should everybody vote?

Some snippets from a NY Times article...

"Those who think everyone should vote also think that voting should be adequately informed about the candidates and issues. But there’s a tension here, since there’s considerable evidence from polling - not to mention just reading online comments about politics - that many people are poorly informed about candidates and issues. In 'The Ethics of Voting,' the philosopher Jason Brennan has argued that such people have a duty *not* to vote. It’s unlikely that many of them would agree with that conclusion, but given a large number of poorly informed voters, we might consider dropping campaigns urging everyone to vote or even insisting that we all have a duty to vote."

"We would never accept deciding important and highly publicized [jury] trials by a vote of the general public. We think only people fully informed of the facts and relevant arguments put forward in a trial should make such important judgments. Shouldn’t we be at least as careful in deciding who should be president?"

"Notice that answering yes does not imply the elitist view that only a small minority of citizens are capable of making informed votes. The idea is not that voters are too stupid or biased to access the needed information; it’s just that they don’t have the time and resources to do so. Ideally, we would provide everyone with the relevant knowledge, but that would be impractical, time-consuming and expensive."

"Why not, then, randomly choose, from the list of registered voters, a national jury that would meet for a week or two before the election? The jurors would be sequestered and listen to presentations from and debates among the candidates and their policy teams. The jury might also hear from and question experts on major policy issues. The result would be voters informed to a level most us can only hope to achieve. We would need a fairly large jury - perhaps several thousand - to properly represent the nation’s diverse views and interests. Televising the proceedings would help ensure transparency. Since the jury was randomly chosen, its vote would very likely represent the outcome of an election in which we were all well-informed voters."

[some mention of constitutional right to vote, so everyone must be allowed to vote]

"We could, however, get many of the jury system’s benefits without eliminating our current form of elections. We could have an unofficial jury - chosen, perhaps, by a consortium of major universities or of television news divisions - that would meet, discuss in depth and vote several weeks before the actual election. Coverage of its proceedings could substantially raise the quality of debate in the final weeks of the campaign. Candidates might hesitate to participate at first, but if so the project could begin with informed and articulate nonofficial supporters making their cases. Once the jury established itself as a significant factor in the national electoral debates, candidates would likely insist on taking part themselves. Even though the jurors would not decide the election, their vote would very likely come to exercise considerable influence on the result. Such a jury might well be the best practical way toward more informed and intelligent voting."

"A deeper worry is that even the will of a majority may have little or no influence on how the country is governed. There’s a widespread conviction that rich people and corporations determine government actions, and recent research by political scientists offers at least preliminary support for that conclusion. Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page looked at almost 1,800 cases of controversial policy issues in the United States and explained: 'The majority does not rule - at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.' They added, 'Even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.'"

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