chapter  5
24 Pages

On the virtue of benign neglect

Anarchists used to say about government, ‘Don’t vote, it only encourages them.’ The idea seemed to be that that if you ignored them, they would go away. But government doesn’t. People may be put off politics and find the whole business objectionable, but not voting does not mean that the current governments in the US and UK have less power. The situation in these two countries in mid-2009 is, of course, rather different. In the US there is a newly elected president riding a wave of optimism and good will. There is a great sense of possibility and many people, particularly the young, are enthused. In the UK we have a government in its twelfth year, elected in the 2005 general election on the strength of barely a quarter of registered voters and now led by an unelected prime minister who is deeply unpopular. Yet both these governments have legitimacy – they are the government – and they have all the power and control that this legitimacy brings.