Nice take on voting, except it’s a bad idea

Someone called Jason Brenan says (ht MR):

in The Ethics of Voting, I argue that citizens have no standing moral obligation to vote. Voting is just one of many ways one can pay a debt to society, serve other citizens, promote the common good, exercise civic virtue, and avoid free-riding off the efforts of others. Participating in politics is nothing special, morally speaking.

However, I argue that if citizens do decide to vote, they have very strict moral obligations regarding how they vote. I argue that citizens must vote for what they justifiedly believe will promote the common good, or otherwise they must abstain.

The whole post argues how we should vote and why we should vote. But I think he’s wrong, and I’ll tell why.  I assume he’s arguing some version of Condocert’s Jury Theorem that says that, if people don’t vote strategically (which I assume is what he’s defending), then if only voters with high probability of being right decides to vote, implies that the probability of a good colective decision increases with the number of voters. So, those folks with low probability of being right should stay at home. He even try to sketch a way to determine if you’re a person with low probability or high probability.

However, we have to remember two things:

1. First, It’s hard to predict what will be the equilibrium if people behave in strategic ways.

2. One important justification for democracy is that no one knows better than yourself about you. Thus, it’s silly to believe that people may agree to delegate decision about their own lives without their opinion being taken equal weight (though some people may do so in may circunstances, as in fact they do when whey abstain to vote).

Finally, if you take a Bayesian view of rationality, than it’s pretty hard to justifiy that someone is not behaving in a rational way. Bayes theorem says that you should update your prior after getting some evidence by modeling the evidence by some likelihood function. Then, the posteriori is proportional to prior times likelihood. And I think he’s arguing that not only some priors are irrational but some likelihood as well. However, you could have a prior about the space of likelihoods or hipothesis or models, and then you update thre priors with evidence. And how can anynone really say that this hyperprior is irrational? Moreover, the world is so messy that its prety hard to say that some kind of evidence are rational but others aren’t. And wihtout a clear cut division to say what is rationa and irrational, thw whole argument falls apart.

ps.: I’m not saying there isn’t irrational thoughts out there. I’m just saying that there is no way to people agree on what is rational or not. Take religion for instance. I think it’s irrational to evaluate politicans by their beliefs, but lot’s of people don’t think so.



Sobre Manoel Galdino

Corinthiano, Bayesiano e Doutor em ciência Política pela USP.
Esse post foi publicado em Manoel Galdino, Política e Economia e marcado , , . Guardar link permanente.

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