Much as I may disagree with the portion of libertarians voting for Obama (some of whom may well be at our non-partisan Lolita Bar event tomorrow, with a strange, unwarranted, and unusual air of victory about them), I do at least find it interesting to see a group of ideologues who are all ostensibly on the same philosophical page contort themselves such that they come up with completely different voting strategies.
It’s also valuable for the (evil) major political parties to take note of where the free-market vote goes (and for me, a libertarian vote means, primarily, a free-market vote, which may in itself be an unspoken point of disagreement between me and some libertarians). That’s why I am frustrated by libertarians who refuse to vote, “on principle.”
•They want to make a statement — as do we all — but are really just getting themselves written off by all factions, which accomplishes nothing.
•They are wrong to think the government will somehow suffer a crisis of legitimacy if only a small fraction of people vote. Statistically, non-voters tend to be the most apathetic members of the populace, so politicians will essentially just keep appealing to the people who care enough to be likely voters and assume the rest of the herd is sufficiently content not to be a threat.
•The ones who simply make the “rational” calculation that their one vote won’t make the difference anyway are not Kantian enough. That’s right, I said it — they need to be more like Immanuel Kant, what are you going to do about it? Kant, rightly regarded by sane people as a high point of classical liberalism, reminded readers that their actions might always, in principle, serve as a model for others’ actions — and the last thing America needs is free-marketeers imitating other free-marketeers in dropping off the voter rolls. Better the greens should start believing this argument than my fellow market fans. One of us, indeed, does not make a difference. Let this form of principled non-voting spread and thereby remove more and more free-marketeers from the polls, though, and you’ve just handed victory to the statist voters. Dumbass.
•That said, I do not object to libertarians who accept voting in principle and even see a (rule-utilitarian rather than strictly deontological, for those keeping score) case for regarding voting as something akin to a duty but, for any number of reasons, just think that a given year is not one in which it’s worth the effort, that is, if you genuinely think (a) all the candidates are too horrible this time to bother splitting hairs about which are least-bad, (b) you really do have urgent personal business that makes this largely-symbolic gesture a costly hole in your schedule, or (c) you just can’t decide and think it would be an act of blind ignorance to pick someone for the sake of picking someone, at least this time. Non-voting as an occasional non-default option doesn’t trouble me as much as complete withdrawal from the process.
As for me, I think Republicans have a bad enough standard-bearer this time around that there may be greater long-term value, this time around, in trying to boost the “Libertarian option” signal by casting my vote for Bob Barr — as I will in about a half hour here on the Upper East Side — but some of my favorite people are picking other options on this historic day (Obama, McCain, enthusiastically not-voting, reluctantly not-voting [possibly due to Ron Paul not being on the ballot], and maybe one or two even voting for Chuck Baldwin [again, due to Ron Paul not being on the ballot] — heck, I may even know a Green or two voting for Cynthia McKinney).
I wish Obama had not made that choice harder than I expected by giving such disturbing hints of being an arrogant, inexperienced, Biden-liking stealth-leftist. But I cannot say with confidence things would be radically improved under the Repbulican candidate — and I should be able to say that. Until I can, I will vote Libertarian. (And at the local level, sometimes Republican — in New York City, voting Republican is almost as quixotic a protest vote as voting Libertarian.)