Philosophers (including me) on the Ethics of Voting

I, and other philosophers, were recently interviewed by Quartz about the ethics of voting. The article is short, but an interesting read. I am, of course biased.

Here is the link:

Ethicists say voting with your heart, without a care about the consequences, is actually immoral

  1. Kevin Henderson

    Qualified voters. Are they like true Scotsmen? In general, a minimum wage, un-formally educated plumber has better chances to provide a moral vote for my society than I do.

    I voted once. It was for a proposition to enhance my wife’s employment opportunities? It felt incredibly selfish. I did not research the broad outcomes of whether an alternative proposal using public money would be better. I did not assess whether more people would be hurt than helped by the proposal. I was even aesthetically against the outcome.

    Voting should be for people who either like or want or need to have their say in society. The rest of us are happy either way. In the rare case of the Brexit decision, it appears people are treating voting like texting: “spur of the moment decision, with possibility for regretting what was said later.”

  2. Doris Wrench Eisler

    The article is very obfuscating:it opposes voting “with your heart” with the best interest of the majority, but doesn’t define either. Is a “heart” vote based on personal attraction: you like the cut of the candidate’s jib, or the mere fact she is a woman? Or does “like” mean something deeper, like platform? If the latter, is a “like” a vote for a candidate who has no chance, as opposed to a strategic or ‘lesser evil’ vote?
    I don’t trust ethicists generally: they are like priests who claim special knowledge when they are just as biased as anyone else.
    I say vote for the impossible dream, and thus keep it alive at least.

  3. s. wallerstein

    There is another possibility which no one brings up in the article: the protest vote.

    The protest vote means that you vote for a candidate who has no chance of winning, but because you know that mainstream politicians, the ones who always win, watch and analyze the voting results carefully and if they see that a minority candidate, the one you vote for, say, the Environmentalist candidate, gets even 2% or 3% of the votes, then in the future they’ll have to take those 2% or 3% of the voters into consideration in close elections and appeal to the issues that those voters are concerned about.

    In addition, politics is a long-term process. If you’re trying to build a political party genuinely concerned about the environment, then maybe in the first election you run in you can only expect to get 2% or 3% of the vote, but you can use the election to get in contact with more voters, to show them that you exist and hopefully, you’ll grow as a political party and movement in future elections.

  4. Doris Wrench Eisler, I just assumed the author was using the words the way they are commonly used. When someone says they are voting their conscience, or heart, they mean their vote to be some kind of expression of who they are, or at least their core values. A committed pacifist could not vote her conscience and vote for either a Democrat or a Republican because they are both likely to use the military.

  5. One downside of very short interview based pieces is that they always leave out the depths and details needed to more properly explore the issue.

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