Jewish World Review June 27, 2012/ 7 Tamuz, 5772
Voter apathy isn't a crime
By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's a sure sign someone is losing when he demands that the rules be changed.
That might explain the renewed interest in forcing people to vote against their will.
He's not alone. Icons of the Beltway establishment
While I have great respect for Ornstein, Mann and Galston -- I'm undecided about Orszag -- I find the idea absurd, cynical and repugnant.
Let's start with the repugnant part.
One of the chief benefits of coerced voting, according to Orszag, is that it increases participation. Well, yes, and kidnapping drunks in pubs increased the ranks of the British navy, but it didn't turn the conscripted sailors into patriots.
I think everyone can agree that civic virtue depends on civic participation. Well, any reasonable understanding of civic participation has to include the idea of voluntarism. If I force you to do the right thing against your will, you don't get credit for doing the right thing.
Let's move on to the absurdity. Ornstein and Mann suggest fining people, say
Even if all the people who play the lottery aren't stupid (I've bought my share of tickets), there's still a problem. Do we really think democracy will be improved by enlisting the opinions of Americans who otherwise wouldn't bother if there wasn't a jackpot in the offing?
This brings us to the cynicism of it all. While many political scientists and economists hold that mandatory voting probably wouldn't change electoral outcomes, many people still believe that compelling the poor, the uneducated and the politically unengaged would be a boon to Democrats (what that says about Democrats is for others to judge). I wonder: Would the winner of the ballot lottery have to show a photo ID?
It's hard to see how Orszag is interested in anything other than changing the rules for his side's benefit. As
Ornstein and Mann, whose new book blames Republicans for all that's wrong in
Ultimately, this is a more sophisticated way of making the same argument. They do not like the way conservatives have been winning battles in
And it's worth noting that we are talking about making nonvoting a crime. If a citizen refuses to vote or pay the fine -- and countless would -- he would be breaking the law. How far would the government go to compel these citizens to pay up or comply? This is how the "experts" would make democracy healthier?
It's an unfashionable thing to say, but if anything, voting should be harder, not easier. Scarcity creates value. Sand is cheap because there's so much of it. Gold is valuable because it is rare. If you want people to value their vote, we should make it more valuable.
Personally, I wouldn't mind tying eligibility to vote to passing the same citizenship test we require of immigrants. We might get fewer voters, but the voters would be far more likely to appreciate the solemnity of their ballots.
But such proposals just elicit rage from people who love democracy -- albeit only when they're winning.
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