Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

October 10, 2008

Vote for ‘N.O.T.A.’

by tarran

Comrades, once a year, sometimes more, we are confronted with the question of whom to vote for. Millions of man-hours are consumed every two years in debating and discussing who is standing for elected office, the pros and cons of their policies and their past performance. Billions of dollars are spent promoting or defaming candidates. For men and women of principle, the debate often sounds like this:

The Marsh house, dinnertime. The family is gathered at table, with Grandpa at one end, Randy at the other. Sharon comes in with plates and the main course
Sharon: How was school today, Stanley?
Stan: It was ridiculous. We have to have a new school mascot and we’re supposed to vote between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.
Sharon: …What did you say?
Randy: Did you just say that… voting is ridiculous?
Stan: No, I think voting is great, but, if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don’t see the point.
Randy: clenches his fists You don’t see the point!! Oh you young people just make me sick!
Sharon: Stanley, do you know how many people died so you could have the right to vote?!
Stan Mom, a-I just don’t think there’s much of a difference between a douche and a turd. I d-I don’t care.
Randy: jumps upright and plants his hands on the table You don’t care?! You really want a turd sandwich as your school mascot?! On your football helmets?! A turd?!
Sharon: Well, hold on, Randy, I think a turd sandwich is a little better than them having a giant douche on their uniforms.
Randy: You’re crazy!! A d-a douche is at least clean!
Sharon: It’s sexist is what it is!
Randy: You don’t understand the issues, Sharon!
Sharon: Are you calling me ignorant??
Randy: You think the school mascot should be a turd sandwich? Well you’re not exactly Einstein!
Sharon: I am sick of you belittling my opinion, you son of a bitch!
Sharon picks up the casserole and chucks it at Randy, who ducks and looks back at her angrily. They both leave the table in opposite directions.
Shelley: leaving the table as well I hate this family, I hate it!
Stan looks on, shocked, while Grandpa continues eating unruffled.

Notice how Sharon’s opposition to a douche is equated to supporting a turd sandwich? Notice how Sharon is supporting the turd sandwich not because she likes turds, but because she thinks the douche is so awful that anything else would be better?

The government is a violent organization.  The election is a method of choosing against whom the violence will be directed, the magnitude of the violence, and for who shall benefit from the violence.  Most people don’t want to loot others.  Rather, they are afraid they will be victims of the violence.  Fear is the motivator that drives people to the polls. Fear is what animates them.

Thus, if a turd sandwich wants to drive people to the polls to vote for him, he will emphasize what a douche the douche is.  He will point out all the unflattering consequences of voting for the douche.  In the meantime, the douche is trying to panic those who have more to lose from the election of the turd sandwich into showing up at the voting booth.

While this phenomenon explains the ubiquity of so called “negative campaigning”, it would seem that it provides an incentive for more libertarian candidates.  Why do we get such raging nutcases running for office?  Why are we stuck in a race to the bottom?  The answer is, of course, in the incentives of political economy.

To scare the voters, the turd sandwich needs money.  He needs publicists, volunteers, media support, etc.  All of this costs money.  Lots of money.  To get the money, he needs to convince people to give it to him.  This means offering people spoils or public favors.  It could be a favorable line in the tax code, an anticompetitive tariff or regulation, some law that enables rents, etc.  To provide these spoils, the candidate must execute interventionist policies – in other words, the more government violence the candidate offers, the more financial and volunteer support he gets.

This incentive is worsened by the way the political classes of votes equate votes with power.  Let us say, for example, that most people thought a turd sandwich to be far worse than a douche, and had voted for the douche in overwhelming numbers.  The douche would then go into office claiming a mandate. Other politicians will be less likely to spurn him. They will attempt to assist him so that he will throw some of his support their way.

The major mistake the voters are making is that they are assuming that they must choose between the douche and the turd sandwich – that a failure to vote for the douche is tantamount to wanting the turd sandwich to win. The only option that they consider is to refrain from entering the voting booth at all.

I think this is insufficiently imaginative for several reasons.
1) Every election has a few ballot questions. If I stay home this year, I miss my chance to vote to repeal my state’s income tax.
2) Nor can I refuse to vote on certain items in the ballot, and vote for others: ballots that don’t contain votes for all races are typically thrown out as being damaged.Update: This claim is wrong, and I withdraw it.
3) In most states, you can write in a candidate. You could vote for anybody you want to hold a position.

The problem the disgruntled voter faces is how to show up and vote against all the candidates simultaneously. The short answer is that one can accomplish this via writing in None of The Above. If one does vote that way, the ballot is counted and is included in the totals.

This is a great way to jam the system.  It pushes down the vote totals of each candidate.  It allows you to vote for freedom loving candidates where available while withholding support from non-freedom loving candidates.  You can vote in the freedom maximizing direction on ballot initiatives.  And, if enough people do it, it could even start to influence candidates.  Suppose 1/10th of those who stayed home in the last election had shown up and voted for NOTA instead.  That population consisted of 36.2% of the voting age population: 89 million people stayed home.  8.9 million people voting for NOTA would have resulted in Bush getting much less than 50% of the vote.  In fact, the 8.9 million votes would have dwarfed the difference between Bush and Kerry’s votes.

So don’t stay home on voting day.  It indicates passive acquiescence to the ruling classes.  Don’t vote for one of the two or three choices the rulers have approved for you, that encourages them.  Rather show up at the polling booth and tell them to go to hell.  Show them your contempt in a way that they cannot deny. Don’t see anyone you like? Write in NOTA.

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  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Tarran:

    There are several races where I’ll probably have to do as you suggest.

    The Senate race is particularly bad. There’s Mark Udall (D) who might be acceptable on social issues but terrible economic issues. Bob Schaffer (R) might be acceptable on economic issues but terrible on social issues.

    Then there’s the third party candidates from the Green Party and the so-called Constitution Party. As a Libertarian, I cannot support either of these candidates for very obvious reasons.

    There are no candidates in this race which will stay out of the bed room and the board room. NOTA may be the only choice I could make and still respect myself in the morning.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    tarran,

    2) Nor can I refuse to vote on certain items in the ballot, and vote for others: ballots that don’t contain votes for all races are typically thrown out as being damaged.

    Really? I wasn’t aware of that. When I’ve voted in the past I’ve always tried to simply not vote on races I haven’t studied (such as local school board and other stuff). Does that mean my ballot is considered “damaged”?

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    Brad, it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But, yes, I have read in numerous places that a ballot that is incompletely filled out is treated as “damaged”.

    Remember, people are allowed to go back and get a clean ballot in the cases where they made a mistake. Those partially filled out ballots make a great tool for fraud. Thus systems tend to ignore such ballots completely.

    The disenfranchising effect of this anti-fraud measure is probably accidental, but makes life difficult for us opt-outers.

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