Chad Perrin: SOB

14 September 2008

Do you fight the inevitable, or just lie there and take it?

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 11:22

There are those who feel that voting for someone other than the official Republican or Democrat nominee is a wasted vote. To them, I have this to say:

(The following is adapted from this reddit comment.)

Someone else could win if people stopped voting for “the lesser evil” and started voting for the greater good instead. The suggestion that nobody else can win is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Consider that both Obama and McCain are pretty much equally likely to get us all killed (or worse); I don’t see the point in voting for either of them, with that in mind. As far as I can tell, anyone who thinks there’s actually any credible preponderance of evidence that either one of them will be any better than the other is just engaging in misguided wishful thinking.

The belief that the “lesser of two evils” is your only option is only true as long as you (and others like you) keep thinking that way. The best you can hope for with perpetual devotion to such a manner of approaching the matter is to imperceptibly slow the inevitable slide into destruction. I prefer to do what I can, right now, to try to ensure that some day enough people might have woken up from such a self-damning approach that we’ll start having actually good candidates with a shot at winning an election.

Don’t you find it notable that, if a few more percentage points went in the right direction at the right time, we might have even had actually good candidates getting party nominations from both the Democrats and the Republicans? Sadly, people who could have made a difference tended to stay at home, give up too easily, and generally just piss it all away. Maybe Congressional races two years from now will go differently, and maybe the Presidential race four years from now will also go differently.

Of course, my actual belief is that we are irrevocably, inevitably screwed so badly we might be better off just slitting our own throats now and avoiding the next hundred years or so of painful self-destruction. I’m just not the type to lie down and quietly take it, or to take the easy way out. I’d rather go down fighting.

David Foster Wallace once said:

If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.

He appears to have been the “take the easy way out” type. He committed suicide on Friday night.

From where I’m sitting, anyone who votes for “the lesser of two evils” appears to be the “lie down and take it” type.

Do you fight the inevitable, or just lie there and take it? Obviously, you haven’t taken the easy way out yet, since you’re still reading this.

8 Comments

  1. Commenting on this thread is strange for me. On the one hand, I do not pay good attention to local politics: I feel that this is not what I would like to invest my time and attention in, and that doing so (even when I agree that it is a very important matter) would be a disservice to my own integrity (or, if you want it to be a little more cheesy, as “not being true to myself”) and that doing so would be a rather pathetic attempt to conform to expectations.

    Note: In the 2003-2007 period I was studying Sociology at the University of Buenos Aires. Active participation in local politics is a sort of country club for students.

    However, I do want to comment on it, since I do not believe on taking it. And not only because of the obvious effects it has on the potential for change (the comments about a self-fulfilling prophecy are spot on in this regard) but also because of the profound effects it has on you. The attitude of taking it says that there is something that you do not like but that you will do nothing to change it because you do not think that you will be successful. Therefore you are choosing to do something that fails for sure, versus something that moves you in the direction of the things you want to bring into your world.

    There is no such thing as in-action. In life, there is choice and action… and if you choose to stay at home (in this particular case) that is both a choice and an action. The same thing holds particularly true for everything else, either you are moving towards your goals or you are not. If you have some real sentiments about the state of your local (or country) politics, please decide if this feeling is merely a socially induced state (which it could perfectly be) or if this is something that you genuinely want to do something about. If you don’t care, then don’t care. If you do, stop complaining and go increase your number of failures.

    Fred.

    Comment by the_blunderbuss — 15 September 2008 @ 11:25

  2. Your first sentence is incomplete–perhaps you meant to finish it with “. . . is wasting your vote”?

    However, I think Wallace’s argument is just another variation on the tired “if you don’t vote you can’t bitch” canard. Not voting is a choice, true, and can be construed as a “vote” (though how it benefits any one of the candidates, I don’t know), but it is not an affirmation of the establishment; indeed it is the opposite. The people who continue to vote for statist candidates, more welfare-by-theft, more endless slaughter and empire-building overseas, more militarized police and violations of our liberties, are the ones who should be enjoined from complaining, because they continue to enable the bastards who feed the maw of Leviathan and then wonder why they have to pass a background check and wait two weeks to buy a tin of aspirin.

    You might argue I could write in a candidate who might be worth something, like Ron Paul, but I can just as easily argue for people to stay home and stop legitimizing the process altogether, and that would as valid a form of political action as shilling for your favorite, mostly-non-statist candidate (for even Dr. Paul is far from perfect). The only tactic guaranteed to lose is to remain silent altogether.

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 15 September 2008 @ 12:47

  3. Fred:

    That’s pretty much spot-on. Thanks for the comment.

    Brian:

    Yes, my first sentence ended up truncated somehow. I’ve fixed it now. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

    Not voting is a choice, true, and can be construed as a “vote” (though how it benefits any one of the candidates, I don’t know)

    Actually, what not voting does is two-fold:

    1. It grants greater power to those who do vote, by increasing their share of the vote total.

    2. It removes a percentage of the voice of disapproval for the winner, if you would have voted against him or her.

    While it may read as a vote for disapproval in your eyes, the candidates aren’t looking at it that way. They’re looking at their percentages of the total of votes that were actually cast. As such, if they get a greater percentage of the whole, they feel more justified in taking a harder line on the stances they took during their campaigns.

    You might argue I could write in a candidate who might be worth something, like Ron Paul, but I can just as easily argue for people to stay home and stop legitimizing the process altogether, and that would as valid a form of political action as shilling for your favorite, mostly-non-statist candidate (for even Dr. Paul is far from perfect).

    On the other hand, short of making absolutely everybody stay away from the polls, convincing people to stay home and “stop legitimizing the process” is a losing proposition. People staying home come across to those running for office as tacit approval for, well, whatever the hell they want to do. It’s not interpreted as some kind of opprobrium — at least not in any meaningful sense.

    Basically, you have three options for actually doing something to dismantle the system altogether:

    1. You can try to get someone elected who will actually move the system further toward being dismantled, “working within the system” to oppose the system, as it were.

    2. You can take active opposition to the system — which, I’m sure, would be called “terrorism” in the papers.

    3. You can be wholly ineffectual.

    The only tactic guaranteed to lose is to remain silent altogether.

    . . . and you’re talking about getting all the people who have the “right” ideas to remain silent.

    Comment by apotheon — 15 September 2008 @ 01:49

  4. Your first two options are actions. The third is an outcome.

    Chad, can you think of even one instance in, say, the past century where enough people have voted for a candidate that moved the country closer to liberty? It seems that all efforts to achieve the first option have resulted in the same outcome as remaining silent. As Bryan Caplan has argued, people in democracies tend to act irrationally in their political choices, mainly due to ignorance of economics.

    . . . and you’re talking about getting all the people who have the “right” ideas to remain silent.

    You’re implying that voting is the only way to not remain silent. Why do you think you and I and millions of other people blog about politics? Just to see our words in pixels?

    I’m not remaining silent at all. I’m not voting for clowns who won’t change a damn thing about how government works, and I’ll be happy to explain my decision to anyone who will listen.

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 16 September 2008 @ 09:25

  5. Your first two options are actions. The third is an outcome.

    Whatever . . .

    All three of them are choices.

    Chad, can you think of even one instance in, say, the past century where enough people have voted for a candidate that moved the country closer to liberty?

    No, I can’t. We got pretty close with Goldwater, though, and I’m pretty sure that if just a few more people got onto supporting Ron Paul early on we could have had him instead of McCain running for President as the Republican nominee now. If Perot hadn’t self-destructed, he would have had a real shot at the Presidency in November 1994, and while he wasn’t really a pro-liberty candidate he shows that the possibility of winning as an independent candidate does exist.

    It seems that all efforts to achieve the first option have resulted in the same outcome as remaining silent.

    There’s a difference between trying to achieve something with a possibility of success but failing, on one hand, and doing something that can’t achieve any kind of success at all — even though the outcome may look the same — on the other.

    You’re implying that voting is the only way to not remain silent.

    You’re ignoring my option number 2.

    Why do you think you and I and millions of other people blog about politics? Just to see our words in pixels?

    . . . and yet, you’re “blogging about politics” to achieve nothing but convincing people they shouldn’t try to change anything, judging by what I’ve seen you say here.

    I’m not remaining silent at all. I’m not voting for clowns who won’t change a damn thing about how government works, and I’ll be happy to explain my decision to anyone who will listen.

    I don’t see the point of being un-silent by shouting into an echo chamber and refusing to do anything — unless you’re an agorist who has, somehow, without me noticing, been convincing large numbers of people to join you. To bring down the system by way of non-participation requires more than just failing to participate in the decision making process.

    Anyway, it seems like you’re intentionally misrepresenting what I said about remaining silent, pretending I was talking about never saying anything to anyone, when it should be blindingly fucking obvious that I was talking about remaining silent amongst people actually trying to affect political decisions in this country. I hate it when people intentionally misrepresent what I said like that.

    Comment by apotheon — 16 September 2008 @ 09:45

  6. You’re ignoring my option number 2

    It depends on what you mean by “active” opposition. Protests? Physically attacking government agents or institutions? Not really one for violence, unless I’m defending myself against a direct threat.

    Anyway, it seems like you’re intentionally misrepresenting what I said about remaining silent, pretending I was talking about never saying anything to anyone, when it should be blindingly fucking obvious that I was talking about remaining silent amongst people actually trying to affect political decisions in this country. I hate it when people intentionally misrepresent what I said like that.

    I said the implication of your statement was that voting was the only way to not remain silent. That’s how I read it. If I was wrong, fine, but it’s not particularly productive to get pissy when people read your statements differently from your intent, or to assume I had intentionally misrepresented you.

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 16 September 2008 @ 10:51

  7. It depends on what you mean by “active” opposition.

    What I don’t mean is advocacy of inactivity.

    I said the implication of your statement was that voting was the only way to not remain silent.

    I implied no such thing — except insofar as it applies to the electoral process.

    It’s not an implication; it’s an inference. It’s your inference, in particular.

    If I was wrong, fine, but it’s not particularly productive to get pissy when people read your statements differently from your intent, or to assume I had intentionally misrepresented you.

    Please see your own pissiness above before getting on my case about mine.

    Comment by apotheon — 16 September 2008 @ 11:05

  8. Alright, let me turn this around…

    Let’s say that you want to promote a non-voting stance as a way to undermine the legitimacy of the current government/electoral process/general whatever (I know it can be an important whatever, but I think I might get your particular whatever wrong here.) Now, I’m not going to shoot you down just like that since… well, there could be something useful in that… maybe.

    You see, this is not the first time I’ve been exposed to such a proposal. As I mentioned before, I’ve been swimming with like minded individuals (this I didn’t mention) some years ago. Due to my lack of creativity (I’m sure) I’m failing to get one particular point…

    So you have a non-voting stance. You still have two problems. First, what you’re doing constitutes a symbol: it is an act or thing that has meaning. However the symbol is not the meaning, the symbol is merely a conduit for such meaning and there is no direct relationship between a thing and what it means (on in your case and act and what it means.) What I’m saying is that not voting does not directly translate into “This whatever is illegitimate and this non voting heralds the coming of the anti-whatever.” (I’m trying to make a joke to lighten things up, don’t take it personal.)

    Second problem: reality is produced. We perceive reality in a symbolic way, and the meaning behind the symbols is an ever changing principle. There is a very complex series of mechanisms of interaction between the individual and society as a whole (going through a myriad of groups and relationships between groups) that provide an ever changing content to this reality… which is then re-interpreted by the individual. The wicked thing about this, is that this can be (to a surprisingly great extent) somewhat controlled, and the extent of your ability to control such a thing ties usually very closely to your symbolic capital (the “what you are” rather than “what you have.”)

    If I don’t understand the situation incorrectly, I fail to see that the non-voting is actively being produced as “This whatever is illegitimate and this non voting heralds the coming of the anti-whatever.” If you, however, have a plan for making it so, a plan which has steps that include the eventual coming of the anti-whatever… AND you’re taking action towards that goal. Well then it’s Christmas. I mean, we could argue about the viability of your plan but we can ALWAYS argue about things like that.

    Also, please note that whatever plan you might have has to take into account that you are not only dealing with people which are far more legitimate than you are in terms of the amount of capital that they can produce. You’re dealing from without the system that actually sets the grounds for legitimacy in the first place.

    So, please come up with a really neat plan.

    Fred.

    Comment by the_blunderbuss — 16 September 2008 @ 08:47

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