Why I Voted Libertarian

This is not a political blog, but I am breaking rank today to talk about a political matter in light of our most recent bout of national elections. I want to explain why I vote Libertarian. My goal is not to convince you to vote as I do, but rather to give you a different perspective to consider. I don’t claim to speak for all Libertarians–these are my personal beliefs–but I do think that most Libertarian-minded voters would agree with my position here.

Consider the following slogans, all of which I have seen in some form on bumper stickers here in St. Louis:

  • I own guns… and I vote.
  • I am a woman… and I vote.
  • I love animals… and I vote.
  • I am a vegetarian… and I vote.
  • I am a Christian… and I vote.

I’m sure you have seen similar bumper stickers, as these tend to be quite popular, especially during election years.

What is interesting about each of these slogans is that they convey something that, deep down, most people understand about politics and law, but which they don’t verbalize or even conceptualize very well, and that is the fact that law (government) is force.  Each of these slogans is actually a thinly veiled threat. The hidden meaning is: I have specific personal beliefs, and I am prepared to use my voting power to force you to comply with those beliefs. Think about that. Every time you vote for some proposition or support some political figure who pushes particular laws, you are agreeing that it is acceptable to compel your family, friends, and neighbors to obey those laws, and that if they disagree they should be forcibly punished.

Every human being is (sub)consciously aware that their life is being shortened every day, and so seeks to maximize the benefit they get from living while they can. There are only two ways to achieve this: by compelling others to provide them with the necessities of life (as thugs, tyrants, slave owners and cult leaders do), or by joining in a voluntary society with others who are all willing to specialize their labor and trade voluntarily, increasing both the standard of living and the leisure time of all involved. These are contradictory methods, and laws are created in civilized societies to prevent people from exercising the former. The only way that everyone who participates in society benefits is by prohibiting the initiation of force. Generally, people seek to spend the least amount of time procuring the necessities of life and the most amount of time pursuing the things they love and value. Self-realization — the development and pursuit of values — is a defining characteristic of our humanity. But compulsory laws, rather than providing a safe environment in which values can be discovered and pursued, prescribe values and prohibit alternatives.

This method of aggression by-proxy is not only harmful to society  but destructive to our very humanity. American society continues to fragment into “tribes” of people who all wage a war of compulsion in our political system. Whether it is the 1% or the 99%, the Christians or the Muslims, the gays or the straights, the feminists or men’s rights advocates, each group wants to use government as a cudgel to compel the other to behave in particular ways.

The reason I vote Libertarian is because I believe that the answer to social problems is not more compulsion or force, but the restraint of compulsion and force by laws that protect all individuals. I vote Libertarian because I believe that people must be free to be different, and to live their convictions regardless of whether I like them or not; and should their convictions move them to violence against me, the society that we’ve created checks that and protects my peaceful behavior. I vote Libertarian because I believe it is time that Americans become adults and solve their problems, person to person, without threatening bumper stickers or political pull. I vote Libertarian because I believe that the only way humans can reach their full potential is to be completely free.

5 thoughts on “Why I Voted Libertarian

  1. A fascinating and thoughtful position (coming from someone how has almost-but-not-quite called themselves a Libertarian). I am happy to say I find much to ponder here.

    As a litmus test of sorts, where do you stand on the issue of same-sex marriage and laws for or against it?

  2. @Brian When I turned 16 I took a test and received a little card with my photo on it that granted me permission to drive. It was made very clear to me that driving was a “privilege, not a right”, and thus the license (permission from the state to do something that, without said permission, would be illegal) was necessary. Later, when I was 24, I stood before a state officer, made oaths in front of a large crowd, signed a binding document and received a marriage license. Like the card in my wallet, this piece of paper made one thing absolutely clear: to engage in a peaceful, voluntary relationship with my wife I was required to secure the permission of my neighbors who had granted, via their votes, authority to others to forcibly stop me if they did not approve.

    The issue of same-sex marriage is actually critically important because it demonstrates the bitter truth about the way people in America think about laws. Those who do not approve of same-sex marriage (mostly on religious grounds, but some on historical or anthropological grounds) use the law as an instrument, not for protecting people from the initiation of force, but to force people to behave in ways that they see fit. And the only reason they can use the law this way is because marriage is licensed to begin with. No peaceful, voluntary activity should *ever* be licensed from anyone. A license is a promise of force if the licensee does not obtain or abide by the terms of the license.

    So: voluntary relationships should not be licensed, which puts same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage on equal footing, and because same-sex marriage is a voluntary, peaceful arrangement the law should not be used to forcibly suppress it.

  3. Gonzo says:

    I think you’re mischaracterizing the “…and I vote” intention of many of these. The first example “I own guns…and I vote” demonstrates this most clearly. What does a gun owner’s politics want to force others to do? The underlying message for many of these is that making laws that restrict freedoms will lose you votes. The only way those who would rule by force are kept from controlling through governance is the force of democratic election.

    The second example was very demonstrably for freedom rather than government-sponsored force recently as politicians pushed many agendas that were characterized as anti-women.

    I can’t speak to vegetarian and animal loving, as I hate vegetables and love eating animals. Kidding aside, these do have a “force others to do as I want” element to them, so I can’t say you’re wrong either.

    The Christian (or other religions) is actually a mixed bag. I know some who mean for it to be “so restrict others from doing what I believe is sinful”, while the majority of people I know with that sticker mean “so stop restricting the exercise of my faith”. It’s an often dismissed fact that many Christians are paying attention to the news and pick up when someone is not allowed to pray, proselytize, or more recently, circumcise their own children. It’s not the predominant case, but it is the predominant fear.

    Most people I’ve met who identify as Republican or Democrat are more closely aligned with the Libertarian core. When I ask them about Libertarians, though, I get told that Libertarians are “cranks” or that they’ll gut the military and leave us defenseless (something I hear about the Democrats too, actually).

  4. @Gonzo I’m not making a value judgement about the positions behind these bumper stickers, but rather the message they convey to their opponents, which is: I am prepared to force you to accept my position. These bumper stickers aren’t messages for lawmakers (otherwise we’d send them all to DC); they are clearly messages to neighbors who see these vehicles every day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *