Some people just shouldn’t vote!

Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder whether “one man, one vote” makes sense.

Polls routinely reveal that a majority of Americans have marginal knowledge of government, politics, and political issues.

Try this: ask folks to explain the difference between the Federal deficit and the Federal debt … ask them where the money money that funds, say unemployment benefits, comes from.

Jason Brennan is a young prof at MSB … his research is at the nexus of ethics and politics.

He has written an insightful book called The Ethics of Voting


The essence of Jason’s argument is that all adult citizens have the right to vote … but that they shouldn’t exercise that right unless they are informed, rational, and aiming for the common good.

More specifically, he argues:

“If a citizen has a right to vote, this means at minimum that she ought to be permitted to vote — no one should stop her or deprive her of the vote — and that her vote must be counted.

However, if citizens do vote, they must vote well, on the basis of sound evidence for what is likely to promote the common good.

That is, in general, they must vote for the common good rather than for narrow self-interest.

Citizens who lack the motive, knowledge, rationality, or ability to vote well should abstain from voting.

Some voters are well informed about what candidates are likely to do.

They know what policies candidates endorse and whether the candidates are sincere.

They know the track records and general trends of different political parties.

Other voters are ignorant of such things.

Another way voters vary is in their degree of rationality .

Some voters are scrupulously rational, while others are irrational.

Some have patently stupid beliefs.

[Some citizens] are politically engaged, but they are nonetheless often ignorant of or misinformed about the relevant facts or, worse, are simply irrational.

Though they intend to promote the common good, they all too often lack sufficient evidence to justify the policies they advocate.

When they do vote, I argue, they pollute democracy with their votes and make it more likely that we will have to suffer from bad governance.”

* * * * *

Ken’s Take: An interesting perspective that has been constantly on my mind during this election cycle.

At least read the sample chapter … book is available in paperback at Amazon.

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3 Responses to “Some people just shouldn’t vote!”

  1. John Carpenter Says:

    Common sense popular voting has never been a characteristic of American life so it obviously has never been a major factor in advancing national interest. I find it hard to believe, as ignorant as the general population is now, that they are less informed than voters in the 1700’s, 1800’s, or even the 1900’s. Votes at that time could be bought for beer. At least now you have to use a full range of welfare programs, political contributions, and business deals to buy votes.

    The founding fathers knew this. That is why it is not one-man (and recently woman) one-vote in the US. Ask any DC resident who he/she voted for in the last congressional election, or how the popular vote elected Gore. Congress and the electoral college are set up to try to mitigate popular votes and balance the most prevalent reason to vote for something, self-interest, and hope that national interests would provide tie-breaking opportunities.

    The real reason we are in jeopardy is not ignorance. It is the dearth of real things to vote for. As political parties monopolize the discussion around minutia and hormones, smart people are repelled from the only choices they have. Get rid of political parties or force at least the President to renounce party politics after election and we have a step to fixing that.

  2. Frank Says:

    It is like the right to speech. It seems rational to draw “lines”- but when it comes to time to figure out what they are…. the remedy becomes worse than the problem. I’m by far more afraid of the enforcers of a vote code than I am rule by Democrats. Or even Ross Perot. The SEIU calling balls and strikes in this spot…. shudder.

    I can’t believe there is not lower hanging fruit when it comes to improving the American voter. Perhaps more Schoolhouse Rock?

    I also think other choice elements of plural democratic society are overlooked- and are just as powerful remedies as the ballot box.

    For example, I think there is clearly a hiring strike- a push back by capital controllers against regulation, taxes and economic uncertainty. I may have “lost politically”, but in this example, I (and the hiring collective) can choose other checks by manipulating where we take risk and recognize our opportunity cost(s). Here an elite of sorts exhibits a disproportionate influence over the citizen.

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