Claim: Voting is Aggression


The assertion is made that voting (in state elections), and of any kind, is aggression.


Two arguments have been made to back this assertion:

1. People are extorted to pay for counting the votes (and for the buildings and other infrastructure, etc.), therefore when you vote you impose a cost and commit extortion by proxy.

This doesn't work because it's not the voter doing the extorting. Even if you claim it's a known result (i.e., that humans are automatons and cannot make their own decisions—as if voting were pulling the trigger of a virtual gun and nobody had any options or acted on volition after the Great Event occurred), it wouldn't apply to any voter who had themselves been extorted for more than their "share" of the amortized cost, which likely wouldn't be very much. 2. Voting is supporting "the state" (even heard this for voting against a tax increase), and cheerleading is violence.

The terms "providing political capital" or "believing in the state" have also been used. More interestingly, this "support"—which is agreed and stipulated to not include money but just a tick in a box in support for some initiative or would-be ruler—has been compared to paying an assassin to kill someone. The differences are clear: a tick in a box isn't payment; it's the payment that incentivizes that assassin (and perhaps reduces his risk by allowing him to provide tools to kill and escape without detection), and that ticking a box has no obvious victim (more about which later). Another comparison has been made to the Roman circuses: if there were no crowds, it is asserted, there would be no state-sanctioned (what amounted to) murder of slaves. This may be true, but on the other hand many niche markets exist and a small audience may have sufficed; it is not important. What is important is that the crowds aren't doing any violence (and let's stipulate they didn't pay any money), just "supporting" it, which is not to direct or cause the harm themselves.

A few thought experiments assist in examination of the situation:

Let us suppose there is a vote across many districts, and votes from each are collected to be counted in a central location. It is asserted by the makers of this fallacy that voting is aggression, so when the votes have been cast the aggression has been committed. Suppose also the votes from one particular district were lost irretrievably, but the election continued anyway (either a decision to continue without them or they weren't missed). Since these votes cannot possibly now influence the result, does the act of voting in that district, previously ruled aggression, now no longer count as aggression? Or is it considered "support" of the state regardless, just as like someone cheering a presidential motorcade coming down the street? It's hard to call expressing an opinion a form of aggression.

A town's rulers decide to hold a vote on killing all of the gingers in the town. The result is 99% in favor, but the town's enforcers refuse to carry out the decision, the rulers come to their senses, and regret the attempt, and the gingers are spared. Since whether anyone was harmed depended entirely on the action of the enforcers, who had free will to do harm or not, how can it be said that the vote caused any violence, even if the enforcers had gone through with it?

Consider the just response to the "aggression" of voting. What sort of retributive justice is owed back? To "vote back" at the voter? There might be some sort of equivalence (cf. if a thief steals a painting and owns no paintings of his own, you can't steal a painting from him, but could take equivalent value), but what is it? Same question for making restitution: who was harmed, and what restitution needs to be made to them? Some would say the victims of the state are harmed, and they are—but not by the voter!

if I wrote down "no rape" on a piece of paper meant to be read by somebody considering whether he should or shouldn't rape somebody, is that supporting rape? While it doesn't change the above very much, it makes sense to differentiate between: voting against a harmful initiative (like a tax increase) (or equivalently for reduction in violence), voting for harm, and voting for a ruler, although none are harm in themselves.

Voting is usually a waste of time, to be sure; do not consider this endorsement. But it is not a violation of the Non Aggression Principle. - DBR

Voting may be immoral, and may be bad strategy and tactics for anarchists, but since voting (in any large-scale election) is futile (unlikely to make any difference in the outcome), it does not sink to the threshold level of aggression. That said, there are many good reasons not to beg your rulers by voting. [HB]

See Also:

Reasons Not to Vote
Why I Would Not Vote Against Hitler by Wendy McElroy
The Ethics of Voting by George H. Smith
Voting is Consent