Voting EthicsIs voting unethical?

We’re not going to discuss whether or not voting is an effective use of your time. Today we are focused on morality, not efficacy.

Writers such as Samuel Edward Konkin argue that working through the political system is generally a waste of time; asserting that spreading liberty through other means would be more productive. However, this is an argument from a strategic perspective, not an ethical one. So, is voting for a Libertarian candidate unethical?

Libertarians believe that taking coercive action against the innocent is unethical, however many remain skeptical on how defense, charity, or roads could be provided without government or taxation — and as such, view the use of coercive action as a necessary evil that should only be used to solve the most difficult societal problems. Both groups view collectively voting for a candidate that campaigns upon increasing government power a coercive action that is, ultimately, unethical.

However, what about voting for a candidate that campaigns against the state?

Logical Extremes

Imagine a small cotton plantation. The slaves on the plantation are allowed to choose between three slave-owners. The new slave-owner is determined by a majority vote.

The first slave-owner promises to keep the plantation the exact same.

The second slave-owner will be especially cruel, increasing whippings & forcing the slaves to work an extra hour each day.

The third slave-owner will still keep the slaves against their will, but is more empathetic than the other two slave-owners, and agrees to grant the slaves an additional day off each week.

Let’s say a slave is offered nice clothes by the second (cruel) slave-owner to vote for him. Voting for the cruel slave-owner would be unethical. Despite helping the individual slave’s predicament, voting for the cruel slave-owner inflicts additional suffering upon his fellow slaves.

Voting for the first slave-owner is generally a waste of time, but since it doesn’t inflict additional harm upon the fellow slaves, the vote is not ethically wrong. You could argue that voting for the slave-owner that keeps everything the same is relatively unethical in relation to voting for the third slave-owner, but it is not an absolutely unethical action.

So, is voting for the third slave-owner unethical?

Since this slave owner will still own the slaves, isn’t voting for the slave-owner supporting the institution of slavery?

No. Voting for the third slave-owner attempts to minimize the evils of slavery; it is not an implicit support for slavery overall. As such, voting for the empathetic slave-owner is not unethical.

Using this line of reasoning, voting for a Libertarian candidate is not unethical. In this case, the act of voting attempts to limit the spread of government power rather than imposing additional suffering on the rest of humanity.