Civil Society and Uncivil Politics

With all the recent discussion here at Catallarchy about life outside the political arena, from Randall's post on Reason Magazine's new focus on culture rather than policy, to Brian Doherty’s Beyond Conventional Thinking, to Jonathan's Breaking Free Of The Vicious Circle, I'm reminded of an article Lew Rockwell wrote a few months ago titled, What Should Freedom Lovers Do? Lew cites one of my personal heroes, Booker T. Washington, as a person who took the civil approach to social change, in contrast to W.E.B DuBois' more political approach.

Libertarians are not the first people who have confronted the question of strategy for social advance and cultural and political change. After the Civil War, a large part of the population of the South, namely former slaves, found themselves in a perilous situation. They had a crying need to advance socially within society, but lacked education, skill, and capital. They also bore the burden of pushing social change that permitted them to be regarded as full citizens who made the most of their new freedom. In many ways, they found themselves in a position somewhat like new immigrants but with an additional burden of throwing off an old social status for a new one.

The Reconstruction period of Union-run martial law invited many blacks to participate in politics as a primary goal. This proved to be a terrible temptation for many, as the former Virginia slave Booker T. Washington said. "During the whole of the Reconstruction period our people throughout the South looked to the Federal Government for everything, very much as a child looks to its mother." He rejected this political model because "the general political agitation drew the attention of our people away from the more fundamental matters of perfecting themselves in the industries at their doors and in securing property."

Washington wrote that "the temptations to enter political life were so alluring that I came very near yielding to them at one time" but he resisted this in favor of "the laying of the foundation of the race through a generous education of the hand, head and heart." Later when he visited DC, he knew that he had been right. "A large proportion of these people had been drawn to Washington because they felt that they could lead a life of ease there," he wrote. "Others had secured minor government positions, and still another large class was there in the hope of securing Federal positions."

As it was in the 1870s it is today. The state chews up and either eats or spits out those with a passion for liberty. The extent to which W.E.B DuBois's Marxian push for political agitation has prevailed over Washington's push for commercial advance has been tragic for black Americans and for the whole of American society. Many obtained political power, but not liberty classically understood.

I too will be joining Jonathan in actively not voting next Tuesday. This will be the first time in my life I have intentionally not voted, and I can't wait to not do so. I wish the Libertarian Party the best of luck in spreading their message, but I will not participate in what I consider to be an illegitimate and ultimately pointless process. Instead of wasting my valuable time engaging in uncivil politics, I will peacefully interact with friends, family, and other members of civil society.

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Micha, This isn't the quote

Micha,

This isn't the quote I was frantically searching for after reading your post, but I think it will do:

"I could not, at any age, be content to take my place
by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived.
Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason,
turn his back on life."
-Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

The process of voting for the party you believe in is only pointless if you deem it so.

Please, in 'the book of life' let it say that Micha voted for the Libertarian party this year -- not that you sat back and refused to participate.

I guess that's all I can think of to say about the subject.

Peace,
Michi

Micha, I too will be joining

Micha,

I too will be joining Jonathan in actively not voting next Tuesday. This will be the first time in my life I have intentionally not voted, and I canâ??t wait to not do so.

Likewise. Voting can be seen as giving consent to be governed by thugs, thieves and incompetents. This is no longer acceptable.

Regards, Don

You may not like this

You may not like this government, however it is the best that has ever been devised by man. Countless people from around the world seek to come here and proudly vote.
Can you imagine a 37 year old man who speaks not a word of English bringing his family here and his Son by age 25 going into business employing 8 Americans. and his son graduating from Case Western Reserve University with a Masters degree..Tell me what country or form of government gives this opportunity...Go vote till you find something better...and do not blame the system, because you have no self discipline. Pull yourself together and do something with your life, the government gives you that opportunity. Do you really think not voting is your answer?????

so you plan to do what, just

so you plan to do what, just post on the internet the rest of your life? i understand the urge to rage against the machine here, but i find your attitude much too defeatist.

what, if anything, do you actually plan to accomplish?

â??Government is Force;

â??Government is Force; like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.â??
--GeorgeWashington

scott, To answer your

scott,

To answer your question with a question: what do you think your vote accomplishes?

I'm voting, because it's

I'm voting, because it's easy to do it and I enjoy the feeling of having expressed my preferences (I'm the kind of person who loves taking surveys). But the counterarguments I encounter to the idea that its pointless tend to be very bad. Its just one of those areas of life that people are very irrational about.

The process of voting for the party you believe in is only pointless if you deem it so.

I'm curious as to whether you have a logical argument for your implication here, which is that the process of voting is pointful if you deem it so. It certainly has a symbolic meaning, but I don't see why the symbolic meaning of voting is more noble than that of not voting.

To answer your question with

To answer your question with a question: what do you think your vote accomplishes?

well one vote doesn't accomplish much surely, but if everyone started voting libertarian more and more it would; and you might actually see some libertarian policy! but with your defeatist attitude we won't even start down that road.

Maybe libertarians really

Maybe libertarians really should stay home (I've made the choice not to vote in this election). A defeatist attitude may well be the best thing. I firmly believe that politics, by its very nature, corrupts everyone and everything it touches. Libertarians may think that electoral success will help turn the government in a more libertarian direction, but I believe that once libertarians become part of the government and the political game, it will corrupt them just as it does Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else, and we will become what we despise. I don't think even the most well-meaning and idealistic Libertarians could emerge from the cesspool of politics with their principles intact. The philosophy itself needs to be spread everywhere we can share it. But success at the voting booth might well be the worst thing that could happen to us.

well one vote doesnâ??t

well one vote doesnâ??t accomplish much surely, but if everyone started voting libertarian more and more it would; and you might actually see some libertarian policy! but with your defeatist attitude we wonâ??t even start down that road.

So you agree, then: Since I only control one vote, my act of voting is instrumentally pointless.

So you agree, then: Since I

So you agree, then: Since I only control one vote, my act of voting is instrumentally pointless.

but if a lot of people voted it would have a point. but that will never happen until you start voting.

everything is pointless in the long run sense of things, but there are little things you can do along the way to help your situation. sitting at home doing nothing is not one of them.

but if a lot of people voted

but if a lot of people voted it would have a point. but that will never happen until you start voting.

But to repeat what Micha said above: you only control your own vote. You can't vote on behalf of other people. The only power you have is a single vote out of 100 million.

Do you really think that by casting that single vote, you are 'doing something'? Do you think you are making a difference? Do you think you are being anti-defeatist?

I should note that while, in

I should note that while, in general, small actions on the margin can add up and affect change, this is not the case with voting, because of the inherent win-or-lose structure. For example, if all libertarians donate $1 to Michael Badnarik, he will have a lot of funding to purchase advertising, and each individual libertarian marginally contributed to that outcome, guaranteed. But there is no similar guarantee for voting: either you get 50%+1 of the votes, or you don't. If you don't win, all votes contributed nothing. If you win by more than one vote, no individual vote contributed anything; that is, each individual's act of voting was a waste, because if he had stayed home, ceteris paribus, the outcome of the election would have been the same.

Also note that this does not apply to the publicity effect of voting. Each individual vote for a losing candidate could still contribute marginally to the increased publicity of the party or the candidate. But I think there are better ways to educate and spread ideas than running for an office you can't possibly win.

And last, I certainly agree that with regard to methods for improving the world, "sitting at home doing nothing is not one of them." But then, I never said it was.

but you can influence other

but you can influence other people's votes. yes by voting you are doing something, however small it may be. it's one small task in 4 years, the rest of the time which you can try to spread your ideas through other means.

influence others and voting is better than just influencing others on its own.

perhaps you'd be happier with a parliamentary system? that's not really win or lose.

True, you can influence

True, you can influence other people's votes. And in some cases, it may be necessary to vote yourself if you want other voters to take your persuation seriously. Then again, in some cases this isn't necessary. You could simply lie about not voting, or just not mention it, and it would have the same effect. Who is going to find out?

Further, unless you are able to influence at least a few hundred people, or better yet, a few thousand, in a single state, it really doesn't matter anyway. When vote totals are low enough, the final decision will be made by the courts, as we saw four years ago.