Is Voting UN-Libertarian?

by Michael Cloud

A well-known libertarian scholar once told me:

“Voting is an act of force. Libertarians are opposed to force. Ergo, true libertarians don't vote.”

His syllogism was, as H.L. Mencken wrote, “… simple, neat, and wrong.”


“War is simply the continuation of politics by other means,” wrote Carl von Clausewitz.

True, but libertarians recognize that the opposite is also true:

“Politics is war by other means.”

Voting is conflict by ballots, not bullets. Big Government is domination and looting by the victors. Voting is force.

But the argument misstates and misrepresents the libertarian principle. Libertarians oppose the INITIATION of force. Libertarians recognize and endorse the right of self-defense.

For true libertarians, for champions of small government – voting is an act of self-defense.

I live by the Small Government Pledge:

“I vote small government. Every issue. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses.”

Every vote I cast is designed to dismantle, reduce, and remove Big Government programs and policies. At all levels of government: local, state, and federal.

Neither I, nor any other champion of small government votes to take our neighbors' life, liberty, or property. We vote to reduce or stop Big Government aggression and plunder.

Voting to shrink government is an act of self-defense.

NON-voting is political pacifism.

And, for one who loves liberty, it is slow motion suicide.

But the political pacifists do not stop there. They insist that the rest of us surrender, too - stop voting in self-defense.

In 2002, Carla Howell and I put Question 1 on the Ballot in Massachusetts. This Ballot Initiative would END our state income tax, put $9 Billion per year back in the hands of the men and women who earned it, and cut state government spending 39%.

Yet several ANTI-voting libertarians told us that Carla Howell and I are UN-libertarian, immoral, and evil for putting this to a vote. These paragons of libertarian principle told us that they refused to vote for it – because voting is force.

But the income tax is the initiation of force.

Voting to END the income tax is a vote to END the use of force. ENDING a tax is an act of self-defense.

We earned 881,738 votes to END the state income tax. 45.3% of the vote. In Massachusetts!

Would freedom have been better served if 881,738 voters had stayed home?

And wouldn't that have made Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney, and John Kerry giddy?

Anti-voting libertarians are the people who attack Richard Rider, tax cut activist, for opposing tax increases and tax bonds in San Diego.

Politics is war by other means. Demanding that libertarians cease voting is like urging Colonial Soldiers to desert George Washington's Army in the winter of 1776.

In that hard winter, many American soldiers did desert. Tom Paine sought to rally and inspire those hard-pressed and discouraged soldiers who remained when he wrote in “The Crisis”:

“These are times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Aren't you grateful that our colonial soldiers refused pacifism and desertion?

Because of their efforts over 230 years ago, you and we have the opportunity to move freedom forward.

[This is the first of several rebuttals of false libertarian arguments against and objections to voting. Moral and practical.]