Breaking Free Of The Vicious Circle

Election season puts in stark contrast two very different worlds in which we live - civil society and politics.

Civil society is the sum of voluntary interactions among individuals. Consider some ways in which I participated in civil society over the past week. My friends and I got together to watch the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in over eighty years. I bought a bagel for breakfast yesterday morning from the shop owner. I wrote entries for my blog. I went to dinner with my co-workers. And this weekend, I hope to throw a kickass Halloween Party for my friends. In all these cases, all involved individuals' autonomy was respected. These interactions took place on voluntary terms.

Politics is the institutionalized means of coercion by which a single view of the good is imposed upon all. In a democracy, politics is determined by voting. Politics means others being able to tell you what you can do with your body. It means your neighbors being able to direct how you use your property and what kinds of things your children are allowed to learn. It means others being able to dictate what you do with your home, what you can charge to sell your things, what kind of doctor you visit, what kinds of opinions you can express, and whom you can form relationships with.

Voting is a horrible way to decide things because it is a part of politics. Consider the situation if you are thinking of voting Democratic. You probably think it's a bad idea to have prayer in schools. Or if you are thinking of voting Republican, you might think that students should be allowed to participate in prayer. So you will pull a lever on November 2nd to appoint someone who you will hope will make schools as you wish them to be. Yes, he could do your bidding; or he could fail to keep his promise. Either way, next election, the same battle will ensue. A perpetual struggle continues into eternity.

Surely this is a horrible system. Both sides are taking the wrong approach. There is an obvious solution here: parents should be allowed to pass on their values to their kids in the manner they see fit. Forget about any sort of "vote" being taken. To think there is only one correct answer to these sorts of questions is a failure of the imagination. Humans, unlike animals, have the ability to reason to see life as a positive-sum game. One person's preferences need not always interfere with another's. Sure, it might temporary please some of us to try to control each other's lives. But the far-sighted solution is to live-and-let-live.

Politics caters to the worst in us. Promises are broken without remorse or consequence. Ordinary men are catapulted to undeserved hero status for the mere fact of controlling vast amounts of power. The opposition is dehumanized. Ignorance is bred by removing the direct consequences of actions from tangible proximity. Politics lets indecency flourish without repercussion and creates false virtue out of the ordinary. People allow politicians to get away with things they themselves wouldn't even consider doing. There is a reason why politics is so ugly-- it debases what makes us human and caters to our atavistic animal roots.

Civil Society, on the other hand, is the realm of interaction in which individuals are given sovereign reign over their lives to pursue their own happiness. Life may full of unforseen circumstances, but civil society allows us to pursue the path to our own subjective fulfillment. It is what makes life worth living. Any meaning I get from my daily experience comes not from edicts from on high, but my own pursuit of what I consider the good life. Civil society is our relationships with our friends and loved ones. It is the songs we sing, the works of art we create, and the beauty we find in the world around us. It is the richness of life.

The Founding Fathers may have intended to design the use of politics only as a necessary evil to act as the backdrop on which civil society would flourish, but today that idea lies buried deep under the consciousness of the times. In the end, my vote counts little. The outcome will be little different whether or not I vote. The only possible benefit my vote would garner would be as a single voice of expression as part of an information gathering process that shows an appalling lack of fidelity. I refrain from voting because I want to express my view that civil society, not politics, should be the center of social interaction.

What incentive do you have as a potential voter, whether it be Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or other, to do the same? In politics, winning is only temporary. Should you be a member of the lucky mob that gets to impose its preferences on the rest of us for the next four years, keep in mind that next time around, it could very well be you that is on the losing end. Power corrupts even the purest of hearts. By giving your consent to a body of people to carry out an imposition of your preferences upon others, you are also giving others implied consent to do the same to you. Winners can become losers in the blink of an eye. Instead, the civilized thing to do is to break out of this prisoner's dilemma, lay down arms, and stop the perpetual war of all against all.

I will be actively not voting next Tuesday because I want to demonstrate my preference that an enlightened structure of society should allow differing conceptions of the good life to co-exist in peace. I hope you do the same.

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"Some writers have so

"Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others. "

Thomas Paine

Okay, you and Micha are

Okay, you and Micha are KILLING me here! Let me ask you, who will hear your silence on Tuesday, Jonathan?

I agree. silence is

I agree. silence is acceptance. everybody on this board should vote for Badnarik if you want to make a statement. just my $0.02

Voting I voted in the US

Voting
I voted in the US election via absentee ballot over a week ago and have been delightedly ignoring all the campaign BS ever since. I have encouraged many others to vote however I do not fault some of the non-voters. The past several days have produced a...