There was a time not too long ago when I still believed in the compulsory vote in Australia. I held on to this belief throughout leadership spills based on the notion that all citizens of a free nation should be heard, and be compelled to be involved in the democratic process and the decision making apparatus of the nation in which they reside. It took some time for this notion to wither away with me, but when it began to crack it dwindled rapidly. Following the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd fiasco, I thought democracy was damaged but repairable as the main combatants were of the left and therefore sub-par human beings. That was of course quite naive as the ousting of Abbott showed. By the time the recent Libspill came around my confidence in the compulsory vote as an invaluable element of a functioning democracy had utterly diminished.
This total diminishing came in phases. For a time I was of the thinking that the compulsory vote should be confined to citizens aged over 25. That way young adults have time to get an idea of the way things work – ie economics, industrial relations, foreign policy etc. – before being compelled to involve themselves in such processes. But given the amount of information required to be able to make sound judgements on increasingly complex public policy issues, it’s unlikely that many people will be able to take the time out of their busy days to attain a holistic understanding of anything.
There’s also the issue of force. Anything that is imposed on a population by law and punishable by fines is essentially state coercion, which ultimately requires the use of force. If a citizen refuses to pay a fine because of their disapproval of the manner in which politics is conducted in this country, the state will maximise its revenue grab and insist the citizen comply before sending an agent of state control to said citizen’s residence and forcing them to comply.
I’ve found this coercion increasingly unjustified, and not necessarily because our major parties can’t convince their ministers to back a leader. The fact of the matter is very few people are interested in politics, and how can anyone blame them? It’s an absolute circus propped up by our very own Australian Pravda.
Observing both upper and lower houses is like watching a bunch of school kids hurling insults and smear at a handful of mature adults who think they can somehow win them over with rationality, while a splatter of real Australians throw well-meaning but ill-informed slogans and gestures into the mix. Now add to this the fact that many studies have shown that very few voters will actually vote for policies. Christopher Achens and Larry Bartels are among numerous political scientists whose research has found that:
“Voters don’t have anything like coherent preferences. Most people pay little attention to politics; when they vote, if they vote at all, they do so irrationally and for contradictory reasons”.
Stop and actually have a think about this for a moment. Have you ever heard people dislike Tony Abbott’s ears or thought Kevin Rudd was a poindexter? Or perhaps you’ve come across people that think that it’s about time we had a woman in charge because…. …. Reasons. Under the current legal framework, all of these people are required to vote on a plethora of very serious issues.
There have also been findings that suggest that mandatory voting tends to favour leftist parties, and this is not so difficult to explain. Leftist politics are based on simplistic concepts that appeal to the economically illiterate, ignorant and naïve. The left relies on these ignorant and naïve minions and the Greens have fairly recently put forward a motion that would allow 16 year olds the right to vote. This measure would have undoubtedly granted them more power in both houses.
Out of the reasons above, it’s these latter ones that have made me abandon the concept of obligatory voting and thus brought me to my present disposition in this slow phasing out of belief in the present system. Furthermore, it was watching Stefan Molyneux interviewing people in Sydney that really obliterated the camel’s back, and slammed the nail in the already scorched coffin for me.
What we – as a society – need to do is implement a Democracy that Socrates would have probably preferred. Socrates compared mob voting to a ship at sea where everyone was allowed an equal vote on how the ship was sailed and in what direction. Socrates posed the question to Adamants who he would prefer navigating the waters, the seasoned sea farers or the ordinary citizens. The obvious and most rational response was of course those trained in all things maritime. So why then do we trust just anyone to influence a nation which faces much more complex decisions with potentially catastrophic outcomes on a myriad of people? His main point was that “Voting in a Democracy is a skill, not a random intuition”.
Not only should voting not be mandatory, it should be tightly restricted to people who can demonstrate emotional maturity, cognitive ability and a basic understanding of the various policy portfolios. There should be an eligibility criteria where by a voting candidate must show that they pay, and have paid taxes for a certain amount of time, and from there be tested on the various areas stated above.
The obvious outcome of this is a more reasonable voter who can only be persuaded by reasoned evidence, but it also has an inevitable flow on effect to the media and the politicians themselves. The number of charlatans in the realm of politics, hoping to hoodwink the masses with catch phrases, slogans and promises of free stuff would be reduced. Too many voters will be asking pesky things like ‘how are you going to afford all of that?’ or ‘what are the long term impacts of your policy?’ or even ‘why don’t you bring back coal as it works better and climate dogma is proven nonsense?’ In the absence of charlatans in politics the media may have to report on matters of verifiable truth, as they would have the struggle of convincing rational people to favour their preferred candidates, which would now exceedingly difficult given the lack of politicians in Parliament attempting to sell snake oil to drugged up inner city hipsters.
This is my proposed solution to the issue of moronic voting patterns and idiots in office. Feel free to contribute by commenting below.