To effect change, we must work within the systems that exist and support individuals who can affect the change I want to see. As a libertarian anarchist, I believe in the decentralisation of political and economic power and the minimisation, and eventual elimination, of the state. This is why I’m a member of the Conservative Party and work in right wing political circles, as I see these movements as the best way of minimising the state and developing a truly free market. This is also why I’ll be voting for my local conservative candidate, as he believes in localisation and a smaller state. The more candidates of this type that can be elected means the more libertarian principles can be instituted in the country and even the world. However this doesn’t mean I simply follow party propaganda or am in anyway a fan of all Conservative Party policies. On the contrary, I hold my own ideas that I regularly vocalise in political circles, and I am very critical of the current Conservative leadership, who have racked up debt, maintained corporatist policies, centralised healthcare, started new wars and expanded state spying and infiltration of UK citizens. However, within the Conservative Party, there are many who have ideas similar to mine, both at the grassroots and in parliament, with great MPs such as Bill Cash, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker, Owen Paterson, John Redwood and Zac Goldsmith (to name a few) who represent policies and ideas that support liberty and free markets. These are the Conservatives that I identify with and that libertarians and anarcho-capitalists should support, as they are pushing against the state and in favour of economic freedom.
However, there are Conservative MPs who have a corporatist, state-centric view of society, supporting measures such as the living wage and continued membership of the European Union. This political ideology is found mainly within the Conservative government and loyal backbench MPs. Thus in the case of these MPs, I would advocate voting for a more libertarian alternative. The main alternative that comes to mind is UKIP, who have a large cadre of libertarian(ish) candidates, such as Douglas Carswell and Tim Aker, and libertarian policies, such as lower tax rates and the bringing back of some gun rights in Britain. Further, they recognise issues, like the destruction of working class communities all across the UK, the casualisation of employment and wealth inequality, that many libertarians fail to recognise as serious socio-economic problems. By supporting some candidates from UKIP who hold such values, I believe libertarian principles can be pushed through more effectively, turning the tide against the current statist political paradigm.
Overall, I believe that voting can influence change in the direction libertarians and anarcho-capitalists want to see. Whether that be voting for the Conservatives or UKIP is irrelevant, so long as principles of economic freedom and equality of opportunity are believed in by those candidates. However, if we don’t vote, or vote tactically and without principle, we cannot possibly push such ideas and policies into parliament, leaving them in the minds of backbench politicians and non-voting libertarians who cannot affect serious change. As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t complain if you don’t vote’ which to some extent is true. We can all as libertarians and anarchists sit and complain and create plans that have no impact outside our living rooms and internet forums. But we can also use our vote to push forward libertarian principles that fight back against the interests of big business and big government. Because of this, I will be voting, using my vote for a candidate who believes in the individual, not the state.
7 thoughts on “Why, As a Libertarian Anarchist, I Vote”
I just discovered this old post and would love to discuss it as voting strategy is something I ponder often. I have unusual views for a libertarian as I usually vote towards the left. My current strategy is roughly (1) to vote for localist parties if available and I’m in a safe seat, (2) if no localist parties are available to vote Green, (3) if in a marginal to vote towards the left (although Tim Farron’s anti-democratic leading policy to ignore the referendum has made a Lib Dem vote untenable for me). My reason for leaning left is an aim to alleviate poverty. I would like to do so with the party that least seeks to expand the power of the state. Labour are too authoritarian whereas the Green Party have localism as a core value.
I don’t think any voting will do libertarian anarchism much good so my interest is in trying to improve things a little within the current dreadful system without doing too much bad in the process. I would love to vote for a party that is seeking Carson’s reforms (https://c4ss.org/content/23685); end the credit, land and IP monopolies, eliminate barriers to self-employment, stop inflating the cost of living and go for the shackles before the crutches.
My concern with voting in the more libertarian Conservatives or UKIP candidates is that their reduction of state intervention will go for the crutches before the shackles, or the secondary interventions before the primary interventions in Carson’s terms, and leave the poor struggling. I also think a Thatcherite privatisation of industries doesn’t really cause any reduction in state power as the corporations running things will only continue to exist at such large scale because of state power, whereas nationalisation may make it mildly easier to destatize these properties later (according to Rothbard at least: https://invisiblemolotov.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/ma1.pdf).
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts as I don’t think I’m necessary correct in any of this logic. The only British libertarians I see discussing things online seem very unsympathetic to the poor and often idolising of the rich as you talked about in your more recent post so I don’t think many of my concerns are shared by them, so I’m in a vacuum in my thinking about this. Sometimes I think the voluntaryists have it right and I shouldn’t bother voting anyway, but there’s something about trying to solve this puzzle that intrigues me…
I’m also interested in the idea that the right is the area of mainstream politics that is most susceptible to libertarian influence. In my circles the Tories are evil and Thatcher was the antichrist so I am perhaps discussing this to challenge any prejudices I may have formed. Another issue I have with the right is their militancy against trade unions – voluntary groups of co-operating workers that provide some needed balance against the co-operation of capitalist employers, IMO. But I shall stop there…
The strategy that you go for when voting seems an interesting one. I take a similar line, generally voting in local elections for a good localist party. Sometimes that’s TUSC, or the Greens, or even UKIP as their localist manifesto is quite good.
Where I disagree is that the libertarians that are within UKIP and the Conservatives are attacking the crutches before the shackles. I think that may be true for fake libertarians at the ASI or the Centre for Policy Studies who stupidly conflate libertarianism for Thatcherism, yet many for example within UKIP or at the IEA are much more understanding of the corporate statism in which we currently live. Thus they advocate both significant deregulation of all economic sectors, as well as welfare reform that mimics the cooperative and friendly which were destroyed by the welfare state. Some proposals for a basic income that come from more “right” libertarians have elements of friendly society-type implementation.
In terms of nationalisation as a policy toward libertarian goals of a freed market, I’m just not convinced. There will be no takeover of the state by well-meaning libertarians of any stripe thus relying on nationalisation just seems like a pipe dream. Let’s be honest, the economy isn’t desocialised in any way as the state still has huge control in most areas of the economy.
My personal belief is that a two-way strategy needs to be taken of economic and political secession through agorist and autonomist ways on the one hand, and an intelligent political strategy of localist politics and some national political engagement on the other that can erode bad legislation and influence libertarian social movements.
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There can’t be many Conservative Party members who would consider voting for TUSC! Do you think it is feasible to move Conservative policy in a more libertarian direction at membership level?
I had a good look at the IEA and a lot of what they said makes sense. The Paragon Initiative seems quite exciting. I’m still nervous though by not going as far as advocating against the primary interventions, the deregulation and welfare reforms might hurt workers to an extent that tax cuts won’t mitigate against. And I’m weighing up my thoughts on their attitudes to trade unions, and their praise of Uber on the front page – although their suggestions that unions reinvent themselves as mutual aid/friendlies to regain relevance is intriguing.
I suppose a central part of my dilemma is the fact that it would be far more comfortable to me not to cut centre-left benefits for workers at all until unfair advantage for big business and government have been completely dealt with. That is obviously unrealistic, but to tackle both at the same time makes me nervous about the proletariat ending up worse off than they were. So then it comes down to a question of either trying to nudge governments in a libertarian direction now, or just using electoral politics to nudge towards the centre-left and hold it there (the only libertarian concession being to try and choose the left-wing party that will grow state power the least) whilst using education, direct action, agorism etc. to prepare the ground for a libertarian society. I think this question is at the heart of my confusion and difference with other libertarians!
Out of interest, how would you vote in a general election where there are no candidates with libertarian/individualist values and you just have to go by party? The choices in my constituency at the last one were a very loyal Tory backbencher, Lib Dem, Labour, a UKIP candidate who appears to be a racist homophobe with no clear philosophies, Green, National Health Action or the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It was a Conservative/Lib Dem marginal. I voted Lib Dem to try and nudge government towards the left.
Chasing proper libertarianism in the Conservative Party would be a waste of time. Where they have libertarian candidates and members, we as libertarians should support them, but otherwise I don’t really care for the party itself.
Coming back to the primary intervention/secondary intervention issue, I think chipping away at both is the best strategy. I hold no sentimentality toward the welfare state, and I think it fosters nonsensical individualisation as well as destroying forms of community capital (such as those friendly societies which existed before the welfare state). It also creates divisions between settled and immigrant communities due to (both founded and unfounded) beliefs about immigrants abusing the welfare state.
In the end I think it comes down to voting for candidates (irrelevant of party) who genuinely push a message of liberty, whether that be from the left or the right. So in a general election, if there were no candidates that were in any way libertarian I probably wouldn’t vote.
If you want, I’d be very greatful if you could write an essay on this topic which collates your thoughts so I can publish it here.
Oh, I also meant to ask – you said many in UKIP are ‘much more understanding of the corporate statism in which we currently live’ – are there any names or blogs you could point me towards? Or are you referring to Carswell and Aker, as you mentioned in your post?
Carswell and Aker are the most obvious examples. Farage has also called out subsidies to foreign companies, as well as opposing TTIP as a corporatist trade agreement that leads to regulatory harmonisation.
[…] Chris Shaw has advocated supporting candidates with libertarian principles, such as Steve Baker and Douglas Carswell. Unless the (right-)Libertarian Party fields candidates, you are probably looking at the Conservative Party or UKIP. It would be very hard for me to swallow voting for these parties, but I have given it serious thought in this circumstance – and rejected the idea. Right-wing parties by definition support the continuation of economic inequality. The economic liberalism and ‘free market’ these parties advocate is newspeak, for they advocate the continuation of an unfree market, as I illustrate below: […]