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In many democracies, voter turnout is low and getting lower. If the people choose not to govern themselves, should they be forced to do so? For Jason Brennan, compulsory voting is unjust and a petty violation of citizens' liberty. The median non-voter is less informed and rational, as well as more biased than the median voter. According to Lisa Hill, compulsory voting is a reasonable imposition on personal liberty. Hill points to the discernible benefits of compulsory voting and argues that high turnout elections are more democratically legitimate. The authors – both well-known for their work on voting and civic engagement – debate questions such as: •Do citizens have a duty to vote, and is it an enforceable duty? •Does compulsory voting violate citizens' liberty? If so, is this sufficient grounds to oppose it? Or is it a justifiable violation? Might it instead promote liberty on the whole? •Is low turnout a problem, or a blessing? •Does compulsory voting produce better government? Or, might it instead produce worse government? Might it, in fact, have little effect overall on the quality of government?Read more
- For-and-against format
- First book-length treatment of pros and cons of compulsory voting
- Large body of up-to-date literature on the subject included
- Written from a political theory/philosophy perspective, but can appeal to political scientists, political philosophers, economists, and election law specialists
Reviews & endorsements
"The frustrating thing about arguments over citizenship in democracies is that everyone is right, meaning that everyone is also wrong. There are powerful arguments in favor of asking citizens to act on a moral obligation to become informed, so as to move toward an ideal world. In that view, argued ably here by Jason Brennan, anyone who fails to become informed should voluntarily abstain. Lisa Hill argues that Brennan has it backwards: ‘good’ elections are not the result of an informed citizenry. Rather, a broadly accepted electoral process, legitimated by universal participation, is what creates an informed citizenry. Who is right? An extraordinary and very fair-minded treatment of significant issues in democracy around the world."
Michael Munger, Duke UniversitySee more reviews
"Should the government force citizens to vote? Brennan and Hill’s Compulsory Voting crisply presents the strongest case in favor as well as the strongest case against mandatory participation in the electoral process. Although the two authors defend opposite conclusions, both show that philosophy is better with careful social science - and that social science is better with careful philosophy. A book full of ideas, clarity, and candor."
Bryan D. Caplan, George Mason University
"Jason Brennan and Lisa Hill have performed a valuable service by brilliantly analyzing and critiquing the many arguments for and against compulsory voting, ranging from the most obvious to those that are counterintuitive and obscure. An original, readily accessible contribution to the scholarly literature."
Ilya Somin, George Mason University
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- Date Published: June 2014
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107041516
- length: 240 pages
- dimensions: 235 x 158 x 18 mm
- weight: 0.52kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Medicine Worse than Disease? Against Compulsory Voting Jason Brennan:
1. The heavy burden of proof
2. Democratic legitimacy and the consequences of compulsion
3. Do your share or else
4. Should we force the drunk to drive? Part II. Compulsory Voting Defended Lisa Hill:
5. Compulsory voting: background, effects, feasibility and basic premises
6. Turnout, abstention, and democratic legitimacy
7. Is compulsory voting an unjustified burden on personal autonomy? Is there a right not to vote?
8. Is requiring people to vote contrary to democratic values?
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