This is the 500th post I have made to Vigilant Vote in the 2 years and one month since I created it. As all things should, this blog has transformed in some ways from its original version and purpose. Through researching, thinking, and writing, my opinions have altered, new information has changed perceptions, and my goals for how I would like to influence people have shifted. That is why I want to spend the five hundredth post defining what Vigilant Vote means.
The original name came from a famous quote, attributed to a couple people, but probably existing in its original form in President Andrew Jackson’s farewell address (emphasis added): “But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States, as well as in the Federal Government”. I added that since Andrew Jackson had faults, it was a further reminder that actions mean more than rhetoric.
Boiled down the tag line for my blog became Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty. For a while the theme of this blog followed that within a relatively narrow scope, in terms of how it related to government. I discussed issues with government policies, and how those policies could be improved. I discussed what the scope of government should be, the incentives and disincentives they create, and why an economy is best left alone by government. The more I learned, the more I realized that not only should the government stay out of economics, but they should stay out of everything.
This feeling was expanded on when I was introduced to Anarcho-Capitalism; a scary sounding idea which really just means people can organize themselves just fine without government using force to do the organizing. The reason this would be more beneficial for societal organization is because there would be no contradictions to a core philosophy that most people agree with: the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do to you, the non-initiation of force principle, non-agression principle. And this foundation cannot support a house built from a different blue print: one that says initiating force in a particular geographical area is okay for an entity called government. If using force to organize is never okay, then government is never okay.
So this brought me to the point where on essentially every government issue my answer was, it should not be a government function, and the market would better take care of it. There were plenty of different arguments to make to this effect, various examples and facts to present, and numerous plans to put forward for alternative organization to achieve the same end, but it all came down to allowing these things to be solved through mutually beneficial transactions. I think these discussions still have a place, and I will continue to explain how current problems involving government could be better solved by a free market.
However this shifting paradigm of how much scope I believe government should have (from limited to none) has also necessarily changed my advice on how best to solve these issues. The Vote in Vigilant Vote once quite literally meant vote in elections to make things better. I still think voting can make things better, but it cannot be the thing we rely on to make positive change in the world. Let me use this landmark of 500 posts on Vigilant Vote to define what it means to be Vigilant, and what it means to Vote, in a broadened definition of the title Vigilant Vote.
“Vigilant”. Pay attention, research, learn, reason, be aware, seek understanding, seek truth, gain knowledge, gain skills. Being vigilant now means more to me than simply paying attention to what the government is doing. It means recognizing the repercussions of this, how vastly effected we are by the ills created, and what influences government has on the broader society. And then it doesn’t stop with government: we need to also make sure the businesses we patronize agree with our philosophy and values. For that matter, being vigilant means having values, setting goals, and working towards something.
It also means being vigilant over oneself. Are the actions I am taking consistent with my philosophy? For me, as I would hope is similar for most people, victimizing someone is wrong, initiating force against another is wrong. Am I aware of how each of my actions are affecting other people? And before this gets too preachy, let me say this is a constant work in progress for all of us. We are not perfect, and maybe we never will be, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for better and better. And that’s where Vote comes in.
“Vote”. You vote with your dollar, you vote with your actions and interactions. Voting is the action side of being vigilant. I once received some profound knowledge from a fortune cookie: “The proper fruit of knowledge, is action”. Gain knowledge, take action. Be vigilant, then vote. So if you see something wrong with the world, do something about it. If something seems fishy, look into it, research it, and then figure how best to move forward to effect the change you want to see.
The idea of being Vigilant and Voting fit well, because one without the other is relatively useless. If you are Vigilant, well that’s great, you could have all the knowledge in the world, and have the perfect plan to change things for the better; but if you don’t act on that, what’s the point?
On the other hand, acting without a point can be seriously damaging to society. You hear it every election, “get out the vote”. Well why would we want uninformed or misinformed people to be making governing decisions? That’s democracy, voting without the vigilance. And as with the other aspects, it goes way beyond voting in elections. Taking actions, voting with yourself and your dollars, will achieve no end if you do not define the end you wish to realize, and have the proper knowledge (vigilance) to get there.
I’ve shifted over the last two years from focusing mainly on political issues that are in the news, and analyzing how to act on them, to taking a broader philosophical look at what government really does, the consequences of government actions, and why the defining feature of government, monopolizing force so that it can be initiated without retaliation in a certain area, is inherently wrong.
We can argue any single issue until the cows come home, but without some philosophy behind your ideas and actions, the real change this country and earth needs will not take place. And if you are arguing with someone whose core ideas about life are different than yours, what change do you think you can make in them? We need to start from the point of discussing and agreeing on goals, and realizing that if there is no philosophical grounding for a person’s thoughts and actions, then having them vote for “our party”, or agree with this issue or that issue will be fleeting progress, erased when the next smooth talker convinces the person to think and act oppositely on the issue.
Be Vigilant: seek the truth. Vote: act on that truth.