"In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having ever been asked, a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former.

His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man attempts to take the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot -- which is a mere substitute for a bullet -- because, as his only chance of self-preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power of numbers. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, in an exigency, into which he had been forced by others, and in which no other means of self-defence offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one that was left to him."
Lysander Spooner
(1808-1887) Political theorist, activist, abolitionist
No Treason. No. II The Constitution, (Boston: Published by the Author, 1867)
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Reader comments about this quote:
The emptiness I felt after voting in this Presidential election cannot be ignored. Unable to articulate it, nor put my finger on it, and for reasons escaping me, voting this time did not provide the fire of pride felt every time I voted in the past. Perhaps it was the lackluster candidates in this election. Perhaps it was me. I felt strangled by the absurdity of this election. Nevertheless I voted, compelled by the fact that a multitude of Americans fought and died for this very right. I have never missed a vote. The analogy Spooner uses in the second paragraph hit home, and made me feel a little better.
 -- Andrew     
  • 1
    Voting in self defense...I've been doing that my whole life. Pretty much the same reason I buy bullets...self defense.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
  • 1
    My first vote was for Eisenhower back in 1951 which dates me as an old codger. His worst mistake was appointing Earl Warren to the Supreme Court for which he said later that he regretted. Since then I've voted for the most part to keep one scoundrel out only to be replaced by another less villanous. Even at that I never thought that we would ever elect a communist but that day arrived 4 years ago and the nightmare continues.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
  • 1
    5 stars for the Spooner quote.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
  • 1
    Extremely accurate observation ! ! !
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Need we remind ourselves that America is not a democracy and that the federal government does not have the power to dictate what we can and cannot do? Time to wake up from the hypnosis. As long as Americans keep voting for money they will find themselves ever more yoked in servitude to the state.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 1
     -- Mary - Michigan      
    5 stars for Spooner's quote.  
    Voting in self defense...I'd never looked at it that way though "voting for lesser evil" is more of what I've done my whole life than actually voting FOR someone I really supported.
     -- empty pockets, NOLa     
  • 1
     -- Ronw13, Oregon      
    Lysander Spooner, what a great name.
     -- jim k, Austin     
  • 1
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