by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief
Political apologists think so slowly that they do not use a real-time theory of consent. Their idea of consent is consequentialist: they force, imprison or threaten you, then, when you do as they say or allow, they call it consent. They admit that not everyone consented to be taxed for and give government control of roads, schools, the mint, defence, etc. However, they claim that this initial use or threat of force is excusable and even consequently non-existent, because the same people are now eligible to use what their money went towards and almost always do use government roads, etc. Therefore, political apologists say, it is as if everyone consented anyway.
This theory faces one less problem when people are alive because political apologists can continually appeal to their use of government roads, etc. as proof that they now do “consent” — “use” would be a more accurate word — to what they might not have initially. But when a person dies before showing this consequentialist consent, it becomes obvious that consequentialist consent is oxymoronic.
Here is a classic joke on consequentialist reasoning, as told by Max Miller:
I took her to a cabaret one night and we sat down and the waitress said, “Do you want food?” And I said, “Is there anything else?” She said, “There’s à la carte roast beef Max Miller.” I said, “Why do you call it à la carte roast beef Max Miller?” She said, “It’s a bit near the knuckle.” … Well, after we’d eaten, the manager gave me the bill, four pounds ten. I said, “This is wrong, four pounds ten, it should only be two pounds.” I said, “What’s the two pounds for?” He said, “That’s for the use of the cruet [which I think refers to a container for drinks or condiments].” I said, “I never used the cruet.” He said, “It was there if you wanted to.” So I gave him two pounds. He said, “What about the other two pounds ten?” I said, “That’s for kissing my wife.” He said, “I never kissed your wife.” I said, “She was there if you wanted to.”1
If you think that’s funny, then you’re a libertarian.
It is true that on the free market if a contract is unfulfilled when a party to it dies, then the deceased estate must still fulfil its obligation and be held liable. But this contract on the free market was agreed upon voluntarily, whereas with government the citizen is not given a choice to begin with, and so there was no consent.
Consequentialist justification is now granted the respect of a thoroughgoing political philosophy. But it should not be surprising that this after-the-fact justification was not a founding argument, and only came into being after-the-fact. As Nietzsche said:
All things that live long are gradually so saturated with reason that their origin in unreason thereby becomes improbable. Does not every precise history of an origination impress our feelings as paradoxical and wantonly offensive? Does the good historian not, at bottom, constantly contradict?2
Similarly, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann stated:
It is correct to say that theories are concocted in order to legitimate already existing social institutions.3
We should not wonder that the results of some of these theories are quite ridiculous. This example, of political apologists refusing to get the consent of those involved and then defending their actions because people “consent” now, would have to be one of the most disgraceful.
The libertarian argument and tone presented above is typically short-sighted and impatient; libertarians often give up on government without sufficiently considering reform options. No one need be excluded from politics just because they’re dead. Sure, the current system doesn’t allow it, but we need not scrap the system when we can change it.
If you ask someone whom they respect most it is almost always a dead person. Why, then, are we not allowed to cast our vote for a dead person? It is true that a living candidate may claim to perpetuate the spirit of one dead fellow or another, but why take such a tortuous route?
In a true democracy people would be able to follow the ideas of dead people, whether or not they are on the ballot — after all, it would be unreasonable to print a ballot that has the names of everyone who is or was alive. If you want a Christian government, then one wonders whether George Bush, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott or Jesus would be a better candidate. If you want a government of the Founding Fathers, then you should be able to vote for them. Artemus Ward led by example:
At a special Congressional ‘lection in my district the other dey I delib’ritly voted for Henry Clay. I admit that Henry is dead, but inasmuch as we don’t seem to have a live statesman in our National Congress, let us by all means have a first-class corpse.4
The main objection to this is that if the rulers are dead they will not be able to enforce their rule. This objection doesn’t get anywhere, because it is equally applicable when the ruler is alive. The people are always a superior force to the government, except over a small period of time; otherwise there would be very little incentive or ability to govern. No one can rule without public opinion sufficiently on their side, as the likes of La Boétie, Hume, LeBon, Nock, Mises and others have made clear (this is not the place to further discuss it).
But suppose it is true that a dead ruler could not enforce his rule — that would not be an objection; it would be a campaign slogan.
At current there is no consistency in the matter and the votes of some dead people do count. If someone votes and then dies partway during the term in which their vote is considered valid, then it is not invalidated or retracted. Why are only some dead people allowed to have their votes respected? This is hardly democratic. Chesterton agreed:
Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to people being disqualified by the accident of birth; traditions objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.5
This proposal for electoral reform makes a mockery of the widespread claims that we currently have freedom of choice and universal suffrage. So those who do not allow dead people to be elected should be punished; they have no right to limit people’s right to choose over what is justly theirs. They are cheating death.
There is so much demand for dead politicians that black markets have formed. Electing them is one example, assassinating them another. I will comment on each in turn.
Despite the legislative obstacles to it lasting there have recently been quite a few examples of dead people not only running for office, but winning it; for example: Marie Steichen, Mel Carnahan, Helen Jesila and Katherine Dunton. (My research for this consists solely of a web search, so before news items were put on the web there were probably many instances as well.)
Assassinating politicians by those within their electorate is equivalent to lobbying. The politician supposedly represents both the assassin and the lobbyist, so assassinated politicians really committed suicide or euthanasia and lobbied politicians are pre-occupied with self-help. Of course, this may be incorrect and politicians may not represent those they govern — in that case, they really are assassinated, but at worst the assassination is simply over-punishment; for the politician claimed to represent those he did not and so whatever he had forcibly taken off them (through taxation) he stole.
In our age of safety in numbers, economies of scale and everyone working together to achieve more, it is time we abolished the inheritance tax and finally combined the two great certainties: death and taxes. Instead of receiving a ballot lead, politicians will receive a lead bullet. People will be able to vote with their hands, anyone will be eligible to have a shot at the Presidency, and it will be easier for political targets to be met. Instead of coffers, government will have coffins. Instead of party caucuses, there will be party carcases. We shall confront government not only with the Bill of Rights, but also with the Last Rites. Politicians, not citizens, will die for their country. Political controversy will be put to rest. A term in office will be terminal. Elections and governments will still be similar to the way they are now, with dead heats, hung parliaments, buried oppositions, body counts, lame ducks, lame promises and lame jokes. However, there will be a slight difference in regards to advertising candidates: we will, in the words of John Zube, “Hang politicians rather than their posters up on trees.”6 And instead of taping them on TV, we will tape them to telegraph poles — perhaps they would then get a clear signal.
[This is an expanded version of one section of “A Proposal for Electoral Reform” that I presented at Mannkal’s Freedom Factory earlier this year.]
- Max Miller, The Blue Book (Brighton, England: The Max Miller Appreciation Society, n.d.), p. 36. Dick Emery and Molly Sugden performed the sketch here. ↩
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, trans. R.J. Hollingdale, ed. Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter (Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 9, bk. I, para. 1. ↩
- Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (New York: Anchor Books, 1967), p. 128. ↩
- Artemus Ward (pseudonym of Charles Farrar Browne), “Things in New York,” in his Complete Works (London: Chatto & Windus, 1905), p. 258. ↩
- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, ch. IV, in vol. I of The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, ed. David Dooley (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), p. 251. ↩
- John Zube, “Slogans for Liberty,” “E,” 8/11/95, Panarchism and Free Banking CD, #89. ↩
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