“Voting Is Violence”

Bad Arguments Vol. 32


When we are attempting to explain why the government is a generally negative entity, especially in its current form, often it boils down to its monopoly on force and violence. Issues with specific policies don’t inherently prove there are evils to having a governing body so we have to dig deeper to get to the root of the matter. In the case of government, all of their ills can be sourced back to force. Without force, the ability to turn their will to law punishable by the various mechanisms they’ve designed would be impossible.

It is from this understanding that we see the blanket arguments against police and military personnel (one I don’t personally agree with, but can understand nonetheless). Since they help to serve and enable the abilities of the state, their choice of profession is negative by design, regardless of the quality of character of the person or specific positives they may accomplish in the role. When we turn this view away from those employed or involved in the state we come to the view that voting itself is violence.

The argument goes that by voting you are participating in the ill of enforcing your will on the populace through force. A citizen who votes, then, is considered to be complicit to whichever acts their chosen leadership undertakes. By extension, as there are many acts that continue to happen regardless of who is elected, a voter is guilty of the sins of the government itself.

I view this as a bad argument for two primary reasons. First is the notion of guilt involved. If I vote for a candidate, I only have the information present before me to work with in making that decision. I highly doubt that Republican voters in the first Bush Jr. Election were voting to support the massive war campaign that took place post 9/11. I doubt that those that voted for Obama wanted it continued or expanded either. Politicians are marketers by design. They need to make themselves look appealing to the masses and thus only present the ideas and plans that they believe will make them win. Even then, if the entirety of an average candidate’s campaign promise list were to be fulfilled, it wouldn’t take a full term to do it. After it’s done it leaves a bunch of time where they’re working on plans outside what they promised and presented. If I purchased a Volkswagen I would not automatically be guilty of enabling them during their emissions controversy. A person can only vote based on the knowledge they have. The average voter is either uninformed of the standard evils of the government, or they have issues seeing them as evils themselves; a bridge that would need to be crossed before jumping into this argument.

My other problem is what happens if we assume the “voting is violence” crowd is correct. Let’s say that voting is, indeed, a form of violence. Force isn’t a singular thing. Most often we can separate violence and force into three categories: Offensive, Defensive, and Preemptive. Offensive force is when one is the instigator, defensive is to counter the instigator, and preemptive is to counter the instigator before they make the move one believes they will make. People make their decision to vote in similar lanes of thought. There are those that actively want the government to make certain decisions, those that simply fear that “the other side” will do something so they need to prevent that, and those that, while they may not support one candidate, they are actively against the damage the other will bring (such as many of the voters in the 2016 US presidential election believed on both sides).

Unless one wishes to declare themselves a true pacifist, we know that sometimes force is both acceptable and necessary. Most commonly, this type of acceptable force or violence is the defensive kind. Voting is not automatically a form of offensive violence. It depends on how you choose to use it. Even if we consider voting to be violence, it can still be defensive violence if nothing else. I personally don’t put that much weight into voting itself anymore as I explained in a previous Bad Arguments, though to go as far as to call it violence I find incorrect. Even if we do consider it violence, it’s violence of a nature we already accept and support (we couldn’t believe in defense of property if we didn’t). In either event, we’d likely have more fruitful results if the efforts that go into calling voting violence went towards explaining how to vote defensively. The fight for liberty is a long one. It would be foolish to leave such a tool on the table in pursuit of it.

You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.


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