An Open Letter to the Board of Elections of Wake County, N.C.

by Stephen H. Foerster

I hereby request my name be removed from voter registration.

No, it’s not because of my disgust at the latest scandal, or any ephemeral dissatisfaction with the current crop of politicians. It’s not because the Democrats keep starting expensive, destructive new social programs or the Republicans keep enforcing antediluvian religious values with disturbing alacrity. It’s not even because it’s a history-making event when one vote actually makes a difference in who wins an election. I can no longer vote because I have questioned democracy and found it wanting.

Many years ago, kings ruled with absolute authority. They justified this control by claiming that they had been ordained by God to rule humankind, supposedly on his behalf. This “divine right of kings” went unquestioned for hundreds of years, until finally Western civilization moved toward a new model of society, one based on the idea that absolute monarchy is unjust because under it people have no say in the decisions that affect them. This idea manifested itself in two ways: liberty and democracy.

People in our society have been led to believe that the “majority rule” of democracy is compatible with liberty, and is even the guardian of our freedoms. But the American experiment has shown that liberty is no more secure with majority rule than it was under the divine right of kings, even if tempered by Constitutional limits on the infringements on our liberties in which the state can engage.

Some may say that the American guarantee of freedom lies in those Constitutional protections. But while that may be true on paper, the protections for the individual in the Bill of Rights have been but an annoyance to politicians and officials since the Washington administration. No country the citizens of which pay half their income in taxes is free. No country that imprisons for years at a time those who engage in victimless crimes, even foolhardy or self-destructive ones, is free. And certainly no country in which an event like the massacre at Waco can occur — in which a church full of people whose only crime was to be unorthodox were poisoned, shot, and burned alive by federal secret police — is free.

We tell ourselves that collective decisions must be made to “preserve the public order” and ignore repeated reports of police corruption and brutality. We convince ourselves that we can use political government to protect us from those who are different from us, or engage in peaceful trade of which we disapprove, failing to understand that what serves our short-sighted goals today may serve those we have oppressed tomorrow. We righteously claim that the state serves a role as defender of the poor and weak, even as the rich and powerful grasp its reins for their own benefit. In all of these we trample the rights of individuals in exchange for specious promises of security.

You see, my rejection of democracy, even the limited and indirect American version, is not based on my observation of its ineffective defense of liberty but rather because its existence at all is antithetical to liberty. Democracy is a process by which individuals make collective decisions binding upon all by majority vote. Liberty means the right as an individual to do whatever non-coercive activities one may desire. What difference is it to me if a decision is forced upon me by a dictator or by half of my neighbors? Either way my right to free, peaceful action has been nullified.

We recite “majority rule” as a mantra, using it as an unquestioned reason for engaging in all sorts of collective decisions, from agricultural subsidies to zoning ordinances. But what is this besides the use of force to compel individuals to support the objectives of those who simply have numerical advantage? Is it right to force a person to pay for farm aid or tell them that they must use one property solely for a residence and another solely for commerce? I think not.

This is the reality behind democracy, that behind its handsome mask lies the ugly face of a tyranny under which the sovereign rights of those in the minority of opinion are inherently violated. Having realized this, by voting or even staying registered to do so, I would lend my endorsement to that which I cannot endorse, I would help to legitimize the illegitimate and defend the indefensible. No matter in how small a minority this may place me, even if a minority of one, my only honorable course of action is withdrawal. This I therefore do, so that I may say with integrity that I remain,

For Liberty,

Steve Foerster's signature

Stephen H. Foerster

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