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Jason Brennan (Georgetown University)

Philosophy Colloquium Series

February 22, 2013 3:00 pm Philosophy Conference Room

"Against Compulsory Voting"


Democracy is rule by the people. However, many democracies, such as the United States and Canada, have low rates of democratic participation. Many people worry that if do not have government by the people, we will not have government for the people—at least, not for all of them. If some people choose not to vote, then perhaps politicians might feel free to ignore them, or even to exploit them. Many people conclude that compulsory voting is justified to ensure democracies properly represent everyone, especially the weak, poor, and vulnerable. On the contrary, I argue that compulsory voting is not justified as a means of protecting the weak, poor, and vulnerable. Compulsory voting probably would not help the people it is mean to protect, and it may even harm them. And, even if compulsory voting could deliver its promised benefits, we have superior, non-coercive alternatives. The best case for compulsory voting fails.


Jason Brennan (Ph.D., Arizona, 2007) is Assistant Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business, and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. He is the author of Libertarianism (Oxford, 2012), The Ethics of Voting (Princeton, 2011), and, with David Schmidtz, A Brief History of Liberty (Blackwell, 2010). He is currently writing Against Politics (forthcoming Princeton University Press) and, with Lisa Hill, Compulsory Voting: For and Against (forthcoming Cambridge University Press).

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