[ExI] To vote or not to vote
anders at aleph.se
Fri Aug 19 09:09:07 UTC 2016
Good find with the full Burke quote. I think it nicely explains why open
societies are more important than formally democratic societies.
On 2016-08-19 09:20, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
> Elections are in various parts a form of
> political struggle and a propaganda exercise meant to provide
> legitimacy to the political class. The two aspects of participatory
> democracy seem to be in a converse relationship. The unified political
> class does not want you to participate in the struggle for power but,
> in proportion to their ineptitude, they need you to legitimize their
Often true, and I think it pretty well describes the current
disenchantment in the West for parliamentary democracy. However, I would
like to point out that the populist movements that have cropped up as a
response, trying to mess up the cozy political class, have had pretty
disastrous effects too, from Greece to Spain to UK to, perhaps soon, the US.
The key problem is that doing politics is nontrivial in big societies.
It requires professional skills most people lack and cannot even
accurately judge; they can at best evaluate charisma, apparent
sincerity, and possibly past track records. So if you do not want a
political class you need some other way of supplying political skill,
evaluation, and selection (plus, of course, various ethical desiderata
as legitimacy and representativeness).
> My interlocutor implied that I am responsible (i.e. could be blamed)
> for the Bad Things that would happen if I do not vote. To not-vote is
> still to vote, negatively. My answer is that bad things happen when
> good people do not hang together, not when they fail to vote.
Yes, but voting is a relatively low-cost hanging together. In many
situations it might not matter much, but sometimes it does. The real
fallacy is of course to imagine that voting is the only valid way of
interacting with politics.
When I ran my think-tank in Sweden I didn't think it would be fair for
me to vote, since I was influencing politics far more through my talking
and writing than any single vote would.
> Contrary to what was implied, if everybody was like me, a
> conscientious objector to electoral participation, Hitler or Clinton
> would have no chance of rising to power. Suppose they gave an election
> and nobody came?
Actually, populist leaders are very good at getting people to vote. So
unless you now assume everybody is super-rational enough not to fall for
populists, you only describe a situation where a rational majority
predictably allows itself to be oppressed by a minority (who are indeed
doing the rational thing, given their bad values!)
> But anarcho-capitalism is not viable, people being who they are! -
> Well, this is not my fault.
Isn't that a bit like saying the president is not your fault since you
did not vote? Shouldn't you be working harder on making people or
society what they should be?
Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
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