The Question

2004-11-01

I still haven't decided whether I'm going to vote tomorrow. Although I don't think that casting a ballot once every four years is the best way to reform society, I also don't quite think it's evil, either (as the voluntaryists insist). One approach to voting is to see it as a form of self-defense (e.g., voting against excessive taxation or draconian regulation). The problem is that voting is usually construed as a form of consenting to the results or at least the process, which troubles me because I don't think that most issues put directly before the voters are within the legitimate purview of even a constitutional goverment (e.g., funding the local "scientific and cultural facilities district", which is mostly a way to favor some charities over others).

I did read an interesting essay yesterday by my old favorite Ayn Rand, setting forth her suggestions for determining which candidates to vote for ("How to Judge a Political Candidate", The Objectivist Newsletter, March 1964). Herewith some salient quotes:

The political ignorance and intellectual disintegration of our age become appallingly evident in a major election year. They range from the lethargic passivity of those who ignore elections as of no consequence -- to the frantic hysteria of those who believe that the life or death of a nation is determined on a single Tuesday in November....

One cannot expect, nor is it necessary, to agree with a candidate's total philosophy -- only with his political philosophy (and only in terms of essentials). It is not a Philosopher-King that we are electing, but an executive for a specific, delimited job.... we have to judge him as we judge any work, theory or product of mixed premises: by his dominant trend.... A vote for a candidate does not constitute an endorsement of his entire position, not even of his entire political position, only of his basic political principles....

[T]he issue of freedom vs. statism -- or individual rights vs. government controls, or capitalism vs. socialism -- is the basic issue of political philosophy. It is the root, the start, the fundamental which is involved in every specific measure, by which all else is determined, by the side of which all other considerations are trivia. It is the basic -- and, today, the only -- issue by which a candidate must be judged: freedom vs. statism. If [a candidate's] stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay or stop the march toward statism?

Rand went on to describe why she thought Barry Goldwater was the only freedom-oriented candidate in the presidential race of 1964, since freedom was his major premise: even though some of his specific steps were wrong, his direction was right. She praised him as the first Republican candidate in thirty years (presumably since the Willkie campaign, for which Rand volunteered) who did not merely parrot the New Deal line of creeping socialism, but opposed it with a basic political philosophy of freedom and personal responsibility. She contrasted Goldwater with Nelson Rockefeller, a big-government Republican whose political philosophy consisted of a kind of "me-too" statism and whose direct intellectual descendents are George Bush senior and George Bush junior. Her arguments make all the more inexplicable the stand of those modern-day Randians and so-called Objectivists who stump for W with reckless abandon, unheeding of philosophical principles or the lessons of history.

So I may vote tomorrow, but you can be sure I won't vote for any candidate whose basic direction is toward statism, government controls, and creeping socialism or creeping fascism. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave many options....


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal