An American’s Belated Thanks

In this belated Thanksgiving post, I’d like to express my appreciation of the rights we still have in America. That is not to say that they come from the government, because I believe that freedom is part of the birthright of all human beings everywhere. Still, to the degree that I don’t need to fear incarceration for speaking my mind, for defending myself and my family, and for refusing arbitrary searches, I’m grateful to the stubborn pro-freedom heritage of my people.

We libertarians sometimes forget that there are a lot of countries that are more stupid and despotic than ours. Though there are certainly several nations with a freer press and better protections against the police, the vast majority are worse. Even those countries with close ties to America, with traits we admire such as sensible policies regarding drugs and sex, are often plagued with idiotic “hate speech” laws. For all that Americans can be smeared, demonized and boycotted for expressing an unpopular opinion – think Donald Sterling, Paula Deen and the Duck Dynasty family – you can’t be fined or arrested, as you could in many European countries, even the UK.

Nor can we be punished for questioning or mocking religion, as in most Muslim-majority countries, or for openly practicing or discussing gay lifestyles, as in Russia. Though the US government has put enormous pressure on whistle blower sites such as Wikileaks, our Internet is not (yet) censored, as in China. In many places, a person can be arrested for questioning the official accounts of the Nazi Holocaust. Personally, I have no desire to deny such atrocities; people who do so are delusional. Yet such laws provide unintentional motivation for neo-Nazis, and can easily chill honest scholarship, in much the same way that Turkey’s laws against defaming the nation prevent people from discussing the Armenian genocide.

Unlike many nations, the US does not have a military draft, and we should be very thankful for that. Conscription is truly a form of slavery that allows governments to pursue aggressive wars despite public opposition, forcing young people to kill and be killed. Even Switzerland, one of the most relatively free countries on Earth, forces its male citizens to be part of its military reserve – though due to that country’s enlightened political neutrality, the mandate is not nearly as onerous as it could be.

Finally, though the police in America can certainly be oppressive and abusive, they have not yet reached the level of corruption as in Mexico and many other places. We’re not yet to the point where a group of college students protesting peacefully could be abducted and murdered en masse. Though Mexico still has its good points, the government’s draconian gun laws are a great atrocity that has, in part, allowed the drug cartels to run roughshod over the people.

As Americans we must appreciate the rights we have left, and use them on every possible occasion. We should not censor ourselves out of fear; we should aggressively defend our ability to speak out. If a “state of emergency” is ever declared, we may be among the first to be detained, but the risk is worth it.


Why I’m Not Voting in This Election

I cast my first vote at the age of 19. Since then I’ve participated in every significant election, both Presidential and mid-term. I once ran (unsuccessfully) for the Arizona State Legislature. I’ve given money to campaigns and I spent two years as the secretary of the Arizona Libertarian Party. As of now, I’m done with all that, and here’s why.

There’s no significant difference between major-party candidates. Though their rhetoric may differ, once in office they do the same thing as their predecessors. Barack Obama could have ended the wars, vetoed extensions of the so-called Patriot Act, closed Guantanamo and ended NSA spying, but he didn’t. In many ways, his administration was worse than that of George W Bush.

Third parties are locked out. The only candidates who advocate real change are in alternative parties such as Libertarian and Green, but the powers that be put huge hurdles against them getting on the ballot. Including these extra candidates would “confuse the voters,” the politicians say, as if we’re children. Third parties spend all their meager funds collecting signatures to achieve ballot access. If they do get on, the corporate media treat their candidates like a joke, or more commonly ignore them completely.

The system – both the media and the party hierarchy – discriminates against those who work for real change. Congressman Ron Paul tried for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012 against incredible odds. He was immensely popular, yet the pundits dismissed his successes in the primaries as flukes, or failed to report them at all. The party apparatchiks rigged convention rules to prevent Paul’s representatives from speaking or even being seated.

Voting machines enable fraud, which I suspect is widespread. Many jurisdictions use machines manufactured by companies such as Diebold. The software on this devices is secret and there is no audit trail. Machines are in the custody of party hacks who have the ability to change the votes. This almost certainly happened when John Kerry lost Ohio to Bush in 2004, yet no charges were ever filed.

If the people don’t vote the way the elite want, they keep bringing the issue back until they do. Initiatives and referenda are a powerful tool for democracy, ye the system prevents them from working. Here in Arizona, the public turned down boondoggles for riverside development and public transit, but both projects were repackaged and approved years later. If, on the other hand, a measure threatens the system, such as an initiative we had years ago to repeal the state income tax, it is subject to close scrutiny and “disqualified.”

Although big money dominance of the elections is a problem, campaign finance reform won’t work. Campaign laws are most often used against the little guy, or anyone who challenges the status quo. Congressman George Hansen of Idaho, an outspoken opponent of the IRS, was convicted in 1984 of irregularities in his filings and spent 15 months in Federal prison, enduring unspeakably brutal treatment. Personally, I believe campaign finance restrictions to be an unconstitutional limitation on free speech. Some kind of disclosure requirement might be helpful, but I don’t expect the wealthy 1% would ever be held accountable.

Voting in 21st Century America is a waste of time and a distraction from the real issues. It’s time that would be much better spent researching government wrongdoing, finding ways to safeguard our privacy and beat the system, or engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. In the words of Emma Goldman, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”