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At first blush, the views advanced by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Lysander Spooner could not be more at odds.

The leaders of the AARP are consistent cheerleaders for a big- ger welfare state, especially on matters related to Social Security and Medicare. By contrast, Spooner (1808-1887) was a radical libertarian who fought the expansion of state power at every tum.

Yet Spooner’s ghost must be smiling at the AARP’s current”don’t vote” campaign. In his later writings, he also advocated a “don’t vote” position. He urged Ameri- cans to boycott elections, arguing that the secret ballot “proves that there is among us a secret band of robbers, tyrants, and murderers, whose purpose is to rob, enslave, and, so far as necessary to accomplish their purposes, murder, the rest of the people.”

The AARP campaign doesn’t go this far, of course. It adds the stipulation “Don’t vote … until you know where the candidates stand on the issues.” Still, the implications are delightfully Spooneresque, even if unintentionally so. For the first time, a major mainstream organization has diverged from the premise, which forms the basis of endless “Rock the Vote” commercials, that every American has an unqualified “duty” to vote, and damn the consequences.

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