Shaking Up the Monolith Media

Jesse Walker of Reason wrote an interesting article on the impact of the blogosphere on old media outlets.

When CBS aired those dubious memos last Wednesday, it set off a reaction that began in cyberspace but by the end of Thursday had gotten all the way to Nightline. Bloggers and Freepers were doing fresh reporting and fresh analysis of the story. So were ABC, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post. The professional media drew on the bloggers for ideas; the bloggers in turn linked to the professionals' reports. The old media and the new media weren't at loggerheads with each other—or, to the extent that they were, they were also at loggerheads with themselves. They complemented each other. They were part of the same ecosystem.

That's what is most fascinating about the elimination of media entry barriers, the rise of distributed journalism, and the new influx of reporting and commentary from outside the professional guild. The new outlets aren't displacing the old ones; they're transforming them. Slowly but noticeably, the old media are becoming faster, more transparent, more interactive—not because they want to be, but because they have to be. Competition is quickening the news cycle whether or not anyone wants to speed it up. Critics are examining how reporters do their jobs whether or not their prying eyes are welcome. And if a network or a newspaper doesn't respond to those criticisms—if it doesn't make itself more interactive—then its credibility takes a blow. (That's what has really hurt CBS this week. I can barely tell a 1973 typewriter from a hole in the ground, and neither can millions of other Americans. But we do know stonewalling when we see it.)
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"The new outlets arenâ??t

"The new outlets arenâ??t displacing the old ones; theyâ??re transforming them. Slowly but noticeably, the old media are becoming faster, more transparent, more interactiveâ??not because they want to be, but because they have to be."

Now read that passage like this:

"The LP isn't displacing the Dems & Repubs; theyâ??re transforming them. Slowly but noticeably, the old parties are becoming faster, more transparent, more interactiveâ??not because they want to be, but because they have to be."

This is my argument as to why it's stupid not to vote for the LP. The media is fighting for dollar votes the same way politicians have to fight for the real ones... incentives matter. You people should know that economics applies to all human decision making, not just purchasing decisions...

You people should know that

You people should know that economics applies to all human decision making, not just purchasing decisionsâ?¦

One small problem. Voting is not an instrumentally rational process. Purchasing is. See: The Booth And Its Consequences. That being said, a successful third party can present a challenge to the dominant two, thereby forcing them to adopt some of the third party's positions. Patri mentioned this a week or two ago with his reference to Hotelling's famous hotdog stands.

"This is my argument as to

"This is my argument as to why itâ??s stupid not to vote for the LP. The media is fighting for dollar votes the same way politicians have to fight for the real onesâ?¦ incentives matter. You people should know that economics applies to all human decision making, not just purchasing decisionsâ?¦ "

I agree, and actually I have been a Badnarik supporter for some time. Also I think it is stupid not to vote if you are paying taxes. If you want to opt out of voting you should opt out of tax paying also. If my money is going to be taken from me to be spent on things I don't approve of I'm going to make my dissension known as often as possible. Voting is one way of doing that. Too many people think that if your vote doesn't decide an election then its not important, but your vote is your voice in a democratic process. Even if you are the only one voting against a new tax it will show that at least one person thinks the tax is a bad idea, which is a hell of a lot better than it appearing to have unanimous support because you decided to stay home.

Non-voting taxpayers send a clear message to their elected officials: "Whatever you have been doing with my money is just fine. Keep doing it."

If you want to opt out of

If you want to opt out of voting you should opt out of tax paying also.

While we're at it, let's throw in a free pony.

Point being, if I could "opt out" of tax paying, I would.

If my money is going to be taken from me to be spent on things I don't approve of I'm going to make my dissension known as often as possible.

Really? Suppose I decide to mug you and steal your wallet. I then mention that if it pleases you, you are free to come to my neighborhood (which happens to be thousands of miles away; a great inconvenience for travel) and voice your dissent to me and my neighbors. Are you going to make your dissent known? Or are you going to cut your losses and not waste your time expressing your futile message?

Now, granted, the cost of voting may not be all that significant, but then, neither are the benefits . As an expression of frustration, voting may make some sense; but I can think of many more productive ways of expressing frustrion - blogging, for instance.

Even if you are the only one voting against a new tax it will show that at least one person thinks the tax is a bad idea, which is a hell of a lot better than it appearing to have unanimous support because you decided to stay home.

I think the message this argument sends is much more dangerous than any message sent by apathy. In essence, you are saying that lack of objection implies consent. This leads directly into the "If you don't like the government's rules, you are free to leave." No. The government has no legitimate jurisdictional authority, nor does it have any legitimate authority to tax. My voting or lack of voting does absolutely nothing to change that fact.

Thanks Micha, I was going to

Thanks Micha, I was going to say the same thing except probably not as clearly :). Let me add that voting taxpayers send a clear message to the elected officials too - "Whatever you and your alternate party colleagues have been doing with my money is fine. Keep doing it."

I suppose some people consider the voice empowering. I consider it a fiendishly clever invention to deceive people into complacency. It lets people go out and make an almost meaningless statement, then go home and feel like they've done something, while the Republicans and Democrats and subsidy recipients laugh all the way to the bank.

Rainbough brings up a good

Rainbough brings up a good point. Although I have argued in the past that a massive non-turnout or even a large third-party turnout come election time would frighten the ruling class into appeasement, it seems more likely that mass apathy at the polls would just hand the current government a supplemental mandate to continue what it's doing.

Still, Micha is right: this kind of argument is nonsense. But hey, that's what our government is all about: nonsense. ;)

So what does this all mean about voting? Who knows. I am voting for Badnarik as more of a hobby than anything else.

Regarding the original post, I am not suprised that it's our friends over at Reason who point to the mutually beneficial competition going on between bloggers and big-media.

Yes Micha is correct.Does

Yes Micha is correct.Does anyone believe politicians go home puzzling about those 15 votes against a proposal?
Voting is a 'pretend' mechanism/game designed to appeal to our child like sense of, and belief in fair play. THATS WHY it works so well. Theres absolutely no way anyone remotely close to the definition of libertarian will ever benefit from the advance auction on stolen goods known as voting.

Even if you are the only one

Even if you are the only one voting against a new tax it will show that at least one person thinks the tax is a bad idea, which is a hell of a lot better than it appearing to have unanimous support because you decided to stay home.

I think the message this argument sends is much more dangerous than any message sent by apathy. In essence, you are saying that lack of objection implies consent. This leads directly into the â??If you donâ??t like the governmentâ??s rules, you are free to leave.â?? No. The government has no legitimate jurisdictional authority, nor does it have any legitimate authority to tax. My voting or lack of voting does absolutely nothing to change that fact.
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I don't think it is the case that Rainbough's argument is that the lack of objection implies consent, at least in any sort of absolute, objective way. The system as consequence of how it is constructed only recognizes votes, not non-votes (among those who would legally be able to vote, yet choose not to). The Powers that Be as of yet have not formally or even de facto dispensed with the electoral/voting system as the means by which they gain and maintain power. From both of these facts it follows that a way to influence TPTB (in accordance with the formal system) is to vote. The only things that matter to TPTB are the number of voters out there (not non voters) and so the only opinions that matter to TPTB are the ones that affect voting patterns, or are directly revealed in a vote (such as, say, a vote for Badnarik).

If you don't vote, you're not part of that information gathering process. If you're not part of that process, your influence is limited to at best an indirect one (either through bribing officials - er, 'contributing to their campaigns' - or influencing people who will vote). And if you don't even want to do that, your options then are either to drop 'off the grid' (if you want to avoid the govt) or to be locked in eternal legal/military struggle with the govt, which is likely far more futile than voting (with much higher attendent costs, such as a heightened chance of perishing at the hands of the govt's armed forces).

Of course, one can say (quite correctly) that the above scenario holds for a lover of liberty whether or not said person votes. I can vote for myself in 2004, and of course being a lone vote I won't show up anywhere, so there's not much information or influence there, leaving me with the same options that a similar person who didn't bother voting has. True, true.

But it still is true that IF the people who believed as I did all voted, THEN an electorally significant amount of information is injected into the system (seriously, if all the people who claimed to believe in the LP platform voted LP, or hell if even just all the people who claim to be members of the Libertarian Party voted LP, the LP would likely have members of congress right now). That is true, and is not insignificant. Indeed, if even as little as 5% of the population consistently voted LP, there would be palpable political results in our favor.

Which makes the whole thing more like the case of the entrepreneur who wants to build a dam that will benefit all of the farmers in the valley, but can't sign them up because of the free-rider problem and people's aversion to being stuck with most of the bill without getting most of the benefit. I.E. Libertarian electoral success is a public goods problem, and libertarians haven't been interested in supplying it.

The government has no legitimate jurisdictional authority, nor does it have any legitimate authority to tax. My voting or lack of voting does absolutely nothing to change that fact.

I'm curious. Is the lack of legitimate authority to tax a consequential position or a deduced a priori one? (if the former, how so?) And wouldn't a contractarian tend to disagree?

Patri- I don't see how

Patri-

I don't see how voting taxpayers tell elected officials anything of the sort. Unless and until the system records non-votes as important (that is, you have to get a majority of POSSIBLE votes rather than of those cast), a voter is not saying that whatever the government does is OK. A voter is saying "I want this person in government", period. Given that the only candidates most people know about are pro-government, then you're somewhat correct, but (for example again) the LP is on the ballot in all 50 states, and a vote for Badnarik certainly isn't a vote for statism (at least not in the same sense as voting for the Demopublicans; I know for some fire eaters Badnarik is a dirty socialist since he claims to believe in the constitution (thus a minarchy), but hey, so was Uncle Milton to Mises). The point being that it certainly doesn't follow that voting per se is a "thumbs up" to government, so long as there are no negative effects to low turnout.

Qwest- I'm puzzled. If a

Qwest-

I'm puzzled. If a person pays $10,000 to install a security system that will protect his $1 million in assets from theft, that's cool (assuming CBA is positive, yadda yadda).

If a person pays $10,000 to a candidate to protect his $1 million in assets from theft, that's bad.

Wha?

It seems incoherent to argue the latter if you assert the former, and equally incoherent to say that anyone remotely close to the definition of libertarian will ever benefit from the advance auction on stolen goods known as voting, when it is obvious that if, say, I was elected president, your likelihood of getting libertarian-friendly policies would be much greater than if Bush or Kerry gets into office.

Voting is relatively inexpensive compared to other activities (including blogging or setting up think tanks, haranging people on the street corners saying the End is Nigh, etc). Whats with the reflexive opposition? Is a contrarian pose worth more in the end?

It seems that the position rests on the critical assumption that nobody will ever agree with libertarian positions or philosophy (thus no electorally significant amount of votes could ever be assembled).

But in that case, there isn't a point to blogging, philosophizing, or any other libertarian activity short of monastic/hermetic retreat from society or secession/warfare, since our ideas are so lame and unconvincing, eh Qwest?

If you donâ??t vote,

If you donâ??t vote, youâ??re not part of that information gathering process.

That's simply not true. The people who don't vote *are* part of the information gathering process. There are statistics available as to how many choose not to participate in the system. Politicians whine about non-voters all the time. The information is there.

It seems incoherent to argue

It seems incoherent to argue the latter if you assert the former, and equally incoherent to say that anyone remotely close to the definition of libertarian will ever benefit from the advance auction on stolen goods known as voting, when it is obvious that if, say, I was elected president, your likelihood of getting libertarian-friendly policies would be much greater than if Bush or Kerry gets into office.

So it's the people in power that are the problem, not the system? I've heard that one before, but it's usually from Republicrats. The system *is* the problem. Someone like you, or even like Ron Paul, simply could not get elected to any office of influence. You'd be weeded out by the incentive structure.

If we're talking about what

If we're talking about what kind of message the government gets from a massive non-turnout, shouldn't we focus more on what the government thinks, instead of what we think? Yes, Brian, the argument is dangerous, and yes Jonathan, it's not even true, but what really matters here? The power involved.

Republicrats don't need a lot of votes, they only need one more than the other guy. So, until a sense of revolution or third party affection takes the nation, the practical implications of non-voting are what Rainbough says they are: the government regulars win by default. (But they are essentially guaranteed to win no matter what the turnout, so not-voting is not going to increase the problem, either)

Jonathan- The information is

Jonathan-

The information is simply that they didn't vote, not why. The pol's moan about lack of voter participation because they think these are erstwhile supporters who are sitting on their hands for whatever reason (Republicans) or from the simple heuristic that mo'people = mo'votes fo'me (Democrats). A libertarian non-vote isn't registered into the body politic's conscious any more than a vote is, while a vote *is* tabulated and if by luck you've convinced enough of your fellows to vote as well (and with you), your little blip *will* be noticed.

The system is set up to recognize outliers and the incentive structure is for the main 2 parties to eliminate significant outliers by adopting their platforms (and give the outlier voters a chance that their policies *will* be enacted). So its not a matter of saying "its just bad people" but contrariwise saying that it is precisely the system's setup that makes voting by libertarians a non-useless exercise.

The incentive to weed out folk like me or Ron Paul from big time federal elected positions (Pres or Senate) is because... there's no political market (voters) out there for our view. Its chicken and egg.

Now, don't get me wrong. Ultimately you're correct, as you said in your analysis of the founders and separation of powers, etc; the long run effect is that absent angels or assholes being the exclusive holders of power, self-interested individuals will chip away at liberty until none is left, etc, etc. But in the short term, a great deal of variation can occur- and after all, how did anything get better from the late 60s/early 70s? We had price controls and direct federal control and/or industrial planning throughout most of the Commanding Heights of the US economy.... why aren't we even more socialist now, given that the incentive structure of the US government hasn't changed one whit since then?

The system as consequence of

The system as consequence of how it is constructed only recognizes votes, not non-votes (among those who would legally be able to vote, yet choose not to).

This can't be right. If by the term "recognize" you mean influence the outcome of the election, then both individual votes and non-votes don't matter and aren't recognized. The only votes that matter and are recognized, according to this definition of the term, are large blocks of votes . On the other hand, if by "recognize" you mean decipherable from the election statistics, then both individual votes and non-votes are recognized, as well as large blocks of votes.

From both of these facts it follows that a way to influence TPTB (in accordance with the formal system) is to vote. The only things that matter to TPTB are the number of voters out there (not non voters) and so the only opinions that matter to TPTB are the ones that affect voting patterns, or are directly revealed in a vote (such as, say, a vote for Badnarik).

I don't see how non-revealed votes reveal anything less than revealed votes for third or opposition parties. The only thing votes for third or opposition parties reveal to a political candidate is that his platform was not preferable to the alternatives, whether those alternatives are voting for the opposition, voting for third parties, or not voting. If you truly want to influence The Powers That Be as an individual, give them money and/or fund their advertizing campaigns. Heck, the hour or two you spend researching the available condidates, driving to the polling location, and punching your chad could be better spent earning $12 working two hours at minimum wage and donating that money to the candidate of your choice.

But it still is true that IF the people who believed as I did all voted, THEN an electorally significant amount of information is injected into the system (seriously, if all the people who claimed to believe in the LP platform voted LP, or hell if even just all the people who claim to be members of the Libertarian Party voted LP, the LP would likely have members of congress right now). That is true, and is not insignificant. Indeed, if even as little as 5% of the population consistently voted LP, there would be palpable political results in our favor.

If all of the people who recognized that QWERTY keyboards are inefficient while Dvorak keyboards are vastly superior chose to switch over simultaneously to the alternate system, then it would be instrumentally rational for each individual to do so. If all of the people at a football game realized that when everyone stands up to get a better view, no one gets a better view, and thus stopped standing up simultaneously, then it would be instrumentally rational for each individual to do so. If everyone who shares a dislike of Microsoft Windows all decided to simulataneously switch to an alternative operating system, then it would be instrumentally rational for them to do so.

And if wishes were horses, I'd have a very large stable. But I don't.

Which makes the whole thing more like the case of the entrepreneur who wants to build a dam that will benefit all of the farmers in the valley, but can't sign them up because of the free-rider problem and people's aversion to being stuck with most of the bill without getting most of the benefit. I.E. Libertarian electoral success is a public goods problem, and libertarians havenâ??t been interested in supplying it.

True. But it will take much more to solve this public goods problem then mere verbal encouragement. A stronger committment mechanism is necessary. And that's only if we assume that voting, even after solving the public goods problem, is worth it - that there are no better alternatives with which we should spend our time. I'm not convinced.

I'm curious. Is the lack of legitimate authority to tax a consequential position or a deduced a priori one? (if the former, how so?) And wouldn't a contractarian tend to disagree?

My point is only that the arguments for government authority fail on their own terms, by either self-contradiction, circular reasoning, or assuming facts not in evidence. We shouldn't try to encourage this flawed way of thinking by castigating the politically apathetic on the groungs that their inaction implies consent.

My primary objection to taxation is consequentialist, but I am willing to entertain deontological arguments for shits and giggles.. I have yet to hear a convincing one. Contractarian arguments for taxation are precisely the ones I've been arguing against.

I donâ??t see how voting

I donâ??t see how voting taxpayers tell elected officials anything of the sort. Unless and until the system records non-votes as important (that is, you have to get a majority of POSSIBLE votes rather than of those cast), a voter is not saying that whatever the government does is OK. A voter is saying â??I want this person in government", period. Given that the only candidates most people know about are pro-government, then youâ??re somewhat correct, but (for example again) the LP is on the ballot in all 50 states, and a vote for Badnarik certainly isnâ??t a vote for statism (at least not in the same sense as voting for the Demopublicans; I know for some fire eaters Badnarik is a dirty socialist since he claims to believe in the constitution (thus a minarchy), but hey, so was Uncle Milton to Mises). The point being that it certainly doesnâ??t follow that voting per se is a â??thumbs upâ?? to government, so long as there are no negative effects to low turnout.

Brian,

I don't think Patri and I were argung that voting is immoral, as some individualists anarchists like Wendy McElroy do. Rather, our point is that (a) voting is not intrumentally rational from a methodological individualist perspective and (b) if the point of voting is to send a message, it is not clear what that message is. If libertarians are going to use the "if you don't vote, you can't complain" argument or the "if you don't vote, you are giving implied consent" argument, then us apathetic types should be free to rejoin with the "voting gives the system legitimacy" argument, which is just as fallacious, and just as emotionally comforting, depending on your perspective.

Voting is relatively

Voting is relatively inexpensive compared to other activities (including blogging or setting up think tanks, haranging people on the street corners saying the End is Nigh, etc).

The total cost of voting may be less than these other activities, but the total net benefit is less as well (ignoring psychic profit, of course). When deciding between various alternative courses of action, people tend to choose those activities with the greatest net benefits, not the lowest total costs.

Brian, I don't think Patri

Brian,

I don't think Patri and I were argung that voting is immoral, as some individualists anarchists like Wendy McElroy do. Rather, our point is that (a) voting is not intrumentally rational from a methodological individualist perspective and (b) if the point of voting is to send a message, it is not clear what that message is. If libertarians are going to use the "if you don't vote, you can't complain" argument or the "if you don't vote, you are giving implied consent" argument, then us apathetic types should be free to rejoin with the "voting gives the system legitimacy" argument, which is just as fallacious, and just as emotionally comforting, depending on your perspective.

after all, how did anything

after all, how did anything get better from the late 60s/early 70s? We had price controls and direct federal control and/or industrial planning throughout most of the Commanding Heights of the US economy. why arenâ??t we even more socialist now, given that the incentive structure of the US government hasnâ??t changed one whit since then?

I think this has more to do with the influence of academic economists on policy makers rather than the influence of free market ideas on the voting public. I've seen no data indicating that voters have become more free market (and even if that is the case, the credit would go to those who spread ideas and educate the general public on economic matters rather than any influence of voters by voters). Rather, voters just want a successful economy, low unemployment, high growth, low inflation, etc. Voters don't necessarily know the means by which to achieve these goals, but they will prefer candidates with successful economic track records to those with unsuccessful ones (even if, in most cases, the economy does well despite, not because of, political policy). The reason why we are not more socialist now is simply because policy makers have realized that the consequences of socialism are not politically popular (although in certain areas -- health care, retirement, education -- alas, this is not the case.

The primary beneficial purpose surved by the Libertarian Party (and by extension, those who vote for the Libertarian Party) is not political, but educational. People like me might never even hear about the political philosophy were it not for the party's publicity. I'm still not sure whether voting really helps here either; better to work two extra hours and donate a few extra bucks to the LP media campaign.

"Really? Suppose I decide to

"Really? Suppose I decide to mug you and steal your wallet. I then mention that if it pleases you, you are free to come to my neighborhood (which happens to be thousands of miles away; a great inconvenience for travel) and voice your dissent to me and my neighbors. Are you going to make your dissent known? Or are you going to cut your losses and not waste your time expressing your futile message?"

So if I am mugged it is better to do nothing than to even bother voicing the grievance with the people I feel are responsible.

ROFLMAO :lol:

You can take the hide in a corner and hope the bully doesn't come back or notice you approach but I like to think of my self as participating in a civil society however far fetched, and inconvenient that may be.

Brian; I'm was replying in

Brian;
I'm was replying in my simplistic way to the original question posed, that your one little vote makes noise. its does nothing for you as a libertarian individual. i would call voting for a 'libertarian party' almost oxymoronic. many people don't vote because thier intuition tells them its worthless no matter what thier political beliefs. that IN NO WAY implies that i have some fatalistic view. FAR FROM IT! i'm the most upbeat capitalist you'll ever meet! offshore banking and gold ownership are my little contribution to 'making it stop'. i and millions of others, merely have no interest or faith in the insane battle over stolen goods called Federal elections or voting.

So if I am mugged it is

So if I am mugged it is better to do nothing than to even bother voicing the grievance with the people I feel are responsible.

Yes, it is better to do nothing than to waste one's time expressing a futile message to an audience that does not care. But doing nothing and expressing a futile message are not the only two options. Other options are beyond the scope of this thread; for now, the only question is whethere there are good reasons to vote. On instrumental grounds, there are no good reasons to vote. On expressive grounds, there may be -- if expressing an opinion at the voting booth gives you psychic profit -- but I'm not sure why this would be more pleasurable than expressing an opinion in a public forum where larger numbers of people can hear your message and it is not drowned out by the votes of millions of other people.

You can take the hide in a corner and hope the bully doesnâ??t come back or notice you approach but I like to think of my self as participating in a civil society however far fetched, and inconvenient that may be.

But isn't the point that insofar as society uses the majority vote to coerce the minority, it isn't a civil society at all? So participation in this democratic process -- while potentially a defensive strategy -- is certainly not considered participation in a civil society. It's the very definition of uncivil society.

Of course there are other

Of course there are other options but that is besides the point. Given the option of speaking out when you believe the message will fall on deaf ears or doing nothing you would choose to do nothing. You can claim night and day that the expression of a message is futile but until you express it you cannot know for sure. I think that doing nothing when there are other options even ones that are far-fetched is tantamount to hiding in a corner and hoping the bully won't bother you again.

Voting is a tool of civil society regardless of whether everyone uses it to function "civilly," and while you may not consider participation in the democratic process to be participation in "civil society" that has no bearing on whether or not it is actually considered participation in civil society.

The neither ballots nor bullets argument implies that by voting one can only vote to force their opinion on others. This is simply not true. As long as I can vote against new taxes and programs, in favor of lessening and repealing taxes, in favor of changing the funding of programs to non-coercive means, and against those who would use force to achieve social or political ends I am going to vote no matter how unlikely it is that my side will prevail. Positive change has to start somewhere. As long as those who want change are hiding in the corners saying nothing rather than voicing the said "futile" vote that beginning can't happen.

If everyone who believed that their vote was wasted, and that voting was pointless voted, things would begin to change. The wasted-vote-syndrome is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Given the option of speaking

Given the option of speaking out when you believe the message will fall on deaf ears or doing nothing you would choose to do nothing. You can claim night and day that the expression of a message is futile but until you express it you cannot know for sure.

True, you can never know for sure, but then, we can never know anything for sure. We have no purely logical basis for inductive reasoning--just because the sun has risen from the East and set in the West consistently in the past is no guarantee that it will continue to do so in the future. But whether or not we can be 100% sure, we do need to rely on past performance and observation in order to make predictions and thereby guide our actions for the future. Based on historical evidenceand the statistical structure of large-scale political elections, it is reasonable to conclude that the chances that one person's vote will effect the outcome of the election or the message sent to politicians and the media is extremely close to zero.

I think that doing nothing when there are other options even ones that are far-fetched is tantamount to hiding in a corner and hoping the bully wonâ??t bother you again.

I'm not so comfortable with that line of argument. I think the same argument is often used in the science vs. religion wars: since we don't know how the big bang came to be, let's posit God. Well, no, let's not. It's okay to say, "I don't know."

Same thing is true for policy arguments. Do we know how to eliminate drunk driving, school shootings, terrorist attacks or a whole host of other social ills without the proposed solutions causing even more harm than good? Not really. Yet every time something bad happens in society that gets lots of media attention, there are always calls for the government to "do something," regardless of whether we have any basis for believing that "something" will be even remotely effective. It's okay to say, "I don't know. Some problems don't always have solutions."

In both of the above cases, and others, I think doing/believing nothing is preferable to doing/believing something far-fetched.

Voting is a tool of civil society regardless of whether everyone uses it to function â??civilly,â?? and while you may not consider participation in the democratic process to be participation in â??civil societyâ?? that has no bearing on whether or not it is actually considered participation in civil society.

I don't understand how this could be so. If civil society entails peace between its members, i.e. the absence of coercion, how could voting possibly play a role in such a society insofar as it is civil? If everyone agreed with a certain policy, there would be no need to vote on it; there would be no need to participate in the democratic process. It is only when one group wishes to impose its preferences on another than voting and the democratic policical process becomes necessary.

The neither ballots nor bullets argument implies that by voting one can only vote to force their opinion on others. This is simply not true. As long as I can vote against new taxes and programs, in favor of lessening and repealing taxes, in favor of changing the funding of programs to non-coercive means, and against those who would use force to achieve social or political ends I am going to vote no matter how unlikely it is that my side will prevail.

I agree. The act of voting is not necessarily coercive. But the democratic process as a whole is. Were it not for the fact that other people wish to impose their preferences on you, you would have no need to vote.

If everyone who believed that their vote was wasted, and that voting was pointless voted, things would begin to change. The wasted-vote-syndrome is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But that's like saying, "If special interest groups all realized that they make themselves collectively poorer by redistributing each other's income to themselves, things would begin to change." Of course, the economic structure of government -- i.e. concentrated vs. dispersed interests, public goods vs. private goods, etc. -- necessitate against the possibility that special interest groups will realize this fact. Just as the economic structure of electoral incentives -- the fact the costs of voting outweigh the benefits, and that voting is instrumentally irrational, necessitate against the possibility that all people who are familiar with these arguments, as well as many who are not, necessitates against the possibility that all of us will ignore these facts and vote anyway.

I would have read your

I would have read your response sooner but I've been a little busy.

"Iâ??m not so comfortable with that line of argument. I think the same argument is often used in the science vs. religion wars: since we donâ??t know how the big bang came to be, letâ??s posit God. Well, no, letâ??s not. Itâ??s okay to say, â??I donâ??t know.â??


Same thing is true for policy arguments. Do we know how to eliminate drunk driving, school shootings, terrorist attacks or a whole host of other social ills without the proposed solutions causing even more harm than good? Not really. Yet every time something bad happens in society that gets lots of media attention, there are always calls for the government to â??do something,â?? regardless of whether we have any basis for believing that â??somethingâ?? will be even remotely effective. Itâ??s okay to say, â??I donâ??t know. Some problems donâ??t always have solutions.â??

In both of the above cases, and others, I think doing/believing nothing is preferable to doing/believing something far-fetched."

I am honestly disappointed that anyone would attempt to make such a poor argument. The difference between doing nothing when one does not know if God exists, or what the best solution to some social ill is, and doing nothing when attacked is that inaction emboldens attackers. Whereas in the case of the public calling for the government to "do something" in response to a perceived social ill, the result of doing something may be to make the situation worse.

There may very well be options superior to voting your dissent or expressing it. That option may be akin to what Gandhi did with nonviolent protest, but even Gandhi did something. He didn't just go on with his life and decide that it was futile to waste his efforts fighting back. Doing nothing i.e. going on with your life as if nothing happend is necessarily the worst possible way to deal with a bully.

You say that given the option of voting against the actions of a mugger and doing nothing, you would do nothing. I restate my case that this is tantamount to hiding in a corner and hoping the Bully will go away and not bother you again. This is in no way akin to the "we must do something" sentiment of the left, or the idea that it is safer to believe in a God even if you don't know if one exists.

I think that libertarians who do not vote, or instead of voting are not working on some viable means to opt out of the system (and there are many ways in spite of your ignorance on the subject), are effectively hiding in a corner with their hands over their eyes and hoping the world will fix itself. They might argue to their friends or online, but the only effective outcome of such arguments is to convince people to move towards their position who do vote (and/or may run for office) or to convince people to move towards the goal of creating some future society where they can opt out of coercive systems (lunar colonies for example). Neither of which they themselves are working towards.

That position effectively amounts to "its futile to try and change the system so I am just going to complain about it."

I agree. The act of voting is not necessarily coercive. But the democratic process as a whole is. Were it not for the fact that other people wish to impose their preferences on you, you would have no need to vote.

"Imposing" is not the same thing as "Coercing," and some democratic processes use consensus rather than majority voting so it is incorrect to say either that democratic processes as a whole are necessarily coercive, or that they necessarily involve imposing one's preferences on others.

"But thatâ??s like saying, â??If special interest groups all realized that they make themselves collectively poorer by redistributing each otherâ??s income to themselves, things would begin to change.â??"

No actually they are not alike. There is no self-fullfilling prophesy in regards to how lobbyist function, and a lobbyist is nothing like a voter who feels disenfranchised (neither economically or otherwise). Your argument is a straw man.

Just as the economic structure of electoral incentives â?? the fact the costs of voting outweigh the benefits, and that voting is instrumentally irrational, necessitate against the possibility that all people who are familiar with these arguments, as well as many who are not, necessitates against the possibility that all of us will ignore these facts and vote anyway.

No they don't, no its not, no it doesn't, and no it doesn't.