Posts tagged with: voting

There’s more to voting than tallying up the number of yays and nays. Although you’d never guess it by the numbingly perfunctory attitude taken toward voting by most Americans—especially in this late hour—who see it either as the highest duty of a good citizen, or as an inconvenient inevitability.

What makes voting worth it, anyway? Is it the possibility of shaping our nation’s future? The opportunity to express our deepest-held principles? Or is it worth it precisely because not doing it would be a civic or moral failure that we wish to avoid?

A recent conversation at Ethika Politika draws some of these questions together. Responding broadly to my characterization of Alasdair MacIntyre’s now somewhat popular case for non-voting, Acton’s own Dylan Pahman offers a perspective that emphasizes real-life consequences stemming from our attitude toward civic choices. Pahman takes as a philosophical basis for this approach William James’s idea of genuine options, suggesting that voting meets all the criteria, and that to not vote is, strictly speaking, not a real option.

As the defensor MacIntyri, here—at least for the sake of argument—I submit that Pahman’s analysis, while logically consistent, introduces a false assumption about the nature of morals vis-à-vis public life. In other words, I think that favoring a “duty to consider the consequences” need not take precedence over—and certainly needn’t extinguish—one’s “focus upon the personal, moral value of voting.” What are personal morals, after all, if not deeply connected to reality?

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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Monday, October 1, 2012

Joe Carter recently highlighted the discussion at Ethika Politika, the journal of the Center for Morality in Public Life, about the value of (not) voting, particularly the suggestion by Andrew Haines that in some cases there is a moral duty not to vote. This morning I respond with an analysis of the consequences of not voting, ultimately arguing that one must not neglect to count the cost of abstaining to vote for any particular office. One issue, however, that I only touched on was that of voting for a third party candidate, which I would like to explore further here. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

During the electoral season of 2004, philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote a provocative essay titled, “The Only Vote Worth Casting in November.” In the essay he writes,

[T]he only vote worth casting in November is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system that presents one with a choice between [X's] conservatism and [Y's] liberalism, those two partners in ideological debate, both of whom need the other as a target.

Andrew Haines, founder of the Center for Morality in Public Life, helpfully distills the essence of MacIntyre’s argument:

In a nutshell—if I can be free to ‘summarize’ MacIntyre’s (or perhaps better, what I take to be a “purist” Aristotelian) position on the matter—refusal to vote coincides with our basic human responsibility toward fostering virtue. Voting, or any political or moral action for that matter, isn’t primarily about fulfilling codified duties, but rather about freely seeking out what is highest and most perfect. The act of voting, in this case, isn’t something we can assess under a utility-driven approach to social welfare (e.g., sorting out the lesser of two political evils). Instead, voting is a reflection of right reason in action—and because of this, it can only engage positively (i.e., we can only cast an unspoiled ballot) when the intellect is given enough fodder to make an informed judgment.

I despise “utility-driven approaches” to moral issues so I’m sympathetic to the argument. But my moral intuitions also tell me that voting is a duty for Christians in a democratic republic. Am I wrong? How should we respond to MacIntyre’s case for not voting?

Acton Media’s latest Birth of Freedom short video is a timely message in the face of tomorrow’s election. In this video, William B. Allen, Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University, discusses how faith, “the most compelling part of one’s existence”, ought to fit in when evaluating a political candidate.


Check out more Birth of Freedom shorts, learn about premieres in your area, and discover more background information at www.thebirthoffreedom.com.

I have argued for many years now that free markets are intrinsically good. I have tried to engage this issue with Christians but many are either not interested or do not see any importance in the pursuit. I know markets can become bad masters when people lack virtue. I also know that the alternatives to free markets have littered the twentieth century with more death than any single cause in human history. (Think socialism, fascism and Marxism.) And representative democracy, a republic of just laws, is not perfect either but it sure beats the alternatives. Shared power is always better than control by the one or the few. Social engineering and economic planning by an elite and powerful few strips us of both human dignity and true freedom.

Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University, is the author of a new book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Politics, that has a significant bearing on how we should think about the political side of economic concerns in America. Professor Caplan concludes, in words that are not at all comforting to me personally, that most Americans cast their votes on the basis of irrational biases about economics. This, he reasons, is why candidates who oppose free markets, free trade, profits and immigration win. Sadly, I am quite sure that he is right about this point.

Creators Syndicate writer John Stossel, in reviewing the professor’s new book, says: "People tend to acquire wrong opinions about economic policy packaged in worldviews they inherited while growing up." Since people resist, and often strongly, having their own worldview challenged or changed they will vote for those candidates who make them feel good. Stossel concludes that this means "They will vote irrationally." I have long sensed that this was true on an intuitive level but the professor’s argument tends to fortify what I had only sensed but not quite had a handle on how to argue my case well. Simply put, most voters see no compelling reason to vote otherwise since their choices in elections bear no direct consequence on their lives, at least as they understand their lives. Gloomily Stossel concludes, "When irrationality is free, people will indulge their biases." (more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, April 24, 2007

“None of the above,” or NOTA, is a voting concept that would allow ballot-casters to express their frustration with the available candidates. It’s been a staple of voting procedure at the United States Libertarian Party for years.

The Florida legislature is now considering an “I Choose Not To Vote” option. This choice is not the same as NOTA, since if it “won” a majority of votes it would not result in any necessary action. The candidate who gets the highest vote total would still win the race, but the option would “enable uninformed or disgusted voters to opt out in a way that clearly displays their intention to abstain for elections officials,” according to state Sen. Mike Bennett.

The idea is basically NOTA without the teeth. But it may be a step in the right direction for a nation facing depressed voter turnouts, increasingly negative campaigns, and a problematic nomination system.

And at least in the case of Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, it may be a more attractive option than simply not casting a ballot at all.

Blog author: jarmstrong
posted by on Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Though millions of Americans will go to the polls today to vote, midterm elections generally draw only 30 percent of eligible voters to the polls. (Presidential races draw around 50 percent.) These numbers put the U.S. in 139th place among 194 nations in a ranking of voter turnouts. Numerous reasons are offered for this low number. One may be the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts that mean most House seats are “safe.” Political scientist Michael McDonald says “Just as sports fans tend to turn off the game when it’s a blowout voters who already know the results of their local races have little reason to tune in. They believe their votes don’t count, and basically they’re right.”

Numerous Christians have argued, for some years now, that it is a sin to not vote in elections. I seriously doubt the logic of this conclusion. On what specific ethical basis do you argue this case? Surely not Romans 13:1-8, which is the most extensive biblical teaching we have on a Christian’s duty to their governing authorities. I suppose you can make a case for responsible citizenship requiring people to vote but then some people are not adequately informed to vote. I actually include myself in this observation.

For example, in Illinois I am asked to vote for judges. I almost never know know if these judges are competent at all. In the past I have simply voted to “retain” the names listed on the ballot unless I knew otherwise. I refuse to do that now since I realize I know nothing about the person or their service. (Yes, there is the rare case where a very bad judge can be removed because word gets out!) I would suggest that you not vote for a person, or proposition, that you know nothing about or on an issue you do not understand. I agree that an uninformed democracy is not generally a healthy democracy. But an electorate that is ignorant of the issues, and/or the candidates, is not obligated to vote just because it is perceived as a Christian duty by some.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Friday, September 29, 2006

Many people that I know go out and vote to elect Congress members, U.S. senators, and all sorts of local officials. But I don’t know of that many people who are able or willing to go out and see what their elected officials are actually doing.

I recently discovered a website — a project of The Washington Post — that helps you keep track of just that, although only on the Federal level. The “Votes Database” lets you follow what’s going through Congress, and how everyone is voting. It lets you see what the party vote was, and also how individual elected officials voted.

For those who don’t like visiting websites every day, you can get RSS feeds for each member of Congress and monitor their work from your favorite RSS reader. This is a great way to get a little bit more proactive about knowing what’s happening in the government.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How can government best uphold Christian values? The right’s traditional answer is through legislating morality issues that are central to family values or the sanctity of life. It looks like the left will counter this with an expanded version of government. Andrew Lynn looks at the growing competition for the religious vote in the context of Sen. Barack Obama’s recent speech to Call to Renewal.

Read the entire commentary here.