Some people just shouldn’t vote!

Sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it?

In today’s WSJ, the normally sober-minded Peggy Noonan opined:

If you’re serious and take our political life seriously, please go Tuesday to the polls.

And if not, admit it to yourself and try to become a better citizen so you can vote in good conscience next time.

A provocative thought, Peggy …  but not exactly original.

Let’s do a HomaFiles flashback

First posted Sept. 9, 2012

Every election cycle, I scratch my head and wonder blasphemously whether “one man, one vote” makes sense.

Surveys 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 that funds, say unemployment benefits, comes from.

Jason Brennan is a rare breed … a libertarian business prof at Georgetown.

His research is at the nexus of ethics and politics.

He wrote an insightful book called The Ethics of Voting that I consider a classic.


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.

Let’s drill down on that conclusion…


More specifically, Prof. Brennan 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


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

One Response to “Some people just shouldn’t vote!”

  1. Wayne Says:

    Professor Homa, how do you like to define “common good”. I see it could be very subjective, right?

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