INTRODUCTION
Voting as an Ethical Issue

WHY VOTING MATTERS

WHEN WE VOTE, we can make government better or worse. In turn, our votes can make people’s lives better or worse.

If we make bad choices at the polls, we get racist, sexist, and homophobic laws. Economic opportunities vanish or fail to materialize. We fight unjust and unnecessary wars. We spend trillions on ill-conceived stimulus plans and entitlement programs that do little to stimulate economies or alleviate poverty. We fail to spend money on programs that would work better. We get overregulation in some places, underregulation in others, and lots of regulation whose sole effect is to secure unfair economic advantages for special interests. We inflict and perpetuate injustice. We leave the poor behind. We wage drug wars that ghettoize inner cities. We throw too many people in jail. We base our immigration and trade policies on xenophobia and defunct economic theories.

Voting is morally significant. Voting changes the quality, scope, and kind of government. The way we vote can help or harm people. Electoral outcomes can be harmful or beneficial, just or unjust. They can exploit the minority for the benefit of the majority. They can do widespread harm with little benefit for anyone. So, in this book, I argue that we have moral obligations concerning how we should vote. Not just any vote is morally acceptable.

This is a book on voting ethics. In particular, it concerns the ethics of voting in political contexts. (It is not about voting for MLB All-Stars or American Idol contestants.) The purpose of this book is to determine whether a citizen should vote at all and how she should vote if she chooses to do so. The field of voting ethics asks questions such as: Should citizens choose to vote or abstain? If a person is indifferent to the outcome of an election, should she abstain? When citizens do vote, how should they vote? May voters use their religious beliefs in deciding how to vote? Must voters vote sincerely, for the candidate or position they believe best? What counts as voting for the best candidate? In particular, should voters vote solely for their own interest, or should they vote for the common good, whatever that is? Is it ever acceptable to buy, sell, or trade votes?

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The Ethics of Voting
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 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
  • Afterword to the Paperback Edition How to Vote Well 179
  • Notes 185
  • References 205
  • Index 213
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