Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Quick Note About The Difficulties Of Informed Voting

(via Bleeding Heart Libertarians) Jason Brennan has a short piece in the Globe & Mail about being a rational voter. I completely agree with the main point he's making i.e. if you're going to vote you should do so in an informed manner. However, I see two practical hurdles to this approach:

  • It's impossible to be well-informed about all policy areas. As Brennan says:
    For instance, many parties promise to create more jobs. Even if a voter agrees with this goal, this does not tell her how to vote. The parties propose different policies in order to try to reduce unemployment. To be well informed, a voter must know how to evaluate these policy proposals. To do that, she needs know some economics, sociology and political science.
    It's reasonable to believe that a voter might possess the knowledge necessary to evaluate proposals in a few policy areas, but being able to meaningfully evaluate the bulk of policies proposed by any particular party/candidate is nigh impossible.
  • There's a moderate correlation, at best, between promises made during a campaign and actions taken once in office.

Given the former it seems that the "informed voter" is little more than a hypothetical construct; such a beast doesn't exist in real life. The latter would indicate that a well-informed voter wouldn't have any assurance that the responsible policies for which ey voted would actually be implemented.


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