Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Voting: Channeling Mass Discontent

Considering we just emerged from the muck of another election season, I thought I’d begin my posts about Issue 9 of The Voluntaryist by discussing Carl Watner’s book review of Benjamin Ginsberg’s “The Consequences of Consent.”

Carl says this book caught his interest because even though the author really knew nothing about voluntaryism, his conclusions match Voluntaryist thought about voting and elections, particularly the part elections play in helping government maintain its power.

Carl writes:

Throughout much of the world’s history mass political disruptions and outbursts, such as riots and revolution, have been the real threats to government. Those in power finally realized that they could channel away potentially disruptive political activity by introducing formal means of controlling such mass protests. Elections enable governments to substitute institutional mechanisms for non-electoral sanctions (such as nonviolent resistance or revolutionary violence), which might otherwise be used by a disaffected public. Political party activity turns attention away from non-electoral strategies and forces those who oppose the government to operate by the government's own rules.

I’ve noticed the election process is often used to shut people up and control behavior in between elections. We are told we do have power, that we can have direct influence on the government – just wait until the election. Then by golly, you can show ‘em. You can really register your opposition, your discontent.

Every time a law or government action occurs that someone approves of, and someone always approves, one way they defend it, particularly to those they know will never really like it, is to tell the discontented that they still have the power to change things, just work on electing new people to office.

All sides of the political spectrum take their turn in doing this, even the Libertarian Party which hasn’t even ever had any control.

Many people have bought the “If you don’t like it, then get involved and work to elect others” line. The discontented start focusing all their energy on the next election, as they develop strategy and plans. Working and waiting for the next election.

And if that energy does pay off in electing “new” people, then the system has just created a whole new set of discontented people with energy that needs channeling and where will it go? To the next election. Back and forth. Back and forth. “Change” to “change.”

But it’s all fake. It’s not real change. It’s just taking dirty underwear, turning it inside out, and back again.

I’m ready for real change, how about you?


MamaLiberty said...

Absolutely! :)

I'd be very interested to read just what your vision of "real change" would look like. And how it might be done, of course.

Debbie H. said...

Hey Mama, I'm still working on that. :)

Ned Netterville said...

If you can forgive a little crudeness and a bit of obscenity, consider the wisdom of George Carlin on the question: to vote or not vote? It's here:

Wes Bertrand said...

Indeed, Debbie. "Change" to "change" is the futile theme with electoral politics. Recently, I've tried to offer the best arguments I know to those market anarchists who either believe that voting is trivial and of no consequence to governmental power, or that it is just one more strategy by which we can reduce the power of the state. Both of these views are held widely by members of the Free State Project, unfortunately, and the hosts of Free Talk Live tend to promote them as well.

Here is a Complete Liberty Meetup Group post of mine that contains links to a couple FTL shows that are exemplary of this disagreement:

The voting meme and FTL clips

Ultimately, I believe logically changing one's view on this issue (if one supports voting) entails psychological, particularly emotional, understanding.

Debbie H. said...


Thank you for that link. I heard the two clips and there's so much I could say about them, maybe something will come up in future blog posts. I was really glad to hear you mention during your conversation with the FTL guys!

Debbie H. said...

Oh and Ned, I watched your Carlin video too. No one says it quite like George does. :)

SuccessWarrior said...

Love the underwear analogy. Very funny, funnier because it's so true.