Do you remember the time the slaves banded together to beg their masters for freedom and they succeeded? Or the time the Jews pleaded with the Pharaoh to let them free and they were successful? Or that time the American colonists asked their British overlords for independence and their wishes were granted? Or the time the prisoners of the Barbary Empire voted for their captors to set them free and they emerged victorious?
Such events never happened, and it’s easy to understand that such scenarios are silly. Sadly, many of the loudest voices for freedom believe that doing the same thing here in the United States–asking our masters to voluntarily cede their power–is the only way of achieving liberty. They believe that if you just vote for the right people, all of our problems will be solved!
Libertarian philosopher Lysander Spooner once said, “A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.” To vote for a man is to give him authority over you in hopes that he will one day voluntarily relinquish that authority. It is to accept captivity so long as he is benevolent.
You are a free, beautiful, and independent human being. Nobody owns you; you own yourself. Harriet Tubman recognized this universal truth, and instead of sitting around waiting for slavery to be voted away, she brought hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Instead of voting for permission to sit in the front of the bus, Rosa Parks recognized that she was a free human being and sat there anyway. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t sit around waiting for the British Salt Acts to be repealed either. Instead, he recognized that he was a free human being with self-ownership and decided to produce salt himself, without the king’s permission.
Imagine how wildly different history may look if these individuals sought to effect change through politics rather than action. What if Martin Luther King Jr. sat around every four years hoping to vote in a President who would bring racial equality instead of marching on Washington with millions of passionate voices? What if Jesus became a Jewish high priest instead of disobeying Jewish law and taking His message to the streets? And what if Raoul Wallenberg tried to vote away the Holocaust instead of saving 100,000 Jews from captivity?
It’s encouraging to see many of the youth becoming passionate about individual rights and optimistic about creating a better future. Yet it is at the same time disappointing that many see politics as the only avenue towards freedom. As H.L. Mencken once famously wrote, “I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.” When even Ron Paul was unsuccessful in effecting any change politically, Mencken’s statement rings true.
Imagine if all the millions of Americans that can’t wait to cast a vote next year took the Rosa Parks route instead. What if all of the libertarians enthusiastic about ending the Federal Reserve started using Bitcoin and silver instead of sitting around every four years hoping the Federal Reserve will be voted away? What if all of the conservatives that want to eliminate the minimum wage start paying employees under the table instead of eagerly fighting to vote it away? What if all of the liberals that want control over their bodies start smoking marijuana instead of waiting for drug prohibition to be voted away? And what if all of the veterans looking for a cure to their PTSD started using MDMA instead of sitting around waiting for politicians to give them permission to use drugs that don’t have suicide listed as a side effect?
While politics may be an important tool for those who are introduced to the ideas of freedom, it will never be the solution to attaining freedom. Politics is antithetical to freedom, since you are conceding that you require a master. Thomas Jefferson recognized as early as 1810 that the American Republic was an utter failure, and Americans have been trying to vote back their freedom ever since. It should be of no surprise that all attempts to vote back freedom have failed.
You will never be able to vote yourself freedom. Freedom does not come from permission. Stop wasting your time trying to lengthen the master’s leash around your neck and seek to remove the leash instead. Freedom will be won when you take control of your life and start living free. Freedom comes from recognizing that you are a free, beautiful, and independent human being. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
Author’s update, January 2016: I no longer believe politics is entirely a waste of time. After considering Jeff Deist’s article titled Four Ways to Build a Free Society, I now believe that politics can and will play an integral part in moving us towards a free society. Incrementalism, especially at the local level, is a completely legitimate and worthy tool that libertarians should utilize to push back on the state’s aggression. However we should assess what tools to use based on a prudent cost-benefit analysis.