Tuesday, November 03, 2009

An argument in favor of voting

In St. Louis County, Missouri today, voters will give the yea or nay to "Proposition N" --

Shall the Revised Ordinances of St. Louis County be amended by enacting and adding thereto a prohibition of smoking in enclosed public places in St. Louis County, all as set forth in Exhibit A of Ordinance No. 24,105 on file with the St. Louis County Administrative Director and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners?

The whole six pages of the abomination are available in PDF format here. Bottom line: Proposition N would ban smoking in bars, restaurants, etc., with an exclusion for casinos. If it passes in the county, that trips an automatic, similar ban in the city (the Independent City of St. Louis is actually its own county in terms of political administrivia).

I schlepped down to the polling place and voted against it this morning.

Some of my fellow anarchists, voluntaryists, etc. inveigh against voting at all, and offer various arguments against doing so. To each their own, but here's my view:

- The vote is taking place whether I want it to take place or not.

- The bill, if passed, will be enforced at gunpoint whether I like it or not.

- Casting a vote against the bill is no more "sanctioning the legitimacy of the process" than shooting a burglar is "sanctioning the legitimacy of burglary." I can let the burglar take my stuff, or I can try to do something about it. Yes, I can also go out with the intent to educate the world on the evils of burglary, but that activity is not, for the most part, mutually exclusive with defending my home.

- I say "for the most part," because it's true that I cannot simultaneously be at a podium 50 miles from my home lecturing on burglary and sitting in my recliner with the 12-gauge at hand. Similarly, I cannot simultaneously be in the voting booth casting a "no" ballot on Proposition N and at a rally across town urging people to spit on their hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.


If I'm sitting in the chair with the 12-gauge at hand, it's probably 4 in the morning. If I'm in the voting booth casting a "no" ballot on Proposition N, it's probably 8am at the latest (I usually get to the polling place about the time it opens; today I ran a little later). Not a lot of lectures to give at 4am. Not a lot of rallies to attend before 8am. That 15 minutes I spent (including travel time) on voting didn't interfere with my proselytization activities ... and even if it did, the interference was minimal. If I spend an average 15 minutes a year voting "no" on bad bills for the next 50 years, it will come to a grand total of 12.5 hours. I spend more time than that on extraneous activities in any given week.

- Sure, it's true that my single vote is exceedingly unlikely to be the one that decides the outcome of the election. It's also exceedingly unlikely that the 15 minutes I spend casting it will be the 15 minutes during which I would otherwise have recruited/persuaded "the final anarchist," the living straw whose recruitment breaks the state's back.

So no, I don't feel guilty for voting this morning. If Proposition N goes down, I will have played a small part in taking it down. If it passes, I'll be able to honestly tell myself that I did my bit to fight it. In neither case will I consider myself guilty of any kind of deviationism from my anarchist principles.

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