interpersonal relations, their call for a laissez-faire economic policy, and their rejection of Taoist primitivism, the Confucians show themselves to be the true precursors of modern libertarianism.
The book will also be available in Kindle format in due course; keep an eye out for the announcement.
Also, look for more Molinari Institute books over the next few months, including:
- a collection of my academic articles, to be titled Austro-Athenian Essays
- a collection of my blog posts and op-eds, to be titled Other People Are Not Your Property
- a transcription of my 2006 philosophy seminar, to be titled Austro-Athenian Foundations of Libertarian Ethics
But, happily, it’s not all me. There will also be a collection of Free Nation Foundation essays (hey, only some of those are by me!), as well as a series of Libertarian Classics, including new translations of works by Gustave de Molinari and the Censeur group. And of course the second issue of the Molinari Review will be coming out in the fall.
Want to support these projects financially? Check out either my Patreon page or the Molinari Institute General Fund (see icon below).
We’ve been extremely busy here the last two months and I wanted to give you, the readers, some highlights of what we’ve been up to.
C4SS has been continuing to produce some extremely interesting and hard-hitting content that questions the economic and political orthodoxy being witnessed currently.
Here’s a few of the publications seen in the past two months:
Kevin Carson has continued his assault against intellectual property, showing how it is threatening human health and safety in the most atrocious of manners, and becoming much more deadly in its monopolistic tendencies.
Logan Glitterbomb has penned an excellent overview of the developing Kurdish anarchist societies in Syria which have taken on Bookchin’s model of democratic confederalism to great success, creating a society of equality between men and women while surrounded by reactionary forces in the forms of ISIS and al-Nusra.
Grant A. Mincy shows that the declining coal industry in Kentucky need not be the disaster that some have painted it as. Rather, the burgeoning alternative economy that already exists in the region is showing a way of transitioning the economy not just away from coal, but also from wage labour, pushing it toward a small-scale, decentralised economy of craft production and niche market activity.
Roderick Long provides an interesting overview of the Paris Commune, showing how it did not fit the model of pure communism but was actually much closer to market anarchism. Long also translates a piece by Jules Vallès who wrote of a “cosmopolitan secessionism” being present in the Commune.
Finally, I have written about the advertising industry and its twin, big data, as products of state privilege and subsidy. However, there is a glimmer of hope, as the decentralising tendencies in big data and advertising technologies gives the potential for more power being given to the consumer and away oligopoly interests.
Thanks again to all of our readers and generous financial supporters. We rely on you to keep us going. If you’re new to C4SS and enjoy our work, please consider making a donation to C4SS via Paypal, Patreon, or any of our other countless giving platforms.
The Molinari Institute (the parent organization of the Center for a Stateless Society) is proud to announce the publication of the first issue of our new interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal, the Molinari Review, edited by yours truly, and dedicated to publishing scholarship, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, very broadly understood. (See our original call for papers.)
|Amazon US||Amazon US|
|Amazon UK||Amazon UK|
It should also be available, now or shortly, on other regional versions of Amazon. And later on it’ll be available from our website as a free PDF download (because copyright restrictions are evil).
So what’s in it?
In “The Right to Privacy Is Tocquevillean, Not Lockean: Why It Matters” Julio Rodman argues that traditional libertarian concerns with non-aggression, property rights, and negative liberty fail to capture the nature of our concern with privacy. Drawing on insights from Tocqueville and Foucault, Rodman suggests that privacy is primarily a matter, not of freedom from interference, but of freedom from observation, particularly accusatory observation.
In “Libertarianism and Privilege,” Billy Christmas charges that right-wing libertarians underestimate the extent and significance of harmful relations of privilege in society (including, but not limited to, class and gender privilege) because they misapply their own principles in focusing on proximate coercion to the exclusion of more indirect forms of coercion; but, he argues, broadening the lens of libertarian inquiry reveals that libertarian principles are more powerful tools for the analysis of privilege than privilege theorists generally suppose.
In “Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and Progress: Partners or Adversaries?,” Darian Nayfeld Worden interrogates traditional narratives of the Industrial Revolution. Distinguishing between capitalism (understood as a separation between labour and ownership/management) and free enterprise, Nayfeld Worden maintains that the rise of capitalism historically was in large part the result of a suppression of free enterprise, and that thanks to state intervention, the working-class benefited far less from industrialisation and technological innovation than they might otherwise have done.
In “Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism,” Gus diZerega contends that libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. (Look for a reply or two in our next issue.)
Finally, Nathan Goodman reviews Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire, an anthology edited by C. B. Daring, J. Rogue, Deric Shannon, and Abbey Volcano. Goodman praises the book for its illumination of many aspects of the intersection between anarchist tradition and the LGBTQ community, with particular emphasis on the tension between LGBTQ activists who seek to dismantle oppressive institutions and those who merely seek inclusion within them; but in the area of economics, he finds its authors to be too quick to dismiss the free market or to equate it with the prevailing regime of corporatist privilege.
Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.
Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.
Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.
This week (May 15 – May 21) is the 4th Annual National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth, brought to you by Save the Kids (@STKgroup).
The national event celebrates a different theme each day of the week concerning youth incarceration issues. Today’s theme is dedicated to ending curfews and truancy laws targeting youth. Tomorrow, participants are encouraged to promote alternatives to punitive justice, such as transformative and restorative modes of justice.
You can follow the goings on of the event on social media – #NoYouthInPrison2016 #NWAAIY2016. For more information, contact Anthony Nocella at (315) 657-2911 or by email — firstname.lastname@example.org
Save the Kids is a fully-volunteer national grassroots organization dedicated to advancing alternatives to and ending the incarceration of all youth and the school-to-prison pipeline.
This November, don’t vote. As difficult as it may be to accept, you don’t have to, and it isn’t somehow morally wrong not to. Sometimes the single most powerful political statement you can make, your best option for expressing your preferences for the future of our country, is simply to lodge a conscientious objection by abstaining from the voting booth altogether. I know many of you don’t (and won’t) believe me; you just can’t. After all, we have been trained from our intellectual nonage, from our earliest lessons in civic and political life, to cherish the franchise, to worship our “democracy” and its icons, tangible and otherwise. Voting is among these most revered icons, held away from criticism and discussion, a religious rite, deviations from which are thought to be not legitimate political statements but the worst kind of apostasy. Rest assured, dutiful citizen, you can choose anyone you’d like; perhaps it is even permissible in some of the many sects of politics-worship to write in a name that does not appear on the pre-approved list. But never, under any circumstances are you licensed to abstain. To do so is to renounce your faith, to ostracize yourself. It is antisocial and anti-American, a mark of either laziness and apathy or else of the puerile, hopeless attempt to signal rebellion, like the petulance of a teenager challenging his parents’ household rules. With so much of the global population living under tyrannical and undemocratic governments, America’s non-voters are regarded as contemptibly indifferent, ungrateful even, too immature to appreciate the moral weight of the enormous responsibility we’ve been given. But is this really an accurate account of what’s going on with non-voters? Maybe there’s a case for deciding not to vote in this fall’s presidential contest.
Recently, two former presidents of the United States, George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, announced that they will not vote, that they cannot in good conscience cast a vote for either of the two presumptive candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That position, as it happens, is the one that many libertarians have articulated and espoused for well over a century, the simple idea that we would rather not vote for “the lesser of two evils,” if that can even be determined. To accept the process and its terms is, in the judgment of many libertarians, to participate in an exercise of moral and intellectual debasement, premised on the falsehoods that we have a meaningful choice and that our vote matters. Indeed, several libertarians throughout American history have even suggested that we have an affirmative duty not to vote, that doing so is itself a violation of our stated principles as friends of freedom and enemies of coercive imposition. For his part, Benjamin R. Tucker, publisher of the outstanding libertarian journal Liberty, contended, “Every man who casts a ballot necessarily uses it in offence against American liberty, it being the chief instrument of American slavery.” Others, notably those in the voluntaryist tradition of libertarians such as Carl Watner, have largely followed Tucker in the belief that voting is “implicitly a coercive act” insofar as it “lends support to a compulsory government.”
But perhaps this commandment, that libertarians as such should never vote, is likewise too strong, setting up a false equivalency between using aggression to violate someone’s rights and simply using whatever tools are within your grasp to influence a coercive, criminal process that will carry on without regard for your vote. It is admittedly a thorny philosophical problem, bound up with countless other issues in political theory that implicate when and how political authority can create duties, when we must obey and why. At the very least, however, it is not at all clear that we must vote, or that not voting is evidence of some deficiency of moral fiber. It may be that it is just one among the many perfectly legitimate political choices we have.
Economic analysis, it turns out, has something to say about voting, too. The concept of opportunity cost is the idea that if you choose to do one thing—say, go out to dinner at a restaurant—you have necessarily given up resources, time and money, that you could have used to do something else. Consciously or not, we use this concept all the time to make better decisions, to more efficiently employ the resources at our disposal. Many libertarians stay home on election day not because they don’t care about ideas, public policy, or the future of the country, but because we believe that our time is better spent engaging in one of many other available activities, going to work, spending time with family or friends, shopping, etc. Moreover, the work of scholars such as economist Bryan Caplan shows that it is completely rational to be ignorant of politics and public policy issues, that, given how little each vote matters, the voter behaves quite rationally in his decision not to “buy” more information by investing more time to learn. The evangelists of the ballot box, those who smugly don “I Voted” stickers and preach of the “civic duty” to vote, are unlikely to find these arguments persuasive; that’s because, for them, voting is sacrosanct, an article of faith, something that’s not really susceptible to reason or scrutiny. Many others, however, have long surmised, in their secret thoughts, that the sacred duty to vote may not be quite as strong as the political priesthood claims. Guilted into silence, they have suspected that a rhetorical sleight of hand is afoot without knowing whether they are justified in relinquishing their right to vote. If I may, they are quite justified. To opt out is not necessarily to be lax in your citizenship, derelict in your duties, but to embrace them in a different, perhaps counterintuitive way, to cast your vote by refusing to vote, which is itself a powerful declaration of your values and priorities. So, come November, if you want to vote, knock yourself out—but if you don’t, you needn’t be cowed by those who insist that you are neglecting your duty.
The Center for a Stateless Society has appointed William Gillis as Coordinating Director effective May 1st, replacing James Tuttle.
William Gillis has previously served as designer, developer and sysadmin for the Center’s various web resources, and before that as editor and publisher of physical media.
Gillis was introduced to anarchism by his activist father as a child and has been organizing politically as an anarchist since 1999. He has consistently and diligently worked to highlight the necessity of markets to leftists and radicals since 2003. His conversion started while locking down the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon the day the US invaded Iraq, when he ended up spending a marathon 8 hours debating a right-libertarian counter-protester and then stayed up through the morning reading.
His writing has emphasized the boundless promethean aspirations of anarchism, highlighted the sometimes complex interpersonal and philosophical commitments entailed by liberty, and has sought to bridge the gaps between various discourses on anarchist economics. He has blogged at Human Iterations since 2003, authoring rants, articles, and monographs that have been republished in numerous collections, including Markets Not Capitalism.
As an anarchist he has organized, founded, led, and collaborated in countless struggles, projects, actions, spaces, and organizations. At the same time he is also the author of Organizations Versus Getting Shit Done.
Former Coordinating Director James Tuttle has stepped down, and will stay on as Financial Coordinator, a new position created to decentralize C4SS’s daily work. Tuttle has served as Director of the Center for over four years to wide and continued praise.