Vote Well, Or Not At All

The thesis of Jason Brennan's book The Ethics of Voting:

I argue that while citizens have no duty to vote, if they do vote, they must vote wellon the basis of sound moral and empirical beliefs in order to promote the common goodor otherwise they are morally obligated to abstain. Though individual votes make no significant difference to political outcomes, bad voting violates either a duty not to participate in collectively harmful activities or a duty not to participate in collective activities that impose undue risk upon innocent people.

Will Wilkinson agrees:

The idea that we should vote well if we vote at all sounds innocuous enough. However, Mr Brennan's corollary argument that if we are not in a position to vote well, then it is wrong to vote runs counter to the civic religion of unconditional democratic participation. This argument will also surely make members of the political party most likely to benefit from high voter turnout hotly indignant. But when one considers that bad policy can be immensely harmful to the general welfare, and that the participation of poorly-informed voters makes the adoption of bad policy more likely, the duty of the ignorant to refrain from exercising the franchise does not seem so easy to rebut.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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