Selecting those who will govern by casting ballots


A Magic Day, by Charley Reese, 21 Oct 2006
"Before a foreigner can become an American citizen, he has to pass a test about the country's history and its form of government. We should require passing that same test before anyone is issued a voter-registration card. Any native-born American who can't pass a test routinely passed by people from foreign countries doesn't deserve to be allowed the privilege of voting."
Analysis of an Electronic Voting System [PDF], by Information Security Institute, Johns Hopkins University, 23 Jul 2003
A Vote Note, by Paul Hein, 20 Jul 2004
"... after the general election, the loser for the Presidency ... pledges that he, too, will work with the man whose election, he had charged only a day before, would bring about the end of civilization. Wouldn't logic dictate that the loser express his horror at the appalling choice made by the voters, and pledge his undying opposition to the winner?"
Do Elections Guarantee Freedom?, by James Bovard, Future of Freedom, Nov 2007
Discusses whether democratic elections achieve the purported objective of "will of the people" controlling the government
"What if being permitted to choose a master once every four years is the primary 'freedom' left? Are citizens merely choosing whose vassal they will be? Many citizens today behave like slaves who spent their time wishing for a good master, rather than scouting up information on runaway routes."
Don't Get Out the Vote, by Sheldon Richman, 14 Feb 2014
Examines the writings of Michael Huemer and Bryan Caplan on whether get-out-the-vote campaigns are in any way beneficial
"... a mass democratic system encourages voter irresponsibility. Because the consequence of any single vote is negligible, individuals have an incentive to vote on some basis other than an understanding of current issues ... Urging voters to do their homework is a waste of time, Huemer writes, because most will find that task prohibitively expensive and, anyway, the question 'Who is the best candidate' may have no answer."
Election 2014: The Good News and Bad, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Nov 2014
Sobering comments on elections, governments, democracy and why voting is of so little consequence
"Since no one vote is decisive, most people have no incentive to invest time and money acquiring the knowledge necessary to act responsibly on election day. ... How many voters study economics so they can competently judge what candidates promise to do? And how many study moral philosophy to better decide whether existing and promised policies are moral or immoral?"
Evidence of a Stolen Election, by Paul Craig Roberts, 19 Jan 2006
"Mark Crispin Miller's new book, Fooled Again ... describes considerably more election fraud than voting machines programmed to count a proportion of Kerry votes as Bush votes. ... problems noted in the GAO's September 2005 report ... The outcome of the 2004 presidential election has always struck me as strange. ..."
Honesty among Thieves, by Michael Tennant, 30 Jul 2008
Discusses the case of a Minnesota college student who offered his vote for sale on eBay, and the monetary and benefits promises made by both candidates Obama and McCain
"The state of Minnesota is prosecuting a 19-year-old college student, Max P. Sanders, for the crime of having offered his vote in this years presidential election to the highest bidder on eBay. He is being charged with this heinous crime ... under an 1893 law that criminalizes the buying and selling of votes. ... Given these gigantic promises of free money, then, is there any doubt that the overwhelming majority of votes will be cast for the candidate who vows to give the voter or someone the voter likes, such as farmers, teachers, or defense contractors more of his neighbor's property than the other?"
Oral arguments set in e-voting machine lawsuit, Libertarian Party News, Oct 2003
Sy Leon, R.I.P., by Butler Shaffer, 11 Sep 2007
Recollections of the life of Sy Leon, Rampart College and the libertarian movement of the 1950s/1960s
"Through the League, he actively promoted the inclusion of 'none of the above' as an alternative to listed candidates for every office. While his ideas have led a few states to include such an option as a non-binding statement ... Sy had a far more powerful thought in mind. If 'none of the above' received the majority of votes for any office, that position would remain unfilled until a candidate more suitable to the electorate could be found."
The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting, by Sheldon Richman, 8 Feb 2008
Reviews the "Voting Versus the Market" chapter of Bruno Leoni's Freedom and the Law
"I like Wheaties more than Cheerios. So I go to the store and buy Wheaties. Except for the rare occasion went the store has run out, I will bring home Wheaties. ... If I vote for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, I have to wait to see if I am in the majority before I know if I get what I want. If 50 percent plus one voted as I did, great -- I get my choice. But what if 50 percent plus one vote for Sen. Clinton? I'm out in the cold."
Related Topic: Democracy
The Cruel Joke of Sacralizing Voting, by Sheldon Richman, 7 Feb 2014
Comments on an MSNBC TV spot implying that voting is the only way to express oneself that really counts
"Of all the ways to express oneself, voting is the way that counts least! Candidates typically hold a grab bag of vaguely stated positions (implied promises, actually), often contradictory, that they may not really believe or ever attempt to keep. ... If your voting can't determine the outcome of an election, attempting to determine it is a poor reason to vote. Plus, it takes time and money ... that could have gone to something that would have actually made a difference."
The Ethics of Voting: Part I [PDF], by George H. Smith, The Voluntaryist, Oct 1982
Examines libertarian and anarchist theory to provide a critique of electoral voting, i.e., voting for government officials
"I shall accept vicarious liability as a given within libertarian theory and proceed from this foundation. ... Given this fact, it follows that voters, in some cases at least, are deemed accountable by libertarians for the results of their votes (e.g., legislators who vote for victimless crime laws)."
Related Topics: The State, Voluntaryism
The Fraudulent Meaning of Elections, by James Bovard, Future of Freedom, Apr 2006
Examines the arguments raised in the debate between Democrats and Republicans in Congress over the certification of the 2005 Ohio Electoral College voters
"The 'debate' in Congress illustrated how elections are now about consecration, rather than representation. Elections have become something for rulers to shroud themselves in, rather than leashes used by the people. Politicians are obsessed with maintaining the imagined dignity of their class, not in resolving doubts about honest vote counting."
Related Topic: Republican Party
The Myth of the Rational Voter, by Bryan Caplan, Cato Unbound, 6 Nov 2006
Posits that voters mistaken beliefs, in particular about economics, do not "cancel each other out" but instead they compound
"... if you know what a voter thinks is best for society, you can count on him to support it. Before we can infer that the policies that are best for society will actually prevail, however, we have to add the very assumption I am challenging: that the beliefs of the average voter are true. If his beliefs are false, his good intentions lead him to support policies that are less than optimal, and possibly just plain bad."
Related Topics: Democracy, Economists, Logic, Psychology
The Voting Ritual, by Butler Shaffer, 24 Oct 2006
"Rather than dutifully going to the polls to select from a narrow list of options provided you by political interests that you neither know nor control, you might want to inquire into who is providing the cast of characters — and writing the script — for a performance you are expected not only to attend, but to cheer."
Vote Harder: The Barack Obama Story, by Kevin Carson, 19 Aug 2013
Examines the results of voting for "the most anti-war, anti-police state Democrat in decades"
"So, to summarize: 1) The biggest grass-roots progressive effort in decades to elect an anti-war, anti-police state president successfully elected a man who immediately proceeded to do the direct opposite of what he promised; and 2) some of the people who elected him are the most strident defenders of his betrayals. Do you really think voting even harder next time is the solution? No. All of this just shows what a monumental waste of effort and resources it is trying to capture the state."
Voting Is No Sin: Voting no more legitimizes the state than scratching legitimizes an itch, by Raymond William 'Bill' Bradford, Liberty, Nov 1996
Bill Bradford's response to Wendy McElroy's "Why I Would Not Vote Against Hitler" essay (Liberty, May 1996)
"The power of any state does depend on the opinions of its subjects; if enough of them view it as good or inevitable or too powerful to resist, the state achieves a certain viability. ... In our society, there are many means of convincing our fellows to change their opinions. We can try to educate them. We can try to stimulate others to educate them. We can set good examples by trying to live exemplary lives. We can organize debating societies. We can write books about feminism, or publish magazines. We can do research, or explore the frontiers of social thinking."
We the Sheep, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 7 Mar 2006
"It's bad enough being a 'citizen,' so I decided some time ago not to compound my troubles by being a 'voter' too. This enabled me to see the world with an exhilarating clarity. Suddenly all the politicians bidding for my vote became comical little butts ... At least I didn't feel I was their butt anymore. Their slave, maybe, but no longer their butt."
Related Topic: Democracy
Why I Do Not Vote, by Butler Shaffer, 14 Nov 2000
"When we vote in an election, ... Our motivations for such participation – even if they be openly expressed as a desire to bring state power to an end – do not mitigate the fact that our energies are being employed on behalf of the destructive principle that liberty and social order can best be fostered through the coercive machinery of the state."
Why this libertarian is voting to re-elect George W. Bush, by J. Neil Schulman, 21 Oct 2004
"... I gave up casting my ballot symbolically in any race in which ... [it] stood any chance whatsoever in effecting a preferable outcome. Purists have told me ... 'the lesser of two evils is still evil.' I ... counter that argument with one taught to me by ... Brad Linaweaver: 'the lesser of two evils is less evil.'"
Begrudging Another Battle of Ballot-Boxing, by Kenneth R. Gregg, 23 Nov 2006
Explains how those seeking power through politics are led to compromise, even if they are members of a group espousing principles over expediency, and urges others not to ballot-box but instead vote in the marketplace and the social realm
"Ballot-boxing is a process whereby one gives consent to being governed by another. Voting is the most common form of legitimization. It fulfills the purpose of political legitimization because one has tacitly and publicly accepted the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome, no matter whether you are on the winning or losing side."
Bureaucracy and the Civil Service in the United States, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1995
Historical account of the evolution of the United States Civil Service and attempts to reform it, from its beginnings through the early 20th century
"... in elections, the voter is not presented with a specific program to consider: he must choose between a package deal of a legislator or chief executive for X number of years ... since there is no direct policy test, we arrive at the commonly deplored failure of the modern democratic process to discuss issues or policy ..."
Democracy Versus Freedom, by Jarret B. Wollstein, Future of Freedom, Jan 2006
"What of Western democracies? Things are better, but far from free of corruption, fraud, and manipulation of voters. Even in the United States, more and more people report their votes are not being counted. Electronic voting makes fraud easy (and nearly undetectable). Congressional districts are gerrymandered to guarantee that one party always wins."
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 3, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, May 2005
Further examination of themes in "Civil Disobedience", including unjust laws, politicians and reformers, voting, when to resist the state and the influence on Gandhi
"To men who prefer a safe strategy, voting becomes a substitute for action and politics becomes a sort of game, like checkers or backgammon, only with a slight moral tinge. ... Moreover, Thoreau considers voting to be a poor vehicle for reform because voting follows real change; it does not precede or cause it. 'When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery,' he writes, 'it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote.'"
Lysander & Limited Government, by Fred D. Miller, Jr., Reason, May 1976
Argues that Spooner, although critical of the government instituted by the U.S. Constitution, was in favor of a legitimate, limited government, i.e., one that is voluntarily financed
"Since all voting is by secret ballot, an individual cannot identify those other individuals who selected as their representatives the legislators and the executive whom he is supposed to obey. Therefore, he can have no agreement with them. ... Since those who vote for higher taxes, repressive laws, and welfare-warfare benefits never identify themselves, they are nothing but 'a secret band of robbers and murderers.' Spooner's objection to majority-rule democracy by the secret ballot is fundamentally a moral one."
"Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss", by Sheldon Richman, 11 Jan 2008
Examines politics and explains why politicians cannot be expected to lead the way to liberty
"Note the dominant themes in the current campaign: hope, change, experience, straight talk. ... These terms, and there are others, are not meant to inform. They are meant to seduce. Unfortunately, most voters are waiting to be seduced -- by a sound bite, a smile, a possible tear in the eye. ... voters have every incentive to select candidates according to their own pre-rational prejudices ..."
Related Topic: Politics
Mexico's Advanced Auction on Stolen Goods, by Christopher Westley, Mises Daily, 10 Jul 2006
"Squeaky clean elections, if they ever take place, are unlikely to change the eventual results of corrupt ones. Perhaps this has always been the case, although it surely didn't matter in previous decades ... when executive powers were more restrained, making the president irrelevant to the average person."
Related Topics: Mexico, Free Trade
Misguided Democracy, by George C. Leef, Future of Freedom, Mar 2006
A review of Attention Deficit Democracy by James Bovard
"Attention deficit democracy is aggravated by the fact that most political elections are noncompetitive, owing to careful gerrymandering of districts. In the U.S. House, only about 30 out of 435 districts are truly competitive. The politicians have picked the voters they want, rather than the other way around."
Related Topics: Democracy, James Bovard
The battle to make America wet again, by Nicholas A. Snow, 8 Mar 2017
Recounts how the 18th Amendment and National Prohibition Act were repealed, particularly through the efforts of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR)
"First, voters have little incentive to educate themselves about government policies. This 'rational ignorance' occurs because, for most people, the cost of being well informed greatly exceeds the benefits. ... Second, the errors made by ignorant voters are not random and therefore don't simply cancel each other out. Instead, voters' beliefs are skewed by systematic cognitive and ideological biases. And making matters worse, the cost of indulging such biases is often extremely low, with the result that even simple, easily verifiable facts often fail to persuade the voting public."
The Case For a Libertarian Political Party, by David F. Nolan, The Individualist, Aug 1971
A few months before the founding of the Libertarian Party, Nolan presents his rationale for establishing a new political party, after discussing four other libertarian activist strategies and admitting that "political approaches are inherently coercive"
"A truly libertarian party would draw support both from ... 'leftist' groups ... and from 'rightist' groups ... This would increase the political impact of the libertarian 'movement', as 'leftist' and 'rightist' libertarians now usually wind up voting so as to cancel each other (when they vote at all). Furthermore, libertarian votes now get lumped in with 'liberal' and 'conservative' votes, whereas the votes received by a libertarian party would not be hidden in this manner."
The Political Sterility of Jon Stewart, by Sheldon Richman, 7 Nov 2014
Highlights the dearth of poltical satire, as evidenced by Jon Stewart's backtracking on his answers about voting and earlier comment about Harry Truman
"That would have been satire. But it also would have struck too deep at America's civic religion, which holds that trudging faithfully to the polls every few years is the be-all and end-all of freedom. ... What I wouldn't give to see Americans react to Emma Goldman saying on television, 'If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.' No doubt she'd be burned at the stake."
Related Topic: Humor
The Rocky Road of American Taxation, by Charles W. Adams, Mises Daily, 15 Apr 2006
Adapted from the author's For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization
"In 1787 ... The requirement that all voters be taxpayers was not in the new constitution; it was a matter of custom not only in the colonies but in Europe as well. ... no one should have a voice in how the government's money is spent who is not a contributor. Conversely, if a taxpayer is not a voter, the process of 'consent' is undermined."
We Aren't Children, by Sheldon Richman, Nov 2001
Discusses the freedom implications of three recent alcohol regulations in the state of Arkansas
"Voting does not sanctify tyranny. And speaking of voting, if we grownup Americans are so incompetent when it comes to making decisions about alcohol, why does anyone expect us to vote for the best people to hold political office? Either we are adults capable of regulating our lives or we are children. Make up your minds."
Related Topics: Prohibition, Arkansas
Why Limited Representative Government Fails, by Michael S. Rozeff, 17 Apr 2008
Presents a four-element theory of why limited representative government fails
"... those whom we elect have a bias toward using and expanding government, while we have a tendency to accept the government we grow up with ... Voting plays a part in this acceptance. By voting, we can maintain the fiction that we are in control over the government. We can imagine that government is limited. We can view the voting cum government as a species of self-government, rather than the imitation that it is."
Will the Democrats Become Part of the Problem?, by Paul Craig Roberts, 10 Nov 2006
Discusses the outcome of the 2006 U.S. mid-term elections and offers recommendations primarily for congressional Democrats
"Schneider reports that voters did not even know the name of the Democrats for whom they voted. ... I believe that voters recognized that the peril of one-party rule is that political accountability exists nowhere except at the ballot box. With the Republican-built and -programmed electronic voting machines, even accountability at the ballot box was disappearing. Americans realized that they had made a serious mistake giving power to one party, and they rectified it."

Cartoons and Comic Strips

And Now For the Only Vote that Counts, by Tom Toles, The Washington Post, 16 Aug 2004
As the alien ship passes earth on its quadrennial voyage ..., by Willey Miller, Non Sequitur, 17 May 2015
Burt's Early Voting Opt-out System, by Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur, 5 May 2015
Electronic Election, by Mark Fiore, 7 Jul 2004
Faith will be playing a bigger role in this year's election, by Tom Toles, The Washington Post, 20 Oct 2004
Here's a story about McCain and Hillary reaching out to "Values Voters"!, by Chuck Asay, 19 May 2006
In the beginning, people picked candidates by where they stood on the issues, by Ted Rall, 21 Jan 2008
In the future, the people will complain all year about a corrupt congress, mired in stagnation ..., by Parker and Hart, The Wizard of Id, 3 Nov 2014
Voter fraud, by Tom Thaves, 10 Aug 2016
We won a contract to write software for voting machines, by Scott Adams, Dilbert, 1 May 2016


Attention Deficit Democracy, by James Bovard, 10 Jan 2006
Electronic text of Introduction available at
"Americans are supposed to sit back, confident that voting cures all political evils – as if the process for selecting rulers vaccinated the political system from harm. People are told that as long as they can cast a ballot, they will be safe. In a democracy, people are led to believe that they can easily apply the brakes to government, no matter how unstoppable it becomes."
Related Topics: Democracy, George W. Bush


Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early, 2008

George Carlin Doesn't vote, by George Carlin
A classic Carlin tirade
How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election, Today Now!, 2008

Message to the Voting Cattle, by Larken Rose
A most powerful message, based on the novel The Iron Web, read by the author