Choosing the Evil of Two Lessers
For a group of people who reject political power and even the state itself, libertarians sure seem to care a lot about the election. In the past few months, there's even been a kind of desperation in libertarian circles to find something, anything that could vaguely connect one of the candidates to a philosophy of liberty or economic sanity. The leaps of logic required to make these endorsements defy all attempt at parody: warmongers, democratic socialists, and economic and human protectionists have by turns been suggested as the most viable options for libertarians.
Of course, endorsements are always qualified. "I know X isn't really a libertarian, but at least he promises that someday, maybe, his government will advance the cause of liberty on one margin."
These qualifications are little more than carte blanche for politicians. In the next four years, corpses will be piled high on phrases like, "but at least he's good on this one issue!"
What is truly astounding though is that many libertarians already know this, but continue to actively and passively give their support to the political process anyway. Conservatives and liberals either don't know or don't care about the human and economic costs of their policies. But libertarians do know and do care. Yet they persist in rationalizing the choice between the lesser of two evils. Or rather, the evil of two lessers.
The true choice is not between political candidates, but between the political system and a free society. Playing the political game lends a kind of dignity and credibility to it, and encourages people to forget more radical forms of dissent. Choosing a candidate amounts to tacit endorsement of a system that functions specifically to eliminate choice and prevent true progress.
Bob Higgs puts it beautifully:
I will not endorse any of the candidates seeking the Republican or Democratic Party nominations for election to the presidency nor any of those seeking a nomination by the minor parties nor any of those seeking nomination for election to lesser offices. Indeed, I will not endorse the election itself. Finally, I will not endorse the continued existence of the nation-state over which these aspirants seek to preside. Enough is enough. I will not give my endorsement to politics as usual, a process by which competing parties seek to gain control of the state’s powers in order to plunder and bully the people at large for the sake of their principal supporters.
Oh that all other people would join me in withdrawing their endorsement—indeed, their acquiescence and endurance. Decent people ought to flee the whole diabolical process, leaving only those who are criminally inclined to assault their fellow human beings to go to war exclusively against one another without sacrificing the bodies, souls, and wealth of innocent parties.
Building a freer society means winning the battle of ideas, not the empty contests put on by the central government every four years. Freedom is never obtained by endorsing the least offensive applicant for the position of chief villain.