Nothing is more integral to democracy than voting. Most people believe that every citizen has the civic duty or moral obligation to vote, that any sincere vote is morally acceptable, and that buying, selling, or trading votes is inherently wrong. In this provocative book, Jason Brennan challenges our fundamental assumptions about voting, revealing why it is not a duty for most citizens--in fact, he argues, many people owe it to the rest of us not to vote.
Bad choices at the polls can result in unjust laws, needless wars, and calamitous economic policies. Brennan shows why voters have duties to make informed decisions in the voting booth, to base their decisions on sound evidence for what will create the best possible policies, and to promote the common good rather than their own self-interest. They must vote well--or not vote at all. Brennan explains why voting is not necessarily the best way for citizens to exercise their civic duty, and why some citizens need to stay away from the polls to protect the democratic process from their uninformed, irrational, or immoral votes.
In a democracy, every citizen has the right to vote. This book reveals why sometimes it's best if they don't.
Jason Brennan is assistant professor of philosophy at Brown University. He is the coauthor of A Brief History of Liberty.
"In The Ethics of Voting, [Brennan] asks the obvious-yet-unutterable question at the heart of American politics: what are all those uninformed, indifferent, lazy, and stupid people doing in the voting booth?"--Josh Rothman, Boston Globe
"[T]houghtful. . . . Brennan is a good guide through philosophically complex territory. He writes clearly, uses analogies well and includes some nice humorous turns. It is a worthwhile book, if not ultimately convincing."--David Carroll Cochran, America
"Jason Brennan's surprising investigation of the ethics of voting grapples with some of the most entrenched dogmas in our political culture. His approach is open-minded, his writing crystal clear, and his argumentation of a high standard. His conclusions will shake some readers up, and our thinking about democracy will be better for the debates that are sure to ensue."--David Estlund, Brown University
"This is a fascinating book about a very important topic. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a topic more significant in democratic theory--and it is surprising that, until now, it has been so neglected. The Ethics of Voting abounds in interesting claims and good arguments with often surprising conclusions. Beautifully clear and eminently readable, it will be noticed."--Geoffrey Brennan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"Brennan's book is provocative in the best sense of the word--a fresh and challenging approach to important matters in political theory and political ethics. It is also a remarkably accessible book that manages to capture nuances and subtleties without unnecessary complication or jargon. In these respects, The Ethics of Voting is a model of how political philosophy should proceed."--Richard Dagger, University of Richmond
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Voting as an Ethical Issue 1
Chapter One: Arguments for a Duty to Vote 15
Chapter Two: Civic Virtue without Politics 43
Chapter Three: Wrongful Voting 68
Chapter Four: Deference and Abstention 95
Chapter Five: For the Common Good 112
Chapter Six: Buying and Selling Votes 135
Chapter Seven: How Well Do Voters Behave? 161
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Jason Brennan: