24 June 2012

Measure results, not inputs

Hit & Run | Tim Cavanaugh | Orszag: Compulsory Voting for All!

Writing in Bloomberg, Orszag says it's "our own fault" we get such poor results when we vote:
Compulsory voting, as exists in Australia and more than two dozen other countries, would fix that problem. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues, “Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting?”

Mandating voting has a clear effect: It raises participation rates. Before Australia adopted compulsory voting in 1924, for example, it had turnout rates similar to those of the U.S. After voting became mandatory, participation immediately jumped from 59 percent in the election of 1922 to 91 percent in the election of 1925.
Those "more than two dozens other countries," by the way, include such envies of the world as Libya, Argentina, Congo, Lebanon, Egypt and Nauru. (Actually, Nauru seems interesting.)
Hrrrrrrrrrr. Talk about begging the question. Voting isn't an end in itself: voting is a method to get good policy. You can't judge the success of a law which dictates voting by counting how many people vote. The goal is better policy. Counting increased turnout as a victory would be like claiming that stomping your foot on the gas pedal is ipso facto a good idea because now the pedal is closer to the floor.

This Orszag dude, by the way, was one of the Certified Very Smart People who rode into town with Obama to replace all of Bush's supposed hillbillies and frat boys.  If this is the level of logic we get out of the technocratic, "reality-based," pro-science whateverthehellyouwanttocallit people, we're toast. The people I'm told are idiots act like idiots, and the people I'm told are geniuses act like arrogant idiots.

PS For the record, I think not only is compulsory voting is a bad idea, but even the "Rock the Vote" type haranguing is downright immoral. If people aren't already motivated to get themselves to a polling place then they almost certainly aren't motivated to stay informed and make coherent decisions. Encouraging people so unmotivated to exert control over society is irresponsible.


  1. If I recall correct, in the recent Algerian elections, people specifically AVOIDED voting, not out of apathy, but as a statement in itself. I'm considering taking this option [1] in November myself. The way I see it, a vote for either Obama or Romney (or is it Obomney?) accomplishes nothing but legitimize tyranny. By voting, we buy into the system, essentially giving up any right to complain about it afterward.

    [1] Either stay home, or cast a blank presidential ballot and vote locally.

    1. I certainly appreciate people not voting as a statement, but I think it sends a clearer, stronger message to show up and cast a ballot which is either blank or for a clear protest candidate or write-in. There's no way someone can look at a ballot cast for David Hume or Junius Brutus as anything other than an explicit rejection of both the Red Team and Blue Team candidates.

  2. PS "By voting, we buy into the system, essentially giving up any right to complain about it afterward."

    Yes! I've lots track of how many times people have told me that you don't get to complain if you don't vote. They have it completely backwards.