Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stupid Voters, or Wrong Choices?

I must admit that there have been plenty of times in my life where I've thought to myself that some voters are just plain stupid. There's a good chance that they know little to nothing about the candidates they're voting for, and their choice undoubtedly affects my life in ways I don't want it to; which is just another way of me saying, "What the fuck, if you were gonna be stupid you could have at least picked 'MY' guy!" At the same time though as much as I think I'm informed about the issues and candidates I vote on, there's much in the complexity I either don't have time to investigate, or perhaps I just don't understand. So naturally I have to pull back from my thinking on stupid voters and say, well, to a certain degree many people are going to vote on ideology because they simply don't have the time and/or interest to get involved in the issues and what they are. It makes me wonder then, just what would it mean to be a "stupid voter"?

For that, I ran across this article over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and I gotta tell ya, it's stupid. Brennan tells us that:

"Today most Americans will do something morally rotten–they will vote, despite being misinformed, uninformed, and irrational about politics."

First off it's true that we cannot tell from what's being said here what degree of knowledge is required to actually be informed, and to actually be rational, nor does Brennan ever tell us. Secondly, if there was a way to be properly informed (or just plainly informed), he doesn't tell us that either. The only thing we really know is that, based upon his standard for rationality and information gathering, if you're not up to his standards and make a choice in the polls you're being 'morally rotten'. I'd give him the benefit of the doubt here as I'm sure he'd fill in all the blanks with a nice smattering dialectical bullshit, but this is just an ass-hole-ish thing to say. And if that alone weren't enough, he continues:

"As a result, innocent people around the world, including my children and me, will have to suffer the consequences of bad government. "

In other words, misinformed/uninformed votes necessarily leads to 'bad government'. This is just plain stupid and assumes that when the average citizen goes to the polls and votes that there's a choice which naturally leads to 'bad government'. But if that's true then all Brennan is really saying here is that being misinformed to whatever standard he lays out leads to voting (let's say for candidates) that wouldn't have been the candidate he would have voted for. I mean how else do we get 'bad government' according to his definition if not for picking the wrong guy? To put this all in another way, misinformed voting according to Brennan's standard leads only to a statistical likelihood that voting won't go his way. Let's pause for a minute though, because he's about to contradict himself:

"My theory of voting ethics doesn’t require that you get the correct answer, but rather than [sic] you be epistemically justified in voting for what you vote for."

So is there a correct answer or is there not a correct answer (i.e. is there an answer that leads to bad government or isn't there)? Putting aside the fact that the majority of voters don't even understand what epistemically justified means, can you be epistemically justified in making a choice that Brennan would disagree with? And if it's really just all about being informed and justified in your choice, than how could we ever satisfy Brennan if as a result of the informed choice we make we still end up with what he'd call 'bad government'? Finally, one has to also bare in mind that citizens don't so much make choices as they are given choices, i.e. in the case of presidential elections and positions in office, we don't get the choice of picking who these folks are going to be, we're just given an ultimate choice. (Arguable you can make a 'write in' choice.) Finally Brennan says:

"No, the problem with my fellow citizens isn’t so much what they vote for by why they vote. The overwhelming majority of them haven’t put in the proper care to develop their political beliefs in a rational way, on the basis of the best available evidence. They are like drunk drivers who force me to drive with them. They are like incompetent surgeons who force me to go under their knives. They are like jurors trying a capital murder case, who find the defendant guilty without having paid attention to the evidence, or because they evaluated the evidence in a bigoted or irrational way."

Once again, what do we mean when say 'best available evidence', and how could exercising the right to vote ever be compared to going under the knife of a bad surgeon, or driving drunk on the road? What Brennan is doing of course is vacillating between the idea that there's a wrong choice (leading to bad government), and the idea that there really isn't a bad choice, you just have to be justified in making one. In doing so he then appears to be suggesting that if you're informed properly, perhaps there's only one obvious choice to make, his choice! Or again, maybe there isn't a wrong choice, you just have to be informed when you make it. But then what difference does it make, and what of 'bad government'?

I'll grant that yes, it would be nice if we had a more and/or better informed public when it comes time to vote, but how much is that really going to change peoples ideologies, and how does that change the choices we actually get to make? Further more in todays environment, just what is the standard for being informed for the regular guy and gal off the street that meets the standards for information? I don't know, but what I do know is what I've read above seems pretty damn stupid.


  1. Democracy is just a way of achieving consensus among wildly differing views. Brennan thinks it's a search for truth based upon his standards !

  2. Later I did a little digging in the comment section of the article... This guy actually said that he advocates rule through a voting system that would only allow the top 5% of people to vote.

    This is supposed to be a Libertarian blog! How little I know I guess. If shit like this becomes a common theme I'll have to pick another cause.

  3. Let me guess - the top 5% ranked according to income since they are the real wealth generators who keep plebs like me in comfort through the magic trickle down effect?