Rocco: How Not To Stick It To The Man

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, famously said “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” For this, and similar quotes, he is revered by small-statists as a hero, a legend, even a libertarian. This is insane. Absolutely insane.

If the President of the Rapist’s Alliance (should such an institution exist) were to announce to the public at large that “Rapists aren’t the solution to our problems, rapists are the problem”, what are the chances this would be well-received? Or what if the world’s most successful serial killer sent a letter to the press, bearing his official “President of the Serial Killers” seal, wherein he offered his opinion that “Murderers aren’t the solution to our problems, murderers are the problem”? Who could take this seriously?

It’s worrying then, that when politicians (even the heads of government or those who would be heads of government ) make a show of being somehow, in some way against State power, small-statists abandon all common sense. All their usual mistrust of Big Government suddenly vanishes the moment a representative of Big Government reels off a well-rehearsed soundbite. Doesn’t it strike them as odd (or worse) that someone who not only has political power, but who is actively seeking to augment that power, is simultaneously claiming to be sceptical, wary, even downright opposed to political power?

Ukip is, quite obviously, currently the biggest beneficiary of the small-statist’s cognitive dissonance. The belief that Ukip are somehow “outside” the Westminster bubble, that they are somehow “outside” the political class, is tremendously popular. Likewise, the belief that by voting Ukip you are somehow “sticking two fingers up” to the ruling class, that by voting Ukip you are somehow “sending a message” to someone or other, is near universal. Sadly, all too sadly, none of this is true.

A criticism of Ukip in the lead up to last week’s elections was that they are ‘anti-politics’. Now this is a genuine smear, because nothing could be further from the truth. Ukip is a political party, full of politicians, who engage in the political process in order to use political means to enforce their political ideas. This is plain as day, of course. But (if we are consistent) this leads to the conclusion that Ukip is, in fact, none other than The Man; and voting Ukip is not sticking it to him, it’s cheering him on.

This is not a specifically anti-Ukip point. This is to do with the nature of democracy and the necessary corollaries of casting a vote. In the democratic process there are three possibilities: vote for the winning party; vote for a losing party; don’t vote at all. A vote for the winning party means you accept being ruled by them. A vote for a losing party means you accept being ruled by the winning party because you voted (by voting you agree to abide by ‘the rules of the game’). Not voting at all means – in the popular mythology, at least – giving up your “right to complain”, hence that you accept being ruled by the winning party. Heads they win, tails you lose. And should you not wish to call… you still lose. The mere existence of elections guarantees the victors 100% approval, 100% legitimacy, 100% submission.

Or does it? Is the popular mythology correct? Yes and no. If you voted for the winners, clearly you must accept their rule. And if you voted for the losers this demonstrates that you wished to force your preferred ideas on others, so you can’t complain if force is used against you. But if you didn’t vote at all, how on earth can you be deemed to have even tacitly agreed to your being ruled? “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain” is sheer nonsense. Not only that, it is propaganda. Democratic propaganda, but propaganda nevertheless. And what is its aim? To nudge you to vote, vote and vote again, because, as Hume tells us, the origin of government is opinion. By voting – even for a losing party – you are voicing your opinion that you should be ruled, that you should be ordered around, that you should be stolen from. More than this, worse than this, you are voicing your opinion that other people should be ruled, should be ordered around, should be stolen from. Given that politics and redistribution are inseparable, rulers, and any who would rule, are all ears.

If you really want to shout at the political class, keep your mouth shut.

Links to all my posts for Bogpaper and Libertarian Home can be found on google plus: Rocco Bogpaper

  • therealguyfaux

    Let me guess– a Who fan: “Meet the new boss– same as the old boss…”
    And, I have often quoted P.J. O’Rourke with relish: “Don’t vote, it just encourages the bastards.”
    But how much of an anarcho-purist humourless prat would you need to be not to at least fantasize about putting a turd in the punch bowl by the “fingers-salute” of voting UKIP?

    • Rocco @Bogpaper

      1) I am not a fan of The Who.

      2) It’s not UKIP. It’s Ukip.

      3) I am not “humourless”, as this comment amply demonstrates.

      • therealguyfaux

        So I take it you’re in agreement with Mr O’Rourke, then?
        (And on general principle, how do you feel about putting turds in punch bowls? 😉 )

        • Rocco @Bogpaper

          You’d be right.

  • Concrete Bunker

    If you do not “participate” how will anything change? Your logic is inescapable but…

    • Rocco @Bogpaper

      It’s tempting to think like that. But this is to fall into the trap of believing there is only one way to “participate”. As I said above (and you can find this in “The origin of government” by David Hume, and [more radically] in Etienne de la Boette’s “Discourse on voluntary servitude”) government rests on opinion. So, for example, education – in the widest sense – is “participation”, too. Only this, unlike political action, doesn’t necessarily entail ordering people about and stealing from them.

      This is from by George H Smith (the whole thing is well worth reading):
      Hasn’t it ever struck you as paradoxical how libertarians who are innovative when it comes to free-market alternatives, can be so pedestrian and orthodox in the area of political strategy. I mean, libertarians never tire of outlining plans for free-market roads, sewers, utilities, charities, schools, police forces, and even courts of law. When our critics ridicule free-market education, for instance, we encourage them to expand their thinking and to reject the notion that just because government has provided something in the past, it must continue to provide it in the future. Fresh, imaginative thinking is the key here. But now comes the issue of political strategy, and the imaginative libertarian suddenly turns slavishly orthodox. “How can we change things,” he asks, “without political action? Nobody, especially the media, will pay any attention to us. Everyone knows that you have to muster the power of votes before you can change things significantly. We must get petitions signed; we must get our people on the ballot; we must get them elected to offce – this is the only effective way to implement our goals.”
      To this political libertarian, I say: “if you spent a fraction of the time considering alternatives to political action as you do considering alternatives to public roads, utilities, etc., something might occur to you. You spend thousands of dollars and expend thousands of hours to get petitions signed and run political campaigns. If you spent a fraction of that energy and money on nonpolitical alternatives, you might witness a degree of progress that you now consider impossible.

      • Concrete Bunker

        Thanks Rocco – very interesting – read the lot!

        • Rocco @Bogpaper

          My pleasure.

  • Tim

    Wanker. Just total sixth form toss. Your alternative is what exactly? Probably ruled by people like you. Nah, think I will stick to ukip

    • Rocco @Bogpaper

      “Ruled” by people like me? Yeah, us anarchists are all about ruling people. It’s sort of our trademark.

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Tim. I hope you become a regular here at Bogpaper.

    • polonium210

      I too have strong reactions when I read something that challenges my previously held convictions.