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Selecting those who will govern by casting ballots

Voting is a method for a group, such as, a meeting or an electorate to make a collective decision or express an opinion, usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting. Residents of a place represented by an elected official are called "constituents", and those constituents who cast a ballot for their chosen candidate are called "voters". There are different systems for collecting votes.

Free For All


Aaron Russo's extremism in defense of liberty, by Anthony Gregory, Rational Review, 18 May 2004
Compares the pluses and minuses of the major 2004 Libertarian Party presidential candidates (Michael Badnarik, Gary Nolan and Aaron Russo) and explains why he endorses Russo
The other kind of "undecided" voter is a potential Libertarian voter ... They may be inclined to vote for the lesser of evils because they hate one of the candidates more ..., but they are not happy with the direction America is heading. In fact, most of them are downright frightened. This is the undecided pool of voters we need to attract. They are the ones who do not consider themselves halfway between Republicans and Democrats. They are the ones who vote for a major party candidate, and then have trouble looking at themselves in the mirror the next morning. Or they don't vote at all.
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, by Aubrey Herbert, Faith and Freedom, Oct 1954
Reflecting on the approaching election and the lack of "pleasant" choices, discusses United States politics drift toward socialism since 1933 and the steady subversion of the "right wing" of the Republican Party that began in 1940
In his daily life, a man usually faces pleasant decisions. Shall he go for a drive, or listen to a concert? Shall he spend his money on a new stove or a TV set? In any case, he knows that he will get something he likes; he is choosing the greater of two or more goods. But in politics, the voter is always confronted with that dreary old litany: the lesser of two evils. Hardly an inspiring choice to make! He is always faced with a great moral dilemma: shall he vote for a candidate who advocates an admitted evil, and endorse all the evil acts which this politician will commit?
Related Topics: Republican Party, Socialism
Analysis of an Electronic Voting System [PDF], by Tadayoshi Kohno, Aviel D. Rubin, Adam Stubblefield, Dan Wallach, 23 Jul 2003
The Bastiat Solution, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 29 Aug 2008
Analyzes segments of Bastiat's The Law (Dean Russell's translation) as "the best antidote for the toxic demagoguery" of the election season
Bastiat demolishes the welfare-state assumption that people are incapable of running their lives without meddling coercive government to help them, but are qualified to elect their "leaders."
The people who, during the election, were so wise, so moral, and so perfect, now have no tendencies whatever; or if they have any, they are tendencies that lead downward into degradation. ...
If people are as incapable, as immoral, and as ignorant as the politicians indicate, then why is the right of these same people to vote defended with such passionate insistence?
The battle to make America wet again, by Nicholas A. Snow, 8 Mar 2017
Recounts how the 18th Amendment and National Prohibition Act were repealed, particularly through the efforts of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR)
First, voters have little incentive to educate themselves about government policies. This 'rational ignorance' occurs because, for most people, the cost of being well informed greatly exceeds the benefits. ... Second, the errors made by ignorant voters are not random and therefore don't simply cancel each other out. Instead, voters' beliefs are skewed by systematic cognitive and ideological biases. And making matters worse, the cost of indulging such biases is often extremely low, with the result that even simple, easily verifiable facts often fail to persuade the voting public.
Begrudging Another Battle of Ballot-Boxing, by Kenneth R. Gregg, 23 Nov 2006
Explains how those seeking power through politics are led to compromise, even if they are members of a group espousing principles over expediency, and urges others not to ballot-box but instead vote in the marketplace and the social realm
Ballot-boxing is a process whereby one gives consent to being governed by another. Voting is the most common form of legitimization. It fulfills the purpose of political legitimization because one has tacitly and publicly accepted the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome, no matter whether you are on the winning or losing side. Why do politicians plead that everyone's civic duty is to get out and vote? It is because voting is recognized as public legitimization ... Through ballot-boxing you have sanctioned not only your own victimhood, but of others as well.
Bureaucracy and the Civil Service in the United States, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1995
Historical examination of the evolution of the United States Civil Service and attempts to reform it, from its beginnings through the early 20th century
[In] elections, the voter is not presented with a specific program to consider: he must choose between a package deal of a legislator or chief executive for X number of years, and he is stuck for that period of time. And since there is no direct policy test, we arrive at the commonly deplored failure of the modern democratic process to discuss issues or policy, but instead to concentrate on television demagogy ... Elections can only serve as a method of enforced circulation of bureaucratic elites if there exists more than one organized political party.
The Case For a Libertarian Political Party, by David Nolan, The Individualist, Aug 1971
A few months before founding the Libertarian Party, Nolan presents his rationale for establishing a new political party, after discussing four other libertarian activist strategies and admitting that "political approaches are inherently coercive"
Thus, ... we can see ... our present two-party system ... drastically limits the range of choices open to the voter ... A truly libertarian party would draw support both from ... "leftist" groups ... and from "rightist" groups ... This would increase the political impact of the libertarian "movement", as "leftist" and "rightist" libertarians now usually wind up voting so as to cancel each other (when they vote at all). Furthermore, libertarian votes now get lumped in with "liberal" and "conservative" votes, whereas the votes received by a libertarian party would not be hidden in this manner.
Cast a Giant Ballot, by Clifford F. Thies, The Freeman, Oct 1997
Memorial and biographical essay on Roger MacBride, discussing his influence on the early Libertarian Party as well as his involvement in the Little House saga
By "breaking up" the election of the members of the Electoral College, it would be more probable that occasions would arise when no ticket gained the majority needed for election. Presently, the predominance of the general ticket system almost guarantees a majority in the Electoral College to the ticket gaining a plurality of the popular vote, e.g., both of Bill Clinton's elections ... MacBride entertained the specific possibility that the district method would reinvigorate the original idea of the Electoral College, so that the electors would be "influenced but not governed" by the popular vote.
The Constitution Within, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 Aug 2006
Questions the validity of constitutions by relating how James Madison behaved during the debates over the U.S. document and later after his introduction in the first Congress of the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights
Labunski writes, "The term 'gerrymandering' was not added to the nation's political vocabulary until 1812, when Massachusetts government Elbridge Gerry was accused of contriving an election district to favor his party ... Patrick Henry was ahead of his time. He assembled — in the nation's first congressional election — a district for the primary purpose of keeping one candidate, James Madison, out of office." Madison's opponent was his friend James Monroe ... the results of the voting on that cold, snowy February 2, 1789, were Madison 1,308 and Monroe 972. Madison's vigorous campaign paid off with 57 percent of the vote.
The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 8 Feb 2008
In the wake of Super Tuesday 2008, reviews the "Voting Versus the Market" chapter of Bruno Leoni's Freedom and the Law (1961)
In the political season we are told over and over that "every vote counts" ... Low turnout is considered a tragedy ... On its face voting doesn't seem to be a good way for individuals to get precisely what they want. It's more like going to a supermarket and choosing between two shopping carts, each pre-loaded with a different array of goods ... If I vote for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, I have to wait to see if I am in the majority before I know if I get what I want. If 50 percent plus one voted as I did, great — I get my choice. But what if 50 percent plus one vote for Sen. Clinton? I'm out in the cold.
The Cruel Joke of Sacralizing Voting, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 Feb 2014
Comments on an MSNBC TV spot implying that voting is the only way to express oneself that really counts
In truth, of all the ways to express oneself, voting is the way that counts least! Candidates typically appear to hold a grab bag of vaguely stated positions, often contradictory, that they may not really believe or ever attempt to carry out ... With only the rarest exception, no election in your lifetime would have been different had you done something other than what you did that day — including staying home. One vote is like one drop in the ocean: inconsequential ... If voting won't affect the outcome of an election, attempting to affect the outcome is a poor reason to vote. It's an act of futility.
Dangers of No Tax Liability, by Walter E. Williams, 13 Sep 2004
Comments on a study estimating that 44% of income earners will have no federal income tax liability, suggests a politically incorrect solution and reflects on Madison's concerns about class warfare between the rich and the poor
There might be a correction for the political problems caused by large numbers of Americans with zero income-tax liability. But it might be politically incorrect ... I do not own stock, and hence have no financial stake, in Ford Motor Co. Do you think I should have voting rights, or any say-so, in the matters of the company? I'm guessing that your answer is no. So here's my idea. Every American regardless of any other consideration should have one vote in any federal election. Then, every American should get one additional vote for every $10,000 he pays in federal income tax.
Related Topics: James Madison, Taxation
Democracy Versus Freedom, by Jarret B. Wollstein, Freedom Daily, Jan 2006
Compares the definitions of democracy, collectivism and individualism, explaining why democracy and regular elections do not guarantee freedom, substantive rights nor peace, and that democracy is not a precondition for individual liberty
Many countries ... have regular elections, yet systematically oppress their own people ... North Korea ... and communist China ... have regular elections ... and even some choice of candidates. However, its all a fraud. Voting is mandatory ... Many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America also now have multi-party democracies but little freedom. Vote fraud is massive ... What of Western democracies? Things are better, but far from free of corruption, fraud, and manipulation of voters. Even in the United States, more and more people report their votes are not being counted.
Do Elections Guarantee Freedom?, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Nov 2007
Discusses whether democratic elections achieve the purported objective of "will of the people" controlling the government
Elections are sometimes portrayed as practically giving people automatic "remote control" on the government. Elections kindly provide a chance for people to pre-program the government for the following years ... With current elections, people are permitted to choose whose pawns they will be. Voting is becoming more like a medieval act of fealty with voters bowing down their heads and promising obedience to whoever is proclaimed the winner. What if being permitted to choose a master once every four years is the primary "freedom" left? Are citizens merely choosing whose vassal they will be?
Don't Get Out the Vote, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Feb 2014
Examines the writings of Bryan Caplan and Michael Huemer to determine whether get-out-the-vote campaigns are beneficial in any way
My point, of course, was that making it easy and even socially obligatory to vote does a disservice to the general welfare ... a mass democratic system encourages voter irresponsibility. Because the consequence of any single vote is negligible, individuals have an incentive to vote on some basis other than an understanding of current issues— which would require, among other things, the costly acquisition of a grasp of economics. Voters, then, are free to vote their biases. This voter mentality is known as rational ignorance. If there are no benefits, but only costs, associated with acquiring information, why acquire it?
Don't Look for Grown-Ups in Government, by Sheldon Richman, 16 Oct 2013
Responds to pundits demanding adult, i.e., responsible, behavior from politicians, in particular with regard to lifting the debt ceiling (which kept the U.S. government partially closed in early Oct 2013)
Some readers will want to contest my claim that politicians are essentially unaccountable. Don't they face the voters regularly ...? To see the answer, we must get beyond naïve civics-book analysis ... [W]hat's the worst that can happen to the officeholders responsible for a disaster? At most they might lose the next election. Oh the horror! On the other hand, incumbents have great advantages in elections and don't often lose. Can you sue politicians for damages? Can you prosecute them for theft? Of course not. So where is the real accountability? There is none.
Related Topics: Children, Economics, Society
Election 2014: The Good News and Bad, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Nov 2014
Sobering comments on elections, governments, democracy and why voting is of so little consequence to the individual voter
Every public figure, including supposedly hardboiled news people, urges us to vote. "Every vote counts," they say. Balderdash ... Think about the elections you voted in. Not one would have turned out differently had you done something else that day. Since no one vote is decisive, most people have no incentive to invest time and money acquiring the knowledge necessary to act responsibly on election day ... How many voters study economics so they can competently judge what candidates promise to do? And how many study moral philosophy to better decide whether existing and promised policies are moral or immoral?
The Ethics of Voting: Part I [PDF], by George H. Smith, The Voluntaryist, Oct 1982
Examines libertarian and anarchist theory to provide a critique of electoral voting, i.e., voting for government officials
I shall accept vicarious liability as a given within libertarian theory and proceed from this foundation. ... Given this fact, it follows that voters, in some cases at least, are deemed accountable by libertarians for the results of their votes (e.g., legislators who vote for victimless crime laws).
Related Topics: The State, Voluntaryism
Evidence of a Stolen Election, by Paul Craig Roberts, 19 Jan 2006
Discusses Mark Crispin Miller's Fooled Again (2005) and the evidence about electronic voting machines supposedly used to "steal" the 2004 presidential election
The non-partisan US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in response to congressional request investigated a number of complaints regarding the electronic voting machines ... Some voting machines did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected. It was possible to alter the machines so that a ballot cast for one candidate would be recorded for another ... The electronic voting machines leave virtually no paper trail and their use involves private potentially partisan corporations tabulating the votes with proprietary software that is not transparent.
The Fraudulent Meaning of Elections, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Apr 2006
Examines the arguments raised in the debate between Democrats and Republicans in Congress over the certification of the 2005 Ohio Electoral College voters
Such blather [shows] how politicians think ... about citizens' duty to accept unquestioningly whatever election results the politicians proclaim. Citizens are supposed to believe in that magical moment of uplift that occurs when election results are officially certified ... The "debate" in Congress illustrated how elections are now about consecration, rather than representation. Elections have become something for rulers to shroud themselves in, rather than leashes used by the people. Politicians are obsessed with maintaining the imagined dignity of their class, not in resolving doubts about honest vote counting.
Government Failure, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 5 Oct 2007
Examines the validity of the concept of "market failures" as an argument for government intervention, reviewing arguments made by David Friedman in the article "Do We Need Government?", Liberty, Dec 2005
Representative democracy, [Friedman] says, has a perverse incentive—a free-rider problem—right at its core: the voting system. "In order to figure out both what a politician is doing and whether he should be doing it, the voter must spend substantial amounts of time and effort studying the issues and the politician's voting behavior ... He himself collects only a tiny fraction of any benefit. Seen from the other side, he is bearing a large cost for a trivial gain—an increase of perhaps one chance in a million in the probability that the right politician will get elected."
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 3, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, May 2005
Further examination of themes in "Civil Disobedience", including unjust laws, politicians and reformers, voting, when to resist the state and the influence on Gandhi
To men who prefer a safe strategy, voting becomes a substitute for action and politics becomes a sort of game ... To Thoreau, anyone willing to leave moral decisions to the will of the majority is not really concerned that right should prevail ... Moreover, Thoreau considers voting to be a poor vehicle for reform because voting follows real change; it does not precede or cause it. "When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery," he writes, "it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote."
Honesty among Thieves, by Michael Tennant, 30 Jul 2008
Discusses the case of a Minnesota college student who was prosecuted for offering his vote for sale on eBay (for a $10 minimum), and comparing that to the "gigantic" monetary and benefits promises made by both candidates Obama and McCain
The state of Minnesota is prosecuting a 19-year-old college student, Max P. Sanders, for the crime of having offered his vote in this years presidential election to the highest bidder on eBay. He is being charged with this heinous crime ... under an 1893 law that criminalizes the buying and selling of votes ... Given these gigantic promises of free money, then, is there any doubt that the overwhelming majority of votes will be cast for the candidate who vows to give the voter or someone the voter likes, such as farmers, teachers, or defense contractors more of his neighbor's property than the other?
Related Topics: H. L. Mencken, Barack Obama
The Income Tax: Root of All Evil, by Frank Chodorov, Freedom Daily, Aug 1990
Excerpted from chapters III, V, VII and XI of Chodorov's 1954 book of the same title; discusses the effects of the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution
[A] people whose wealth is siphoned into the coffers of its government is in no position to stand up to it; with its wealth goes its sovereignty, its sense of dignity. People still vote, of course, but their judgment in the ballot booth is unduly influenced by handouts from their government, whether these be in the form of "relief," parity prices, or orders for battleships. Though it is not exactly an over-the-counter transaction, the citizen's conscience is bought. Nor are voters immune to the propaganda issued by the bureaucrats, in their own behalf, and paid for by the voters themselves.
In Praise of the Libertarian Party, by Harry Browne, 4 Jun 2004
Discusses the obstacles faced by the Libertarian Party due to the inherently two-party system, as well as the benefits of the LP presidential campaign
The Republicans and Democrats have imposed the two-party system ... with five major types of laws ...
  1. Campaign finance limits ...
  2. Reporting requirements ...
  3. Campaign subsidies ...
  4. The debates ...
  5. Ballot-access hurdles: The two old parties have placed enormous hurdles in the way of third-party candidates wanting to be on state ballots. In 2000, we raised $2.6 million. Of that $250,000 ... was consumed just trying to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania and Arizona alone.
... And because there’s so little media coverage, most people in turn consider a vote for a third-party candidate to be largely a wasted vote.
Jane Cobden: Carrying on Her Father's Work, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 25 Jul 2014
Biographical essay on Jane Cobden, daughter of Richard Cobden, who continued her father's advocacy of free trade and other ideals
Jane Cobden was also a prominent voice for extending the vote to women ... The libertarians of her day, both in England and the United States, also made women's legal and social equality a major part of their agenda. (Some, like ... Lysander Spooner, thought no one should have the vote because they opposed government solutions to problems.) ... A Conservative member took her to court, arguing she had been illegally elected, that her council votes were therefore illegal, and thus that she should be severely fined. The court agreed, but an appeal cut the fine to a nominal amount.
John Bright: Voice of Victorian Liberalism, by Nicholas Elliott, The Freeman, Aug 1988
Biographical essay, discussing in detail many of Bright's activities, in and out of Parliament, such as the repeal of the Corn Laws, opposition to the Crimean War, his view on colonial India and the United States, Parliamentary reform and Ireland
Before 1867, only 16 per cent of British adult males had the right to vote. In the 1860s, Bright led a vigorous campaign for full manhood suffrage, secret ballots, and equal representation for industrial cities ... He rested his case upon two principles. First, since working people must pay taxes and bear the impact of legislation, they should also have a voice in government. Second, he expressed faith in the decision-making ability of ordinary people ... Benjamin Disraeli presided over the 1867 Reform Act, which enfranchised two million additional men, and cleared the way for later reforms.
Laugh About It, Shout About It: To spoil or not to spoil in '04?, by Julian Sanchez, Reason, 1 Jun 2004
Discusses voting by libertarian-leaning individuals in the 2004 presidential election where LP candidate Badnarik was seen as a possible "spoiler" for the re-election of George W. Bush
All voting is both principled and strategic ... There's a familiar collective action problem that arises from a purely strategic view of voting: Since the chance of an individual vote affecting the outcome of a national election is infinitesimal, then (insofar as affecting the outcome is the point of voting), a rational person doing a purely individualistic cost-benefit analysis will just stay home ... A purely principled vote would be a write-in for the individual you'd like to see take the White House in the best of all possible worlds, a description unlikely to fit any party's candidate.
Related Topic: Libertarian Party
Lessons learned: Libertarian reflects on his campaign and offers advice, by Richard H. Timberlake, Libertarian Party News, Jan 1994
Describes the background to "retired fuddy-duddy economics professor" Timberlake's campaign for city-county commissioner against a Democrat incumbent, campaign activities, analysis of results and suggestions for other LP candidates and the Party itself
A Georgia voter may vote a straight party ticket by pulling two levers, one for the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and one for all the other party candidates for office. The voter can thereby "vote" without needing to think or know anything about individual candidates or issues. Local journalists claim that this system contributes to "feel-good democracy" by making voting easier and quicker thereby encouraging a greater total vote. In fact, it aggravates voter irresponsibility, discourages challenges to entrenched incumbents, and solidifies dominant party hegemony.
The LP's multiple personality disorder: The Life of the Party, part two, by Thomas L. Knapp, 30 Jan 2003
Describes three political party strategies (electoral, ideological and revolutionary) and suggests that, in view of its size, the LP should decide on only one of these approaches, rather than its current two-pronged strategy
An electoral party strategy is centered around winning elections: mobilizing pluralities or majorities of voters to elect that party's candidates to positions of power from which they can then implement the party's platform (or, in some cases, mobilizing those voters around initiatives and referenda to directly implement pieces of the party's platform). The electoral strategy relies on putting together coalitions of "single-issue" voters and/or creating a "big tent" that draws in, through one "policy door" or another, the necessary plurality or majority.
Related Topics: Libertarian Party, Socialism
Lysander & Limited Government, by Fred Miller, Reason, May 1976
Argues that Spooner, although critical of the government instituted by the U.S. Constitution, was in favor of a legitimate, limited government, i.e., one that is voluntarily financed
Since all voting is by secret ballot, an individual cannot identify those ... who selected as their representatives the legislators and the executive whom he is supposed to obey. Therefore, he can have no agreement with them. This begins Spooner's scathing attack on the sacredest of all sacred cows: the secret ballot. Since those who vote for higher taxes, repressive laws, and welfare-warfare benefits never identify themselves, they are nothing but "a secret band of robbers and murderers." Spooner's objection to majority-rule democracy by the secret ballot is fundamentally a moral one.
Lysander Spooner on the National Debt, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Sep 2013
Examines contemporaneous warnings about Congress not raising the national debt limit by considering what Spooner wrote in "The Constitution of No Authority" about the legitimacy of the debt
Earlier in the essay, Spooner handily disposes of the claim that voting or paying taxes implies consent. Since we are subjected to the government's impositions whether or not we vote—opting out is forbidden—any given individual may have cast a vote purely in self-defense, for the perceived lesser of two evils ... [W]hen Spooner says the members of Congress only "pretended to represent" Americans at large, he is referring to his earlier point that because the ballot is secret, we really don't know whom these alleged representatives actually represent, that is, whose agents they really are.
Lysander Spooner, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Nov 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; this second part is from 1852 to Spooner's death, examining An Essay on the Trial by Jury, the No Treason essays and his subsequent influence
Spooner ... explains why voting cannot collectively bind "the people" or even a particular individual to the Constitution. A rough listing of the points in his argument is as follows:
  • The act of voting can bind only those who vote.
  • Most people do not vote in any given election; many people never vote. Therefore, they have not consented.
  • To be binding, a vote must be "perfectly voluntary" yet a "very large number" vote in self-defense.
  • ... [M]any vote only to prevent their money from being used against them.
  • ...
  • A secret vote provides no legal evidence by which to bind any particular voter ...
A Magic Day, by Charley Reese, 21 Oct 2006
Before a foreigner can become an American citizen, he has to pass a test about the country's history and its form of government. We should require passing that same test before anyone is issued a voter-registration card. Any native-born American who can't pass a test routinely passed by people from foreign countries doesn't deserve to be allowed the privilege of voting.
"Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss", by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 11 Jan 2008
Examines politics, including slogans such as "hope", "change" (Barack Obama) and "straight talk" (John McCain) in the 2008 United States presidential campaigns, and explains why politicians cannot be expected to lead the way to liberty
Note the dominant themes in the current campaign: hope, change, experience, straight talk ... These terms ... are not meant to inform. They are meant to seduce. Unfortunately, most voters are waiting to be seduced—by a sound bite, a smile, a possible tear in the eye ... As Bryan Caplan explains, since the consequences of the individual's vote are negligible, voters have every incentive to select candidates according to their own pre-rational prejudices, most of which run contrary to economic wisdom and libertarian principles. They vote for the man or woman who makes them feel good.
Mexico's Advanced Auction on Stolen Goods, by Christopher Westley, Mises Daily, 10 Jul 2006
Discusses the 2006 presidential election in Mexico, where the margin of difference between the two leading candidates was less than one percent of the popular vote
Mises argued that ballots are to be preferred to bullets because while they bring about similar outcomes, the former has less bloodshed than the latter ... [E]lections have become little more than advanced auctions of stolen goods, so that supporters of the losing candidates have more reason to rally and complain about the election results ... Squeaky clean elections, if they ever take place, are unlikely to change the eventual results of corrupt ones. Perhaps this has always been the case, although it surely didn't matter in previous decades ... when executive powers were more restrained ...
Michael Badnarik - 2004 Libertarian Presidential Candidate, by Bill Winter
Includes picture, biographical summary and quote
In December 2004, Badnarik and Cobb, citing election irregularities, demanded a recount of the vote in Ohio ... Fred Collins, Badnarik's campaign chair [said] "... this will go a long way toward making sure that votes will be counted accurately in the future." Badnarik and Cobb later alleged that county election boards didn't follow proper recount procedures, and filed another lawsuit. A U.S. District judge threw out the lawsuit ... ruling that Ohio's slow recount — which was completed 15 days after the Electoral College made Bush's election official — applied only to the 2004 election, and had no effect on future elections.
Misguided Democracy, by George Leef, Freedom Daily, Mar 2006
Review of Attention Deficit Democracy (2006) by James Bovard
What if "throwing the rascals out" means only replacing them with other rascals? ... Attention deficit democracy is aggravated by the fact that most political elections are noncompetitive, owing to careful gerrymandering of districts. In the U.S. House, only about 30 out of 435 districts are truly competitive. The politicians have picked the voters they want, rather than the other way around. Bovard argues that we ought to regard elections as "reverse slave auctions" wherein the largely clueless mass of people get to select which gang of politicians will control their lives.
The Myth of the Rational Voter, by Bryan Caplan, Cato Unbound, 6 Nov 2006
Posits that voters mistaken beliefs, in particular about economics, do not "cancel each other out" but instead they compound; lead essay of forum on "Majority Fools: Irrationality and the Limits of Democracy"
[I]f you know what a voter thinks is best for society, you can count on him to support it. Before we can infer that the policies that are best for society will actually prevail, however, we have to add the very assumption I am challenging: that the beliefs of the average voter are true. If his beliefs are false, his good intentions lead him to support policies that are less than optimal, and possibly just plain bad ... [W]ith millions of voters, the personal benefits of learning more about policy are negligible, because one vote is so unlikely to change the outcome. So why bother learning?
No Representation Without Taxation!, by Jan Clifford Lester, 11 Apr 2001
Considers the converse of the proposition "taxation without representation", concluding with a list of those who do "not pay taxes and so ought not to have an electoral vote"
Why should people who are not taxpayers be allowed to vote ...? If we must have state services, it should at least be for those who pay for them to vote for which services they want and how much they wish to pay. To allow those providing, or living off, the services to vote is like allowing a shopkeeper to vote on what you must buy from him, or a beggar to vote on what you must give him. Naturally, I hear you say, but doesn’t everyone pay tax, at least on goods and services? And so is the proposition not true but irrelevant? No, they do not and it is not. Not by a very long chalk.
Related Topic: Taxation
Oral arguments set in e-voting machine lawsuit, Libertarian Party News, Oct 2003
Original Intent, by Charley Reese, 3 Jun 2006
Considers how disturbed the Founding Fathers would be if they were to visit the United States in the early 21st century, given various substantive and detrimental changes in the government as devised by the Constitution
Under their original plan, U.S. senators were selected by the state legislatures and were clearly intended to act as ambassadors from the states. Later generations foolishly eliminated that safeguard ... so that senators are elected by the people. Clearly, the Founding Fathers did not approve of the modern concept ... of one man, one vote. They designed the House to represent the people, but each state, regardless of size, was given two senators. When federal courts eliminated the states' ability to follow the example of the Constitution, they shifted political power from the rural areas to the big cities.
The Political Sterility of Jon Stewart, by Sheldon Richman, 7 Nov 2014
Laments the dearth of poltical satire, as evidenced by Jon Stewart's backtracking on his answer about not having voted and recanting a 2009 comment about Harry Truman being a war criminal
[Stewart's] remark was actually pretty lame. All he said was that he couldn't vote because he didn't know where the polls were in his new location ... He could have said, "Did I vote? Of course I voted! Would I pass up a critical opportunity to add my one single drop of water to the vast ocean? Why, every vote counts! Had I stayed home, the whole country—heck, the whole world—might be different ..." That would have been satire. But it also would have struck too deep at America's civic religion, which holds that trudging faithfully to the polls every few years is the be-all and end-all of freedom.
Related Topics: Humor, Vietnam War, World War II
Ricardo in Parliament, by Edwin Cannan, The Economic Journal, Jun 1894
Account of Ricardo's final years, as a Member of Parliament for Portarlington, discussing his actions and speeches on matters of general and economic policy; published in two parts (June and Sept. 1894 issues); quotes are from Hansard
[Ricardo] inquired, 'Of what use was it that the power of choosing its representatives should be given to the people, unless the free exercise of that right were also secured to them?' The only way to give them this free exercise was to introduce the ballot. 'Unless the system of ballot were resorted to, it would be in vain to attempt any reform at all of Parliament.' The 'wisdom of our ancestors' argument he brushed away with scorn. 'He thought the present generation possessed not only as much wisdom as any of those which had preceded it, but a great deal more.'
The Rocky Road of American Taxation, by Charles Adams, Mises Daily, 15 Apr 2006
Adapted from the author's For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization; examines tax resistance in colonial America up to the Jefferson presidency
In 1787 no citizen could vote who was not a taxpayer; consequently, the delegates decided to have a legislative body of taxpayers' representatives where all taxation would originate. The requirement that all voters be taxpayers was not in the new constitution; it was a matter of custom ... The primary economic function of a legislature is to tax and raise money ... It follows that no one should have a voice in how the government's money is spent who is not a contributor. Conversely, if a taxpayer is not a voter, the process of "consent" is undermined. Voters, therefore, must be taxpayers.
The Roots of Individualist Feminism in 19th-Century America, by Wendy McElroy
Introduction to Freedom, Feminism, and the State, a collection of 22 essays edited by McElroy
As suffrage increased in popularity and attracted ideologically diverse women, Stanton and other leaders began to compromise subsidiary issues. Feminism employed blatantly white supremacist arguments to further suffrage, pointing out that white women would add to the white vote since they were more likely to vote than minority women. This argument was adapted to counter the fear of enfranchising immigrant women. Feminists suggested that millions of native American women were more likely to vote than foreigners, thus softening the impact of foreign morals exemplified by Catholicism.
Sy Leon, R.I.P., by Butler Shaffer, 11 Sep 2007
Recollections of the life of Seymour (Sy) Leon, who taught at Rampart College with Shaffer, Rampart College and others who taught there, and the libertarian movement of the 1950s/1960s
[Leon] formed an organization, "The League of Non-Voters"' to critique the voting process as an illusion by which we are led to believe that we are controlling the political system ... Through the League, he actively promoted the inclusion of "none of the above" as an alternative to listed candidates for every office. While his ideas have led a few states to include such an option as a non-binding statement ... Sy had a far more powerful thought in mind. If "none of the above" received the majority of votes for any office, that position would remain unfilled until a candidate more suitable to the electorate could be found.
Tired of Two Parties?, by Pradeep Chhibber, Ken Kollman, The Washington Post, 17 Aug 2004
Chhibber and Kollman, authors of The Formation of National Party Systems (2004), argue that the decline of third parties in the U.S. resulted from the increasing power of the federal government (e.g., national income taxation, the New Deal)
One hundred and five million Americans will vote on Nov. 2, and at least 95 percent of their votes will be cast for the two major parties ... [B]ecause we do not use some form of proportional representation—in which representation by parties in legislatures occurs in proportion to the number of votes parties receive from the electorate—voters do not waste their votes on minor parties ... As the federal government gained more authority relative to the states and localities, voters wanted their votes to go for parties that would have a say in the great national questions of the day ...
Related Topics: Canada, Political Parties
The Triumph of Falsehood, by Steve Chapman, 8 Dec 2016
Discusses the proliferation of falsehoods in the news and social media during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and why the "fake news" sources tap into voters biases
It's no accident that so many Americans choose to be uninformed or misinformed. Educating yourself about candidates and their platforms by getting reliable information has little payoff. Your vote, wise or foolish, rarely makes a difference in the policies that affect you. Being wrong about candidates generally costs you nothing, unlike being deluded about more practical matters. If you think you can fly, you will get a painful lesson when you leap off your roof. But if you believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim—as more than half of Republican primary voters did—you suffer no injury from indulging that fantasy.
Related Topic: John Milton
Vote Harder: The Barack Obama Story, by Kevin Carson, 19 Aug 2013
Examines the results of progressives voting in 2008 for "the most anti-war, anti-police state Democrat in decades": Barack Obama
In short, progressives voted harder in 2008 than they had in decades, electing a man who promised to radically scale back the total warfare and surveillance state and rein in corporate power. And the man they elected went 180 degrees opposite every last expectation. Worse, some of Obama’s most diehard "progressive" supporters ... are the most strident defenders of his betrayals. Do you really think voting even harder next time is the solution? No. All of this just shows what a monumental waste of effort and resources it is trying to capture the state.
A Vote Note, by Paul Hein, 20 Jul 2004
... after the general election, the loser for the Presidency ... pledges that he, too, will work with the man whose election, he had charged only a day before, would bring about the end of civilization. Wouldn't logic dictate that the loser express his horror at the appalling choice made by the voters, and pledge his undying opposition to the winner?
Voting Is No Sin [PDF], by R. W. Bradford, Liberty, Nov 1996
Bill Bradford's response to Wendy McElroy's "Why I Would Not Vote Against Hitler" essay, published in Liberty, May 1996
The problem with this argument is that it accepts as true a key proposition of the modern statist: that voting confers legitimacy on the state ... Like all governments, the modern democratic state rests on the support of its subjects. It seeks this (and asserts its legitimacy) by holding elections. [It] gains widespread support by this method ... But elections are not the only means states have used to assert legitimacy. In medieval Europe, states asserted a legitimacy that came from the Christian religion, and demonstrated that legitimacy by sharing power with the organized church. Democratic elections played no part in the process.
The Voting Ritual, by Butler Shaffer, 24 Oct 2006
Reflects on the U.S. Election Day in 2006 as the 42nd anniversary of Shaffer's "non-participiation in the voting process"
The media priesthood has already begun ...: if there is something wrong ... we need to go to the polls to fix the problem. One of the media stalwarts has his own solution: 'go to the polls and vote out every incumbent.' Don't dare consider ... that there may be something fundamentally dysfunctional about the system itself. ... Rather than dutifully going to the polls to select from a narrow list of options provided you by political interests ... you might want to inquire into who is providing the cast of characters – and writing the script – for a performance you are expected not only to attend, but to cheer.
Related Topics: Ron Paul, Politics
We Aren't Children, by Sheldon Richman, Nov 2001
Discusses the implications of three recent alcohol regulations in the state of Arkansas and explains the phenomenon of Baptists and bootleggers
Some good small-D democrats will say that as long as the people get to vote on these rules, there is no conflict with freedom. Wrong. Freedom is not some collective right. It belongs to individuals. If a majority can vote to stop a restaurant from serving me a drink on Sundays, I'm not free in that respect — and neither are the owners of the restaurants. Voting does not sanctify tyranny. And speaking of voting, if we grownup Americans are so incompetent when it comes to making decisions about alcohol, why does anyone expect us to vote for the best people to hold political office?
Related Topics: Arkansas, Prohibition
We the Sheep, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 7 Mar 2006
Comments on the U.S. (mostly) two-party system with a made-up example featuring the Prohibition and the Vegetarian parties, and then mixes in comments about the film Brokeback Mountain
Maybe you voted Republican because you hated the way the Democrats always inch in the general direction of socialism. The joke’s on you! ... In a democracy, the creditors are called 'citizens' and the really gullible ones are called 'voters.' ... It's bad enough being a 'citizen,' so I decided some time ago not to compound my troubles by being a 'voter' too. This enabled me to see the world with an exhilarating clarity. Suddenly all the politicians bidding for my vote became comical little butts, like the figures in a Bruegel painting. At least I didn't feel I was their butt anymore. Their slave, maybe, but no longer their butt.
Related Topic: Democracy
What's Wrong with Public Schools?, by Sheldon Richman, Separating School & State, 1994
Excerpt from chapter 2 of Separating School & State (1994), published online on 25 March 2005
Electing a school board official has little in common with picking a shoe store ... If a citizen approves of a particular candidate, he must persuade over 50 percent of his fellow citizens to vote for the same person. His one vote means very little. The margin of victory in most elections is far larger than one vote. The chances of any one person casting the deciding vote are smaller than the risk of being killed in an auto accident on the way to the polls. Besides that, the average voter has no strong incentive to exert the effort to acquire the knowledge needed to cast an informed vote.
Why I Do Not Vote, by Butler Shaffer, 14 Nov 2000
After recollecting his early involvement in the Goldwater movement, Shaffer explains why advocates of liberty and social order should refrain from political participation and voting
Is there a case to be made for voting? Indeed there is, if one believes that social order is a quality that can be instilled, by violence and other coercive means, by political authorities. .... When we vote ... we are declaring ... our support for the process of some people ruling others by coercive means. Our motivations for such participation – even if they be openly expressed as a desire to bring state power to an end – do not mitigate the fact that our energies are being employed on behalf of the destructive principle that liberty and social order can best be fostered through the coercive machinery of the state.
Related Topics: Barry Goldwater, Politics
Why Limited Representative Government Fails, by Michael S. Rozeff, 17 Apr 2008
Presents a four-element theory of why limited representative government fails, prefaced by numerous examples of how the American version of it has failed
This conflict between limited government and simply government has evidently been resolved in favor of dropping the limited part in favor of the government part. One reason for this is that those whom we elect have a bias toward using and expanding government, while we have a tendency to accept the government we grow up with ... Voting plays a part in this acceptance. By voting, we can maintain the fiction that we are in control over the government. We can imagine that government is limited. We can view the voting cum government as a species of self-government, rather than the imitation that it is.
Why this libertarian is voting to re-elect George W. Bush, by J. Neil Schulman, 21 Oct 2004
Explains Schulman's rationale for casting a vote for Bush in the 2004 presidential election
I realize that most libertarians vote for president ... as an act of symbolic protest ... When I believed in symbolic protests I refrained from voting entirely, investing my energy in efforts such as the 1976 Vote for Nobody campaign ... When I became a voter I gave up casting my ballot symbolically in any race in which I believed my ballot stood any chance whatsoever in effecting a preferable outcome. Purists have told me for years that "the lesser of two evils is still evil." I have learned to counter that argument with one taught to me by ... Brad Linaweaver: "the lesser of two evils is less evil."
Will the Democrats Become Part of the Problem?, by Paul Craig Roberts, 10 Nov 2006
Discusses the outcome of the 2006 U.S. mid-term elections and offers recommendations primarily for congressional Democrats
[CNN's Bill] Schneider reports that voters did not even know the name of the Democrats for whom they voted. Voters said: "I am going to vote Democrat, because I don't like Bush, I don't like the war. I want to make a statement." I believe that voters recognized that the peril of one-party rule is that political accountability exists nowhere except at the ballot box. With the Republican-built and -programmed electronic voting machines, even accountability at the ballot box was disappearing. Americans realized that they had made a serious mistake giving power to one party, and they rectified it.


Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?, by Lew Rockwell, Kenny Johnsson, 25 May 2007
Interview by Kenny Johnsson for the short-lived "The Liberal Post" blog; topics discussed include libertarianism, statism, war, elections, taxes, anarchism and the U.S. Constitution
Johnsson: Who would you support in the 2008 elections?
Rockwell: I would like to see elections for public office abolished, and that is particularly true for the presidency ... I'm cheering on Ron Paul because he is exposing the nature of the whole system ...
Johnsson: Would you vote for a libertarian in any election?
Rockwell: I don't vote. Why play along? Your vote doesn't count, unless the election is decided by one vote, and you have far more chance of being killed on the way to the polls than that happening. Besides, the vote is the sign and symbol of the democratic state. I abstain.

Cartoons and Comic Strips

The Adventures of Democracy Man, by Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, 23 Jul 2023
Related Topic: Democracy
And Now For the Only Vote that Counts, by Tom Toles, The Washington Post, 16 Aug 2004
As the alien ship passes earth on its quadrennial voyage ..., by Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur, 17 May 2015
Burt's Early Voting Opt-out System, by Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur, 5 May 2015
Electronic Election, by Mark Fiore, 7 Jul 2004
Faith will be playing a bigger role in this year's election, by Tom Toles, The Washington Post, 20 Oct 2004
I'm running for re-election and here is my promise to you, by Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, 17 Sep 2020
I'm running for re-election and I'd like your vote, by Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, 16 Sep 2020
In the beginning, people picked candidates by where they stood on the issues, by Ted Rall, 21 Jan 2008
In the future, the people will complain all year about a corrupt congress, mired in stagnation ..., by Parker and Hart, The Wizard of Id, 3 Nov 2014
Voter fraud, by Thaves, Frank and Ernest, 10 Aug 2016


Attention Deficit Democracy, by James Bovard, 10 Jan 2006
Partial contents: Ignorance and the Mirage of Informed Consent - Fearmongering and the Battered Citizen Syndrome - Messianic Democracy - Lying and Legitimacy - Elections as Reverse Slave Auctions - Trusting Government at Any Cost - Democracy vs. Liberty
Americans are supposed to sit back, confident that voting cures all political evils – as if the process for selecting rulers vaccinated the political system from harm. People are told that as long as they can cast a ballot, they will be safe. In a democracy, people are led to believe that they can easily apply the brakes to government, no matter how unstoppable it becomes.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Democracy
The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by James M. Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, 1962
Partial contents: The Individualistic Postulate - Politics and the Economic Nexus - Individual Rationality in Social Choice - A Generalized Economic Theory of Constitutions - The Rule of Unanimity - Majority Rule, Game Theory, and Pareto Optimality
Related Topic: Democracy


Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early, 2008

George Carlin Doesn't vote, by George Carlin
A classic Carlin tirade
How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election, Today Now!, 2008

Message to the Voting Cattle, by Larken Rose
A most powerful message, based on the novel The Iron Web, read by the author
What Does It Mean To Be Libertarian?, by Stephen Davies, 10 Aug 2011
Discusses the subject question, including what policy positions can be considered libertarian and others where there may differences of opinion among libertarians
There are two responses you can make to the accusation that libertarianism is a politically irrelevant creed which condemns you to a complete lack of influence in politics. The first is the one that economists make, which is that as a single voter you're already completely irrelevant to the political process. The chance that your vote is actually going to have any effect on the process, will be decisive in any way, is minimal. You've probably got a greater chance of winning the lottery. And, therefore, you should simply be what you believe and vote what you believe as well.
Related Topic: Libertarianism

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Voting" as of 14 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.