Friday, September 24, 2010

Democracy is a Religion

Remember, Remember, Don’t Vote in November
by Thomas L. Knapp:

I get mail. Email and snail mail. Garish junk mail and frantic email in ALL CAPS and tastefully crafted letters on beige faux linen stationery with ornate letterhead in scented envelopes. Mail from Democrats. Mail from Republicans. Mail from Libertarians. Lots and lots and lots of mail.

The message doesn’t vary as widely as the quality of presentation. It does vary, mind you, but only in the little things. The Democrats want to stop the Republicans from taking control of Congress. The Republicans trumpet that allegedly watershed event (it’s been four whole years!) as their most cherished goal. The Libertarians are running a sweepstakes. The prize? A free country!

The big message, the message all these parties and candidates have in common, is that they all require our assistance to make these things happen. Send money! Plant yard signs! Attend rallies! And most important, above and beyond all other things, vote!

It all sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it? But I have a better idea. How about instead of working ourselves into a righteous snit for the next month, culminating with the self-exorcism of our personal demons in the voting booth, we … don’t?

Let us now pause for a brief musical interlude: Civics Teachers’ Heads Exploding in B Minor. There, wasn’t that nice? Back to business:

If democracy is a religion (and it is — “the worship of jackals by jackasses,” as Mencken so indelicately phrased it), elections are its principal sacrament. Voting is communion, complete with miraculous Transubstantiation of the Most, in which a plurality or majority of ballots cast are magically transformed into the “consent of the governed.”

Upon this rock the entire church of state is built. Every nuance of the perpetual Black Mass we call “government” — every act of theft, extortion, brutality, murder, war read in solemn tone from the Liturgy of Realpolitik — justifies itself on the basis of this alleged “consent,” in turn symbolized by the stickers handed out across America to those leaving the polling place: “I Voted!”

And I concede this much: The political priesthood has a point. If you enter the church, if you kneel before the altar, if you swear your eternal fealty to Leviathan, if you accept the sacred ballot, make your mark upon it and place it in the magic box, how can you possibly not be bound up in and beholden to the miracle of counting the priests then perform?

All religions require a devil, though, and as always he’s in the details.

As of the most recent national election, the population of the United States stood at about 305 million. Of those 305 million souls, 131,257,328 — only 43% — cast ballots for president. Of those who voted, 69,456,897 — only 22.8% of the total population — voted for the “winner,” Barack Obama.

It’s plausible to argue that the 43% who cast ballots voluntarily bound themselves to the outcome, i.e. “consented to be governed” by the winner whether that winner was “their” candidate or some other. It’s not, however, plausible to argue the same of the 57% who either chose not to vote or were forbidden to do so. “The consent of the governed” is clearly a superstition, no matter how many electoral victories the priesthood yanks out of its magic boxes.

So, this November, I plan to join that 57% and sleep in on Sunday … er, Tuesday. If I feel the need to take up a religion, I’ll choose one that gets up to harmless activities like chanting at airports or handing out magazines door-to-door or doing good works for the poor, not a death cult like “government.”

C4SS News Analyst Thomas L. Knapp is a long-time libertarian activist and the author of Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed, an e-booklet which shares the methods underlying his more than 100 published op-ed pieces in mainstream print media. Knapp publishes Rational Review News Digest, a daily news and commentary roundup for the freedom movement.


  1. I can understand it when someone who doesn't consent to the state votes as purely a defensive measure in some cases. We can each evaluate whether it is worth more to vote as a defensive measure in a particular circumstance than it is to make a principled stand against state legitimacy by refusing to vote. But those who freely consent to the authority of the state, whether or not they actually vote, have gotten exactly what they bargained for.

  2. Democracy is a religion like Courtney Love is a talented, straight edge virgin.

    Libertarianism... now that's a blind faith if I ever saw one. All this posting of other people's ideas for lack of any original thought... that sounds religious to me. Whether it's from Pope Ron Paul or Cardinal Celente, the only thing I seem to ever see posted from the Libertarians is recycled garbage (at least they're bloggers have gone green).

    Snide remarks aside, I suppose I'll also be casting my ballot for anarchy by not voting yet again this November... even though the only thing worse than a Democrat is a Republican.

  3. As usual from Ginx, no actual arguments against the ideas presented, just the continuing blind faith in the state, and the predictable ad hominem attacks.

  4. Why would I argue that we should vote for one of the two major parties when I don't advocate that? We only get the leaders we deserve. We are a greedy people, and our leader reflect that. Anarchy is no less virtuous, because I see it as quitting, giving up because it's just too hard.

    Well boo hoo. The big scary state is too much for us to confront. A big dumb moron like George W. Bush or Glenn Beck can change things, so I guess giving up is clearly the answer.

  5. In a way Ginx is right about libertarianism being a religion. We non-utilitarian libertarians take it on faith that aggression is wrong.

  6. We non-utilitarian libertarians take it on faith that aggression is wrong.

    Maybe you do, Steven, but I don't, and I'm no utilitarian. Where'd you get the crazy idea that non-utilitarians have to take that on faith?

  7. Nikkolas, I'm not trying to be contrary, but I have to ask you what you take that (the idea that aggression is wrong) on? I believe that aggression is wrong. I know of no evidence to support that belief. Maybe I'm wrong, but that sounds like faith to me. What do you think? (I'm asking, not challenging)

  8. Steven, let me ask you a question before I respond further. You say that you "believe" aggression is wrong. Why? Why do you believe that?

    Are you seriously suggesting that you're taking that idea only on faith and that there is no more reason to support it than there is to support "belief" in magical unicorns?

  9. I don't know why, Nikkolas. I just believe it. But I'm very interested in hearing your response. Perhaps you can share something that I've never considered.

  10. So, Nikkolas, are you going to respond or not? You obviously thought that what I said was wrong, but you haven't yet said why. I'd like to know where I'm wrong.

  11. Aggression isn't wrong, it just has a tendency to illicit negative repercussions. I don't know about Nikk, but I am non-violent because it is pragmatically the easiest way to be left alone (people are more inclined to hassle you if you hassle them).

  12. Yes Steven, I plan to respond. In fact, I might write a whole separate post about this. For now, let me see if I really understand you.

    You believe aggression is wrong. OK. So do I. But let's say someone comes along who believes it's fine to rob, rape, and murder. Obviously if that person tries to do any of those things to you, you'll resist (I assume) and fight back to protect yourself if necessary.

    However, according to you, you have no good reason to believe that the aggressor (the person robbing, raping, trying to kill you) is in the wrong; you just accept that they're wrong on "faith". They, however, accept that it's not wrong to do those things (though they really do, as they wouldn't want any of them done to them) and proceed to exercise their "right" to do them to you.

    Now, do you have the moral high ground in the encounter, or don't you? If not, if it's just faith that you have, without, as you put it "any evidence", then it just comes down to "might makes right", and if you can fight them off, you win, and if not, they win, but no one of you is more "right" than the other in the dispute between you.

    But if that's the case, then it is just "might makes right" and all your talk of "believing" aggression is wrong is meaningless.

    I can also ask you if you believe that rape, robbery and murder are wrong in all times and places, and across cultures. If you acknowledge they are, then you've admitted the universality and the objectivity of the "aggression is wrong" principle, and that it is not a matter of "faith" at all, even if you can't at this point articulate the reasons you know aggression is wrong.

  13. Ginx, what you're saying is that values (such as your "not hassling" people) are based in the real world, and have an objective basis to them. I of course agree with you.

  14. Ginx, in the People Are Insane #1 thread you said "It is wrong to use force against people who are doing no harm" (using force against people who are doing no harm is what I would call aggression). Now you say that aggression is not wrong. Which one is it?

    Nikkolas, sorry for my impatience. I'll wait for your full response.

  15. Steven, no problem, and thanks. But, any response to what I've said so far?

  16. The answer I really want from Ginx is what the hell happened to "People Are Insane #2"?

  17. Nikkolas,

    Yes, I do believe that I would have the moral high ground against an aggressor, and I do believe that rape, robbery and murder are wrong in all times and pleaces and across cultures, although I don't know of any way to prove either to be true. I don't think that they are provable. But I don't see how believing these things but not being able to prove they are true equates with "might makes right".

  18. Steven, thanks for the response. I'll go into more detail when I have time. But it's not a matter of absolute proof. Remember, you used the words "no evidence", which I think you clearly don't believe by your own statements.

  19. Steven, why do you believe one thing rather than another. Seriously, think about it. Are your views merely whims based on no facts?


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