ABOUT TOM WOODS

Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis). A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)



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Why Even an Anarchist Should Vote for Ron Paul

19th May 2011      by: Tom Woods     

I know a lot of people who, rightly appalled at the immoral political system we live under, conclude that it would be morally wrong to vote, or at least that they themselves will not do so, because they would thereby be consenting to the system.  This includes voting for Ron Paul.

I think this is a mistake for two reasons.

(1) If you were stuck in a prison camp, and the guards let you vote on whether you were to have gruel or prime rib for dinner, would you be “consenting to the system” to vote for prime rib, or would you simply be doing the best you could under the circumstances to improve your material condition? (I owe this argument to someone but can’t remember where I got it from.  Roderick Long, maybe?)

(2) Many Americans won’t consider even listening to a point of view that barely registers on the political radar screen.  Whether out of intellectual laziness, cowardice, whatever, they just won’t.  So it hurts us if Ron Paul gets 1% of the vote.  But if he gets solid double digits, those people who might be faint of heart might realize they aren’t totally alone in supporting him, and will be more willing to do so.  Yes, this is ridiculous and unjust, but that’s how it is.  That’s why I think it hurts the cause of the free society not to vote for Ron Paul.

UPDATE: Please do not comment on this thread without reading this follow-up post and this one. Critics are simply repeating standard arguments as if I haven’t answered them.

Unlearn the Propaganda!

  • Anonymous

    The difference between these two groups is I was born into the latter (the state) and am treated (with force) like I consent (via “social contract”) whether I consent or not. I didn’t have to join the restaurant group at all, and when I did, that was my consent.

    I agree with your concerns in Paragraph 2.

    I’m not sure what leads some anarchists to one side of the camp and some to the other. For me it’s a desire to get a more libertarian society asap, and since my vote or the lack thereof doesn’t change whether the state violates my rights, I figure voting for libertarians is (usually) a step forwards, however small it is.

  • Duff

    I think it would be great if “the anarchist vote” was the deciding factor in the primary.  A primary is not erecting someone to rule over others.  I do not think it would be right to vote in the actual election however.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ricky-James-Moore-II/1685116178 Ricky James Moore II

    Your vote is irrelevant. Don’t waste your time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Cote/1452017147 Ray Cote

    It’s been said that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Liberty is a well armed sheep. Anarchists shouldn’t vote, we should become well armed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Cote/1452017147 Ray Cote

    You should take your own advice and study the history of anarchy. It has no relationship to what you claimed. Here are some pointers:

    http://mises.org/daily/2066
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Territory_(Ukraine)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_anarchist
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia,_Ohio

  • Quinn

    So, I’m supposed to pretend that I have rulers, need to be ruled, and desire to be ruled in order to educate more people about the fact that rulers are illegitimate, unnecessary, and unwanted? With all due respect…

  • Hoofies

    oh, how very wrong you are, Tom Woods. http://www.pacinlaw.org/error/ 

  • anonymous

    If you will all excuse me for being a Johnny-Come-Lately to this discussion and somewhat of a novice to the finer points of Anarchism, I’d like to give my perspective.

    How about this:

    For the better part of three decades, this man has endured the slings and arrows and scorn of his “colleagues” in the House, jeopardizing his comfortable seat and the benefits and the pay (the balance of which he has always returned to the taxpayer), taking principled stands against even the most popular legislation on the grounds that it would expand statism/imperialism/state capitalism/etc. Who here doesn’t remember the The Passion of the Libertarian that was the 2008 primary debates? The baseless assassinations of his character? The maligning of his words? The snide comments by the establishment talking heads?

    And all he asks of me is to take a measly twenty minutes out of one day that comes every four years to mark his name on a piece of paper and put it in the box? Yeah, I think I can manage that.

    Not because I think he actually stands a chance of “winning” or because I think they actually count the ballots, but because I’ll know that, even if in vane, I did my part. Like the Founding Fathers with King George, I played the game and upheld my part of the bargain before revolution became necessary. I tried to negotiate.

  • Bharat Chandrasekhar

    I would just like to point this out, this isn’t my example, but someone else’s, and I can’t remember where I got it from.

    It has to do with the consent of the governed. In a democratic system, if 55% of people vote to kill the other 45% of the people, did the 45% of people give their “consent of the governed” simply by voting? No, that would be a ridiculous assumption. Anarchists give no rationale to the current system simply by voting. They are not propping it up by voting, nor legitimizing it.

  • anon

    As a traditional anarchist- I strongly oppose his terrible economic plans. Traditional anarchists are strong leftists, by the way.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    I can’t imagine a left-wing anarchist making an argument from tradition, but there you go.

  • anon

    You can be an anarchist and a reformist. Just because you think we should do away with the system doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it better. That being said- I won’t vote for ron paul. I’d vote for the green party before I voted for him.

  • Okymek

    Those probably aren’t the best sources to cite if you are disagreeing with the first paragraph of what he stated. If you would have actually read his statement and then your articles, they all paint the same general picture more or less with slightly different descriptions of events, but the same, more or less. According to the one article it sounds like Anarchists should all be flocking to Somalia in order to live out their dreams of no government instead of having to waste time waiting for their own local governments to collapse.

  • anarchristian

    Just for the record: George Smith “quasi-endorsed” Ron Paul the last time around: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h81tGuWCdmY

  • Bree

    Fuuuuuck no

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.sambdman John Sambdman

    There was a small town in the US (I forget where) where one election no one in town voted because they had to travel to a nearby town to vote and the weather was bad. Even those running for positions didn’t vote – No one voted! So what happened, did the town government disband and dismantle all government controls and positions? No, those in power simply stayed in power for another term. The same would happen on a national level if by some miracle no one voted in a national election. You would have more effect by simply never voting for an incumbent or republican or democrat.

  • John T. Kennedy

    I’m an anarchist, but I agree that the common arguments you note against voting are mistakes.  And I would far prefer that Paul be president than any of the other candidates.

    But I won’t vote for Paul because my vote won’t matter in national election, Paul will get the same percentage of the vote regardless of how I vote, so I have far better things to do with my time. No way my vote will make the difference between Paul getting 1% or double digits, so your argument obviously fails.

  • Anonymous

    Coincidentally, just today, I used a very similar analogy before reading Tom’s post.  The father of a young man with a severe mental disorder, whose medicine would cost $1,200 per month, if not paid for by the government, found himself in a dilemma.  He knows that absent government involvement in the health care system, the medicine would cost, he says, about half, which he could manage with his pension from his former university position.  He doesn’t support government involvement in health care, yet, with all of the cries for cuts in spending on entitlements, which he supports philosophically, he finds himself saying cut everything else but don’t cut the funds for my son’s medicines.  And, in accepting the governmental assistance, he faces criticism that he is hypocritical by accepting the support while at the same time decrying it.  I suggested that if he were wrongly incarcerated in prison, he still would choose to eat, thus accepting the support provided by the prison.  This would be in no way self-contradictory.  In fact, it would be self-affirming.  It would make no sense to opt to die for principle and become unable to stand for freedom.

  • Anonymous

    Coincidentally, just today, I used a very similar analogy before reading Tom’s post.  The father of a young man with a severe mental disorder, whose medicine would cost $1,200 per month, if not paid for by the government, found himself in a dilemma.  He knows that absent government involvement in the health care system, the medicine would cost, he says, about half, which he could manage with his pension from his former university position.  He doesn’t support government involvement in health care, yet, with all of the cries for cuts in spending on entitlements, which he supports philosophically, he finds himself saying cut everything else but don’t cut the funds for my son’s medicines.  And, in accepting the governmental assistance, he faces criticism that he is hypocritical by accepting the support while at the same time decrying it.  I suggested that if he were wrongly incarcerated in prison, he still would choose to eat, thus accepting the support provided by the prison.  This would be in no way self-contradictory.  In fact, it would be self-affirming.  It would make no sense to opt to die for principle and become unable to stand for freedom.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KFCRLWQLOMNFYE7ZYDPIUYQWVA Bruce

    If the method of voting included ‘none of the above’ as a candidate, would an anarchist vote for it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Scandirito/503273185 Michael Scandirito

    post statism is not anarchy. it would merely become another desperate, impoverished somalian society. if you want the system to collapse, you are only asking for post statism and a subsequent replacement with another statist system by another group of power hungry dictators. a ron paul presidency would remove a lot of the barriers, making it easier to transcend the statist system with new counter economic forces.  voting does not legitimize the system unless you personally give it that much importance…i believe kevin carson said something along those lines once.

  • Bill

    A strong argument against voting:
    http://voluntaryist.com/articles/085b.html
    As a market anarchist myself, this argument illustrates so clearly to me why not voting is such a no-brainer.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    I have already responded repeatedly to the standard arguments, so I assume this link says something new and doesn’t just ignore my replies?

  • Pingback: Ron Paul: His Adman Profiled, By Rush Reviled; Sullivan Wants to Hail Him, and Eric Holder? Paul Wants to Jail Him - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

  • http://twitter.com/philoec Nora Smith

    Tom, there are still some Catholic anarchist who are afraid to define their future.
    I don’t remember another revolution like the Paulist Revolution. Dr. Paul attracted me with his firm stance on abortion -he respects life from womb to the tomb and that is enough for me to believe the rest of his agenda. We Christians, who love St. Paul know that without the first right, life, there cannot be other rights.
    For morals and the well being of all society there is no other like DR RONPAUL2012!!!
    For 3 years I’ve discussed Dr. Paul’s position with hard-anarchists and they have soften their fists and now cannot imagine vote for other than Dr. Paul.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll gladly bust my backside to get Ron Paul on the ballot and vote for him in the primary, but voting for him in the general election is considerably more complicated. Should one vote for anyone who is not fully and openly committed to risking their own and their family’s lives if it comes down to a choice of that or being a puppet to the corporate-state once they are in office? Perot backed out for a reason. He couldn’t make that commitment, and perhaps that was the moral thing to do. Anyone who thinks the President or Congress is really running things in this country is so awesomely naive that they shouldn’t be voting in the first place. There is a reason our military is put safely overseas; its so they can’t defend the country and Constitution from the puppeteers here at home.

  • Avalidemail

    What if each individual wrote his own name in on the ballots ?

  • Laura

    I think many of the viewpoints for why or why not are thoughful and valid.
    One thing I do notice is many of you who want an anarchist to vote are probably not familiar enough with anarchy to see why many will not vote. It is not like the steak analogy it is like asking a man with no stomach who can only eat food goo packets thru a tube whether he’d prefer steak or oatmeal for dinner. He doesn’t eat food. The question in invalid for him.

  • Laura

    Has anyone read “The Myth of Natural Rights?” It is a good read for being analytical about what if there was no government? The negatives from that rather than the usual fanfare FOR it.

  • vulijigo

    I love Tom, but Stefan Molyneux’s video on not voting is beyond compelling. It’s one of his best.



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