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.