My Case for Activism
By David Henderson
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
~ Chinese Proverb
“That will be thirteen ninety-nine plus a dollar and one cent for tax,” said the clerk at Orchard Supply Hardware. I handed him my Visa card. After leaving the store with my wife on a beautiful Saturday morning in Monterey, the world looked suddenly rosier. I felt a profound sense of freedom. The reason was that I had paid $1.01 in tax, rather than the $1.04 I would have paid had the tax rate been 7.75% instead of 7.25%. The word for what I felt was eudaimonia, a word I remember from my college study of Aristotle for a feeling of well-being. I felt a love for my fellow Monterey County residents, or at least 38% of them. I felt that in the politicians’ rush to take away our freedom, my allies and I had slowed it down and surprised the hell out of a ruthless, well-funded juggernaut. In the process, I discovered how even a fairly badly organized small group that is willing to make a moral case, take the offensive, and not back down when attacked can beat a much bigger group that thought it had the moral high ground and didn’t. Why, you might ask, would I get this excited about paying an outrageous tax instead of an even more outrageous tax? Had I, a man who believes that taxes should be close to zero, gone off my rocker? Maybe, but that’s not how I see it. Let me explain.
These are the opening quote and paragraph of the first article in my three-article series on my excursion into political activism. The article is “The Reluctant Activist, or Not Only Can You Fight City Hall, You Can Actually Win,” LewRockwell.com, January 2, 2004. The two follow-on articles are “How to Stop a Tax Increase,” and “Lessons Learned From Our Successful Fight Against a Tax Increase.”
I thought of this while reading co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s post “Why I Don’t Vote: The Honest Truth,” this morning. It made me realize how different Bryan and I are. One of the sentences that made our differences really clear to me was this one: “But I refuse to traumatize myself for a one-in-a-million chance of moderately improving the quality of American governance.” Unlike Bryan, I don’t find voting traumatizing, or anything close to traumatizing.
And, as you’ll see from the above article of mine, I went way beyond voting to actually trying to persuade voters.
By the way, I have previously posted my skepticism about voting in the past. My skepticism has been mainly about bad arguments for voting. Here’s a post where I implicitly argued for voting. Commenter GregS has expressed my current view of voting.