Cooperation in Evil: A vote for anyone is a vote for the State

Once or twice already in the young life of this blog, the subject of voting has come up, and particularly of whether or not one should or should not vote. Usually the supposed virtue or vice in voting revolves around the candidates involved in the election. For awhile, even I was basing my decision not to vote in the presidential election on the absence of any candidate which I considered to be adequately suitable.

Upon further reflection, however, it would seem that such an approach is, at best, peripheral. A far more well-grounded tactic would come from evaluating the system in which elected politicians work, i.e., the State. More to the point, how does the State accomplish its objectives? The short answer is by theft and coercion. The truth must not be lost that these criminal activities are intrinsic to the State, for without them, the State would have no resources with which to work.

When a private citizen takes something that does not belong to him, or when he commits an act of aggression against another person, he is rightly considered to be a criminal. What, then, validates the modus operandi of the State? The government takes your money and appropriates it as it chooses; it sometimes takes your sons and forces them into battle; it confiscates private land and allots it to its own purposes (so much for the Constitution protecting freedom!); and it even kills people when the plutocracy deems it “necessary.”

Again, what justifies any of this? What is more troubling: Why aren’t more people questioning the morality of the existence of the State? It would seem that many just assume that the State is necessary. Others—the short-term optimists, long-term pessimists known as conservatives—might well regard the State as an inevitability.

Many, however, refer to the essential services that the State provides and offer this as proof of the necessity of the State. This is rubbish. Every essential service which the State provides has, in the past, been supplied by private contractors. Read that sentence again. It’s true. (See Murray Rothbard, _Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature_, p. 143) The State has not always provided roads; it has not always provided water; it has not always provided education; it has not even been the sole arbiter of justice, and as for the military, it is designed to protect the interests of the State, not the interests of the citizens. (It is too easily forgotten, thanks to the fallacious idea that elected governments are merely an extension of the citizenry, that the State indeed is an entity unto itself, and that it has its own interests to guard, most particularly the perpetuation of its existence and health.) So much for the necessity of the State by virtue of the “services” it (poorly) provides.

What, then, is left to argue for the existence of the State? Do we need a rousing national anthem and a pretty flag to make us feel all fuzzy inside before every baseball game? I could do without it, for sure. The only avenue left to enthusiasts of the State is to argue from the point of view of Divine Right, that somehow God has ordained that we should be subject to overlords who need not heed the Ten Commandments. That doesn’t seem likely. (Even that question St. Peter asked about taxes was framed in context, part of which was that the coin was taken out of a fish’s mouth. Those who know more about such things —I believe it was, again, Rothbard—have written that this is a tool of irony. In any case, this leaves aside the theocratic implications of establishing a State upon Holy Writ.)

Now that we have established that the State has no moral right to exist, let us turn to the subject of voting. When a politician is elected, he is given the resources to wield the power of the State, making use of the aforementioned immoralities of theft and coercion. This is enough to argue against voting, but perhaps even in light of this we might be tempted to say, “Well, we may as well vote for someone who will do less of this than others might.” This ignores one crucial point: Our government builds its legitimacy on the democratic process. A higher voter turnout forfeits to the State more agility in spewing the propaganda that our government has received a mandate to take action.

In short, voting for anyone is a vote for the continuance of the State, and, as the State is a highly immoral institution, it is immoral to vote. Now, I will not say to those who disagree with me that they themselves are immoral. Such judgments should never be made in the absence of a moral certainty. Nevertheless, I stand firm in my convictions, and, as I am already enough of a jackass, I don’t see why I should make myself even more of one by lending support to any of the clowns which appear on this year’s ballot, or to the intrinsic evil called the State.

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5 Responses

  1. I am confused. It seems that you are advocating no government at all. However, without a government, the freedom to post this blog (and me my reply) may not exist.

    I am reminded of “Lord of the Flies”. Without a parent (The State) the childern (The Citizenry) will very quickly descend into anarchy. In an anarchy freedoms are at the whim of the mob. This is something that greatly frightens me. Can the state take away freedoms? Sure! See Germany, 1930’s., and Russia (forever) However, they need a willing class to enforce their dikdats among the masses. However, at least they are consistent.

    The Mob is fickle. You cannot have fickle and be successful.

  2. The following was my final comment on your “Memo to pro-lifers: Stop being accessories to evil” post. Perhaps the questions could serve as a jumping-off point for a discussion of why the continued existence of the state in some form is or is not per se immoral?

    But wouldn’t the view that being faithful involves changing laws prop up the notion that the State has some kind of Divine Right to exist?

    How would the view that it does not be reconciled with the consistent teaching of the Church, based at least in part on Rom. 13:1-5? [Added: You would also need to deal with the arguments of Augustine, Aquinas, Cahill, Murray, et al.]

    …the State is one of the most consistent violators of the Ten Commandments…

    Indeed. Perhaps exceeded only by human beings, whose continued existence–I would hope–is not up for discussion?

  3. Joe,

    You are not confused. I advocate a system known as anarcho-capitalism, a Stateless system which is based on private property rights, and in which courts etc. are private and not run by the State. I would like to note that not every anarchist advocates chaos, and I would hasten to add that I’m not one of those anarcho-commies with their big red A t-shirts.


    I grant that human beings violate the Ten Commandments often enough, but who among us relies on said violations for our very existence and well-being, as does the State?

    Also permit me a moment of (possibly shocking) candor: As an admirer of Thomas Paine, I don’t really think that the Church should have any say in the existence of the State. Why should one religious institution have a say that will affect others who are not part of it? In fact, several libertarian authors, at least one of whom was a clergyman, have pointed out the cozy relationship the Church and the State have enjoyed over the years. Even now, the Church, along with other favored institutions, enjoys tax-exempt status. This makes me frankly suspicious. A lot of the things I’ve read in scripture are frankly incompatible with the existence of the State.

    Again, I plead with you to keep in mind that I’m not advocating chaos, but rather a system of organization (anarcho-capitalism) that is not violent and confiscatory.

  4. Michael,

    I’m probably out of my depth here, but, with all due respect to Paine, it’s my understanding that the Church’s mission includes the formation of her sons and daughters in all things. That is, there is no aspect of human existence that cannot be examined from the perspective of revelation and magisterial authority, including politics. So, if we grant that people have an interest in whether the state exists or not, then certainly the Church does as well. I simply do not believe that a case can be made for compartmentalizing one’s religious and secular identities; at least not a case that is faithful to catholicism as I understand it.

    I sympathize with your questioning of the Church’s tax-exempt status, as, in our current situation, this makes the Church beholden to a secular state. That said, a confessional state would be very “cozy” with the Church, but this is to be expected, and I’d have no theoretical difficulties with such an arrangement, even though such partnerships have been–practically speaking–fraught with difficulties historically.

    Certainly the Scriptures have numerous condemnations of the state for engaging in behaviors that are remarkably similar to the errors of modern states; and this even in theocratic Israel–God’s own state! Nevertheless, I don’t think that you can (especially if you take the New Testament into account) make a sound Scriptural argument against the concept of the state. Although I am interested in your references, if you would care to provide them.

    Finally, in terms of anarcho-capitalism, I am not yet persuaded that it could be implemented without its own violence and confiscation, the nature of humanity being what it is. Such a system would be dependent upon the philosophy that personal autonomy and private property are sacrosanct. Even if you were able to gather a group of like-minded individuals together, and begin a new community of anarcho-capitalists in some place, those born into such a group would be compelled to abide by those philosophies or suffer the consequences. This is, I suggest, the state in all but name. Has there been an anarcho-capitalistic society in modern industrial times? I’m not aware of one, but I’m not a political science expert by any means.

  5. Paul,

    The church is quite within its rights to instruct its members, but how does this give it the right to impinge on others by influencing public policy? (I leave out certain exceptions such as violence, which flow from natural law as much as or more than from church law.)

    “…even though such partnerships have been–practically speaking–fraught with difficulties historically.”

    You get the understatement of the year award.

    Anarcho-capitalism would not involve any coercion. It is based on natural rights and their handmaiden, private property rights. Yes, children born into such systems would have no choice in the matter, but this proves nothing since everyone is born into something. In any case, a child born into an anarcho-capitalist society would not receive a nine digit number used to keep track of him until the day is put six feet under; he would not have to register under the Selective Servitude Act; he would not work 1/3 to 1/2 of the year to pay his taxes; his savings wouldn’t be perverted by inflationary monetary policies; his vocation (to say nothing about his life) wouldn’t be stolen from him by a military draft; he could engage in voluntary association with whomever he wants and under whichever terms he wants; and he could use his own land as he sees fit.

    “Such a system would be dependent upon the philosophy that personal autonomy and private property are sacrosanct.”

    I would be careful about the use of the word “autonomy.” In an anarcho-capitalist system, one would have the right to protect himself and his property, but “autonomy” might well go too far, since no one would have the right to agress against someone else’s person or property. In the case of a property invader, the owner could only repel using force proportional to the invasion.

    There would be no confiscation involved in this arrangement because each owner of property would have the right to his property. Who would confiscate what? In the case of unclaimed property, the “homesteading principle” would apply.

    Alas, I could go on. Suffice it to say that Murray Rothbard has responded to your concerns in his book _The Ethics of Liberty_.

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