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Friday, October 24, 2008

Will Wilkinson: "Thank you for not voting"

Dontvote Robert, you argued that despite the calls for mandatory voting from the democracy fetishists, those 40.9% of registered voters who stayed home in the Federal election should neither be shamed nor criminalized. Of course, I agree.

The key word in our system of liberal democracy is liberal, that means that crimes are those actions which infringe on the rights of others–abstaining from voting is no crime. In fact, I think that if our Charter right to freedom of expression is to mean anything, it ought to protect this form of speech.

Cato's Will Wilkinson writes in the Ottawa Citizen that a low turnout may be a healthy sign for a democracy. Why? Less voter pollution:

The virtue of opting out is especially clear once you grasp that more voting isn't necessarily better voting. Specialists in public opinion have exhaustively documented the average voter's shocking ignorance about the main issues of the day, the names of their local candidates for office, or the policies the candidates support.

The flakiest voters -- the ones least motivated to show up at the polls year in and year out -- also tend to be most poorly informed. So when turnout drops, it tends to leave the pool of remaining voters with an improved average level of political knowledge and policy know-how. If well-informed voters have a better picture of the candidate or party most likely to promote the general welfare, then especially high turnout can actually tilt an election away from the better choice, leaving everyone a bit worse off. And that's not very civic-minded.

Read the rest. You can also watch a longer discussion between Jason Brennan of Brown University and Will Wilkinson on why some people just shouldn't vote here:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on October 24, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink


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Wilkinson is one of the best libertarians writing today.

See him on "Rawlsekianism" here:

Combining F.H. Hayek and John Rawls is ingenious, and more or less the way libertarians should go these days, in my opinion.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-10-24 11:52:38 AM

Terrence and Kalim: I agree with both of you about Will's importance. Reading his blog is one of the highlights of my week. I also happen to admire Jason Brennan a great deal (and, along with GMU prof Pete Leeson, think the three of them are perhaps the three most wise, most interesting, and most exciting young libertarians out there).

Will Wilkinson, by the way, is a "lost Canadian." His father is Canadian, but moved to the U.S. Wilkinson lost his Canadian citizenship since his father was forced to abandon it to become a U.S. citizen, but a new policy change might make it possible for Will to regain his Canadian citizenship. He's going to try and get it. Let's hope he does.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-10-24 12:12:43 PM

"GMU prof Pete Leeson"

Yarr! How awesome is the name of his forthcoming book "The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates"? I will be buying it as soon as it's available.

It's cool how he's become a go-to expert on piracy at the NYTimes' Freakonomics blog and elsewhere, those rascally Somali pirates have been a real boon to his professional career.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-30 5:27:57 AM

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