Friday, June 3, 2011

Should voting be compulsory?

Should one force people to vote? While there are clear incentives for people not to vote because it is very unlikely their individual vote would matter, there may be a social benefit to make sure that everyone, or at least many people, votes. Clearly, public decision-making is difficult when people do not voice an opinion. But imagine you are forced to vote, how should you vote? Selfishly, or for the public good? And how should that public good be defined? Your family, the neighborhood, your clan, your country? Indeed, if you force someone to vote, you must have an idea for what purpose you impose this.

Dan Usher tries to make sense of all this focusing on the idea of the duty to vote, the duty being an unenforceable obligation. The paper is impossible to summarize without making a massacre of it, so I will abstain. It is full of ideas on how to think about the duty to vote, abstention, and mandatory voting. Read it if you are interested.

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