Sunday, August 10, 2008

Update on Mandatory Voting...

Readers may remember a discussion I had with Werner Patels over at his blog on the subject of mandatory voting (details here).

As I described in the post at the link I just referenced, Werner found me difficult and asked me not to post at his place. I comply: king/castle and all that, as I noted.

However, I revisited the thread to see what had gone on in my requested absence, and I noticed a few things, and I'm still free to comment here.

First: Werner's statement that:
Australia has implemented mandatory voting -- an entire country like that (especially Australia) isn't wrong when it goes down that path.
Sorry, Werner, "another country did what I think is a good idea" isn't a rebuttal; it's just a variation on the old logical fallacy known as "the appeal to authority". In other words, nice as Australia might otherwise be, so what?

Second, this paragraph from Werner:
Sorry, but unless you [ed.--meaning me, Ron] can show me that you are at least somewhat a decent person who is not only concerned with his own beer-drinking or hockey-watching time, and how going to the polls would cut into that "precious" me-time for you, I refuse to waste my time with someone who leaves his dirty boot imprints on our democracy.
Do me a favour, Werner, don't trot out "unless you can show me..." after telling me I'm not welcome to speak at your place to what you're writing. That's just bad manners.

In any case, dealing with your pre-emptive (and, as it happens, wrong-headed) smear, I hardly drink ever (a six-pack would be a very heavy year of drinking for me), and I don't watch more than a couple of hockey games every few years. Also and in any case, your valuation of the usefulness of what I do with my time is worthless when it comes to being a good argument for how I owe some of it to accomplish what you want.

My time is *my* time, and I use it for *my* purposes. I have enough respect for you to allow you the same, in spite of your very evident lack of regard for me or the time or differing values of others. And you have the gall to question if I'm decent all the while you trot out that authoritarian, clearly coercive "force 'em to vote" nonsense.

Third: commenter "Ben" followed with this:
Interesting how Ron Good claims that he doesn't have time to vote, but he DOES have time to write long posts explaining why he doesn't have time to vote!

I agree with you, Werner that non-voters give up all rights to the benefits of democracy. It disgusts me when people say give excuses for not voting, and then complain about the outcome. If you don't vote, then as far as I am concerned, you forfeit your voice.
Again, Ben, for starters, my time is *my* time, just like yours is properly yours. Also, I think posting my opinion in detail and perhaps affecting the viewpoint of others is a hell of a lot more civilized (and, I think, more effective) than pushing people around either with my vote, or by forcing people to vote. So: I didn't *ever* say I didn't have time to vote; I said my time is my time and I have other things to do with it.

And these two quotes coming up aptly explain why I don't--and won't--agree that my rights are contingent on your approval or the approval of some democratic vote:
"Neither one person, nor any number of persons, is warranted in saying to another human creature of ripe years that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with it. All errors he is likely to commit against advice and warning are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to do what they deem his good." John Stuart Mill

"Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." from The Law - Frédéric Bastiat
(And no, that's not an appeal to authority: the relevant thing is what they said, not who said it,)

But then, Ben, you take the "forcing folks to do what you want" stuff to a brand new level:
Well, after some thought, I have the following proposal. Make voting mandatory, but in addition, force voters to write a simple test before voting. This doesn't need to be a long test -- maybe just 3-5 short-answer questions, asking them to specify the main issues of the campaign, and each party's view on each issue. For simplicity, the parties could be limited to the Liberals, PCs, NDPs, and Greens, but the voter could address other parties' views if they want. The test would also be designed to ensure that he voter is not forced to divulge their preferences, i.e., it would be non-partisan.

If the voter gets a minimum 60% grade on the test, then they can vote who whomever they want. Otherwise, they are not allowed to vote, and they are fined some pre-fixed amount.
Ah, so "after some thought" your genius proposal is to force folks to vote except they have to also write a test first to see if they're qualified, and if their test answers don't meet your suggested bureaucratic approval, you fine 'em and disenfranchise 'em.

Fourth: Ben closes his post with:
And if all parties agree to the new rule (which they should, if they really are worried about low voter turnout), then voters will not have the option of voting for the party that would repeal the law.
Ah, I understand. If Ben has his way, in the name of freedom, voters forced to vote would also be prevented from voting for what they might vote for.

Man, and you think those statements somehow display a logical and deeply considered commitment to freedom and individual rights, Ben?

Fifth: Werner ends the thread with:
at least people will have to participate in the democratic process, which would make the eventual outcome at least halfway legit (unlike the current government in Alberta, which claims majority status but has the support of less than 22% of the entire electorate).
Uh, yeah...a democratic vote is somehow more legit if people are forced to vote than if they choose to vote. That's just weird.


EBD said...

Mandatory voting has to be the worst idea to ever receive serious consideration.

It's a dead certainty that a certain percentage of the population -- pick a number, 2 percent? four percent -- cannot name our prime minister, or the leader or the opposition, or who's running for Mayor; have no knowledge whatsoever -- by virtue of disinterest or preoccupation -- as to what the various parties stand for, or the possible merits of their approaches.

It seems to me that proponents of forced voting must either disavow the existence of this constituency -- a tough slog, if they're to be honest -- or else explain what the benefits would be to forcing this entirely unconcerned/unaware/preoccupied constituency to "have a say" in who forms our government.

These voters-at-proverbial-gunpoint will certainly have an effect. There'd might be a measurable and possible pivotal -- in close ridings -- gain for the candidate whose name appears at the top of the ballot; candidates whose name can be pronounced by those who move their lips when they read might get an extra quarter percent; if your last name is "Baldwin" or "Spears" you might get a boost; names that are familiar by virtue of having been mindfully reiterated, consciously, in mindful consideration of the delightful new regulation, by, oh, I don't know, say, certain taxpayer-funded statist bureaucrat radio and television broadcast networks would certainly have an advantage as well, as in "Yeah, I know that one..."

If people who don't give a rat and who don't care one way or another are forced to vote simply because they'll be fined if they don't, they're going to make choices that have precisely *nothing* to do with the glorious "democracy" that the proponents of forced voting posit as the most-certain result.

I've got a radical new idea, I don't think anyone's thought of it before: give every single citizen the right to vote.

I know that sounds insufficiently democratic, but for some reason it has a certain je ne sais quoi.

Mike said...

Well said Ron, well said.

Balbulican said...

Werner is a bit of an odd duck, isn't he?

I found his call for the return of execution by torture particularly innovative.

Ron said...

balbulican: that's...uh...fascinating :-)

It's a bit like unsafe sex: I can understand *wanting* to do it--but I can't understand seriously advocating for it ;-)