Some people just shouldn’t vote!

Since we’re in the stretch run to an election …

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



Here’s the  essence of Jason’s argument …


Prof. Brennan argues  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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2 Responses to “Some people just shouldn’t vote!”

  1. Andrew L. Says:

    Wow. You are looking at this in an entirely wrong way. Like an economic market, the perfect political market would have a large number of candidates, a large number of voters, perfect information, and near-zero barriers to entry.

    Hard to disagree with the need for voters to take time to educate themselves, though is there anyone arguing against that? Did I miss the “Yay for Ignorance” movement?

    “Patently stupid” beliefs is another red flag. Who gets to decide which beliefs are stupid? Is it ignorant to disbelieve global warming? What about Eugenics? What about race/gender equality?

    And walk me through rational? Abolitionists weren’t necessarily rational. Many were single-issue voters. Show me a rational suffragette. Is somehow the nation harmed by their acting in a way that was – at the time – seen as irrational?

    Finally, this voting for the “common interest” is hogwash in its entirety. I don’t buy for the common interest, I don’t sell for the common interest, and I don’t vote for the common interest. It is in my interest that we reduce racial tension, solve immigration, promote economic growth, and deliver real education reform. You could argue that the greatest injustices against America and Americans have always been done in the “common interest”.

    It is, in fact, the cacophony of independent voices and needs that most effectively shape decisions on how the nation should best allocate its resources. The more voices, the better. The more disparate voices, the better. The more self-interested the voices – also the better.

  2. TTK Says:

    Amen Andrew.

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