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If you don’t vote you have no right of complaining…. or so people like to say…

I could not disagree more. The reasoning behind it is exactly backwards AFAIAC. To me, the point is that voluntary participation in anything automatically validates it. Thus when people vote, they implicitly agree to be bound by its outcome.

If this were otherwise, voting would not make any sense. If people are free to retroactively accept or reject the outcome, then voting would not bind anybody. Completely defeating its purpose.

Given that, I consider it important to make a conscious decision to participate or not. Entirely independant of the question for whom or what to vote.

For the following I am assuming that the voting will be the election of a government.

Should we participate in electing a government?

To me, there are two questions: First there is the moral question from the NAP (Non Aggression Principle) point of view. Second, there is the question of effectiveness: “does it work”.

To start with the second: Does it work?

From an individual voter perspective the answer is a clear “No”. Unless we ourselves are elected, electing somebody else will always produce sub optimal results. No two people are identical, thus nobody that is elected will do exactly as we ourselves would have done/wished for. But it is actually worse than that: looking at the “return on investment” ratio there almost no way in which voting would produce more positive results for the individual voter than had he invested his time differently.

If we add up all the time allocated to election related issues, and then do something productive in that time. The positive results for the voter would be much bigger than the results he can expect from voting. This is probably also true if he had not done something productive but something pleasurable instead.

There is also the argument that while voting may not benefit the individual himself, it will in aggregate keep the government on a course that is aligned with society at large. This is impossible to disprove. But it is questionable imo. A government is after all only a set of people. And those people are also rooted in the society. As such, they will be subject to the same idea’s and morals that are present in society. Even without elections. To ensure that a government does not diverge too far from its electorate, it would probably be more effective to limit the time people can stay in government to a sensible value, say a couple of years.

The first question is of more interest to me: Is it moral to vote?

As an adherent of the NAP I do not want to use aggression. A government on the other hand claims the sole right to aggression and uses aggression to enforce its laws no matter how just or unjust we might perceive them.

It would thus seem that a NAPer should not want to participate in any election. Indeed this is often the case. Since my discovery of the NAP I have not participated in elections, with one exception.

That exception had to do with the arrival of the first libertarian party. (Note that in the Netherlands we have about 10 political parties that all get one or more seats of the 150 in total.) A libertarian party is very close to the NAP thus in that one case I made an exception. I would have liked to see them gain 1 seat so that the NAP would become more known throughout the population. So my vote that year was -what I called- an “educational vote”. (Albeit not enough, they got no more than 10% of the necessary votes for even a single seat).

An educational vote has a different motivation than the usual votes. Mostly people vote for the party from which they expect the most benefits. Said differently: people want to use the power of the government (use aggression) to profit from others. I think that an educational vote is permissable and can be justified even for an NAPer. Still, it has to be said that even an educational vote, or a vote not inspired by the idea of using aggression for personal gain has the effect of confirming the validity of a government and its election.

I have since changed my view and do no longer think that educational voting will have a positive effect. Mostly because of the things I learned from the persuasion techniques. People will not abandon their (long held) beliefs just because somebody tells them something. Even Aristotle is quoted as having said that “people in general cannot be persuaded by reason”.

So you might think that I won’t vote ever again, but you would be wrong. There is only one condition left under which voting is imo permissable from the NAP point of view. That is were survival is at stake. In so called “life boat” scenario’s NAP has no answers. Instead the final -moral- arbiters of the situation will be the people not directly involved. They will judge -in retrospect- if we have acted correctly or not in the situation at hand. And of course we will have to accept and learn to live with that judgement.

If an NAPer is of the opinion that the survival of his “tribe” is at stake, I personally find that he can choose to take part in an election. Provided that he accepts the judgement of the people afterwards. Note that this is very similar to using proportional aggression to affect a positive change for someone for which he can be expected to be grateful in retrospect.

Originally posted at: 2016-12-26
Last modified on: 2016-12-26