Should voting be mandatory? Possibly enforced with financial penalties? George Will has an excellent column this week on this topic.
Here is the opening:
The poet Carl Sandburg supposedly was asked by a young playwright to attend a rehearsal. Sandburg did but fell asleep. The playwright exclaimed, “How could you sleep when you knew I wanted your opinion?” Sandburg replied, “Sleep is an opinion.”
So is nonvoting.
Yes, so is nonvoting. There are lots of reasons why I don’t vote. One reason is that it doesn’t matter (if I vote) in any election for which more than approximately 1,000 other people do vote. Another is that nonvoting is an opinion. People vote for certain candidates for lots of reasons; the notion of a mandate is absurd because I might vote for BO solely because of reason X and reason X might happen to be, on average, the 26th reason why most other people voted for BO. But that’s how elections work – you buy a shopping cart full of stuff that you mostly don’t care to actually own. Similarly for nonvoting. There are lots of reasons why people don’t vote. One of those reasons is, at least in my case, that nobody is worth voting for. The market speaks – the customer buys your product or they don’t. Voting is the same.
Will includes this great little shot:
Notice the perverse dialectic by which Washington aggrandizes its power: It promises to ameliorate problems exacerbated by its supposedly ameliorative policies.
Or, to pull from a Milton Friedman quote recently also posted by the Swiss Economist:
When a private enterprise fails, it is closed down. When a government enterprise fails, it is expanded.