I've often wondered why democracy works the way it does in the UK. If we accept that, to deploy the old maxim, that it's the least-worst way of running things, that doesn't then mean that our particular current version of it is the Platonic ideal. The discussions about voting for the devolution options in Scotland have once again led into the absurd situation where the votes of 16-years olds are going to count. I think this is ridiculous. But, then again, why is the franchise restricted to 18+? Why not 16 indeed? Or 13+? Why have any age restrictions? And if there are going to be age restrictions, why is there no upper limit? Why not cut it off at 75? Maybe age shouldn't be the determinant: perhaps the qualification for the franchise shouldn't be age, or property or anything else, but the ability to understand any of the issues and make a rational decision?
Does every citizen really deserve to vote? If so, why? This issue has been explored by Jennifer L. Hochschild, Professor of Government at Harvard. In 2010, she published a study entitled If democracies need informed voters, how can they thrive while expanding enfranchisement?, which suggests that “as democracies become more democratic [by giving the vote to disenfranchised groups], their decision-making processes become of lower quality in terms of cognitive processing of issues and candidate choice”.[From Why should all citizens be allowed the vote? – Telegraph Blogs]
The is self-evidently true and hardly worth academic discourse. A fifth of the British population is functionally illiterate. Why on earth should they be allowed to make the choice as to how the country and, more particularly, my family should be governed?
Apparently some people in Britain think that Buzz Lightyear was the first man on the moon. What is the moral imperative behind allowing them any influence over public policy on anything? I’m outraged that these people are allowed to vote[From Grumpy old reactionary | 15Mb: yet another blog from Dave Birch]
There is no ethical edge to this at all in my mind. It's not even close to being an ethical debate. There is no reason at all to continue the universal franchise with the current model. It's time for a re-think, and I'm pretty sure that I know what the outline of the new franchise should be.
According to Jason Brennan, a professor of political philosophy at Brown University and author of The Ethics of Voting, it would be better for society if the ill-informed do not vote.[From Why should all citizens be allowed the vote? – Telegraph Blogs]
I have consistently argued this, and even come up with a simple 2-out-of-3 system to make it work.
make voting machines that are bit like the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” machines in the pub. Voters come in to the booth and have to answer three questions (they get one 50:50 and one “phone a friend” — it doesn’t make sense to ask the audience in this context) randomly selected from categories such as politics, economics, history, that sort of thing. “Who’s the Chancellor of the Exchequer”, for example.[From Votonomics | 15Mb: yet another blog from Dave Birch]
This could work pretty well, as it would give the election night studios some extra graphics to play with and a terrific new statistic for the subhead in the morning papers: "And this is what the result would have been had the stupid votes been counted".