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Etika i racionalnost glasovanja

Posted by Aleksandar Joksić dana 10/09/2016

Nedavno je na SEP-u izašao članak o etici i racionalnosti glasovanja autora Jasona Brennana pa sam mislio da bi bilo prigodno s obzirom na sutrašnje izbore prenijeti nekoliko izvadaka.

Sadržaj članka je sljedeći:

1.Is it rational for an individual citizen to vote?

2.Is there a moral duty to vote?images

3.Are there moral obligations regarding how citizens vote?

4.Is it justifiable for governments to compel citizens to vote?

5.Is it permissible to buy, trade, and sell votes?

6.Who ought to have the right to vote, and should every citizen have an equal vote?


Započinje poznatim parodoksom glasovanja…

The act of voting has an opportunity cost. It takes time and effort that could be used for other valuable things, such as working for pay, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or playing video games. Further, identifying issues, gathering political information, thinking or deliberating about that information, and so on, also take time and effort which could be spent doing other valuable things. Economics, in its simplest form, predicts that rational people will perform an activity only if doing so maximizes expected utility. However, it appears, at least at first glance, that for nearly every individual citizen, voting does not maximize expected utility. This leads to the “paradox of voting”(Downs 1957): Since the expected costs (including opportunity costs) of voting appear to exceed the expected benefits, and since voters could always instead perform some action with positive overall utility, it’s surprising that anyone votes.

However, whether voting is rational or not depends on just what voters are trying to do. Instrumental theories of the rationality of voting hold that it can be rational to vote when the voter’s goal is to influence or change the outcome of an election, including the “mandate” the winning candidate receives. (The mandate theory of elections holds that a candidate’s effectiveness in office, i.e., her ability to get things done, is in part a function of how large or small a lead she had over her competing candidates during the election.) In contrast, the expressive theory of voting holds that voters vote in order to express themselves and their fidelity to certain groups or ideas.


O instrumentalnom glasovanju…

One reason a person might vote is to influence, or attempt to change, the outcome of an election. Suppose there are two candidates, D and R. Suppose Sally prefers D to R; she believes that D would do a trillion dollars more overall good than R would do. If her beliefs were correct, then by hypothesis, it would be best if D won.

However, this does not yet show it is rational for Sally to vote for D. Instead, this depends on how likely it is that her vote will make a difference. In much the same way, it might be worth $200 million to win the lottery, but that does not imply it is rational to buy a lottery ticket.


Thus, on both of these popular models, for most voters in most elections, voting for the purpose of trying to change the outcome is irrational. The expected costs exceed the expected benefits by many orders of magnitude.


O ekspresivnom glasovanju. Zvuči poznato?

The expressive theory of voting (G. Brennan and Lomasky 1993) holds that voters vote in order to express themselves. On the expressive theory, voting is a consumption activity rather than a productive activity; it is more like reading a book for pleasure than it is like reading a book to develop a new skill. On this theory, though the act of voting is private, voters regard voting as an apt way to demonstrate and express their commitment to their political team. Voting is like wearing a Metallica T-shirt at a concert or doing the wave at a sports game. Sports fans who paint their faces the team colors do not generally believe that they, as individuals, will change the outcome of the game, but instead wish to demonstrate their commitment to their team. Even when watching games alone, sports fans cheer and clap for their teams. Perhaps voting is like this.

This “expressive theory of voting” is untroubled by and indeed partly supported by the empirical findings that most voters are ignorant about basic political facts (Somin 2013; Delli Carpini and Keeter, 1996). The expressive theory is also untroubled by and indeed partly supported by work in political psychology showing that most citizens suffer from significant “intergroup bias”: we tend to automatically form groups, and to be irrationally loyal to and forgiving of our own group while irrationally hateful of other groups (Lodge and Taber 2013; Haidt 2012; Westen, Blagov, Harenski, Kilts, and Hamann 2006; Westen 2008). Voters might adopt ideologies in order to signal to themselves and others that they are certain kinds of people. For example, suppose Bob wants to express that he is a patriot and a tough guy. He thus endorses hawkish military actions, e.g., that the United States nuke Russia for interfering with Ukraine. It would be disastrous for Bob were the US to do what he wants. However, since Bob’s individual vote for a militaristic candidate has little hope of being decisive, Bob can afford to indulge irrational and misinformed beliefs about public policy and express those beliefs at the polls.

Another simple and plausible argument is that it can be rational to vote in order to discharge a perceived duty to vote (Mackie 2010). Surveys indicate that most citizens in fact believe there is a duty to vote or to “do their share” (Mackie 2010: 8–9). If there are such duties, and these duties are sufficiently weighty, then it would be rational for most voters to vote.


O jednom popularnom, ali lošem, argumentu koji vidi glasovanje kao moralnu dužnost građana…

What if everyone were to stay home and not vote? The results would be disastrous! Therefore, I (you/she) should vote. (Lomasky and G. Brennan 2000: 75)

This popular argument can be parodied in a way that exposes its weakness. Consider:

What if everyone were to stay home and not farm? Then we would all starve to death! Therefore, I (you/she) should each become farmers. (Lomasky and G. Brennan 2000: 76)

The problem with this argument, as stated, is that even if it would be disastrous if no one or too few performed some activity, it does not follow that everyone ought to perform it. Instead, one conclude that it matters that sufficient number of people perform the activity. In the case of farming, we think it’s permissible for people to decide for themselves whether to farm or not, because market incentives suffice to ensure that enough people farm.


O moralnoj dužnosti načina glasovanja…

Most people appear to believe that there is a duty to cast a vote (perhaps including a blank ballot) rather than abstain (Mackie 2010: 8–9), but this leaves open whether they believe there is a duty to vote in any particular way. Some philosophers and political theorists have argued there are ethical obligations attached to how one chooses to vote. For instance, many deliberative democrats (see Christiano 2006) believe not only that every citizen has a duty to vote, but also that they must vote in publicly-spirited ways, after engaging in various forms of democratic deliberation. In contrast, some (G. Brennan and Lomasky 1993; J. Brennan 2009; J. Brennan 2011a) argue that while there is no general duty to vote (abstention is permissible), those citizens who do choose to vote have duties affecting how they vote. They argue that while it is not wrong to abstain, it is wrong to vote badly, in some theory-specified sense of “badly”.


Teorija glasačke etike može sadržavati odgovore na bilo koja od sljedećih pitanja…

  1. The Intended Beneficiary of the Vote: Whose interests should the voter take into account when casting a vote? May the voter vote selfishly, or should she vote sociotropically? If the latter, on behalf of which group ought she vote: her demographic group(s), her local jurisdiction, the nation, or the entire world? Is it permissible to vote when one has no stake in the election, or is otherwise indifferent to the outcome?

  2. The Substance of the Vote: Are there particular candidates or policies that the voter is obligated to support, or not to support? For instance, is a voter obligated to vote for whatever would best produce the most just outcomes, according to the correct theory of justice? Must the voter vote for candidates with good character? May the voter vote strategically, or must she vote in accordance with her sincere preferences?

  3. Epistemic Duties Regarding Voting: Are voters required to have a particular degree of knowledge, or exhibit a particular kind of epistemic rationality, in forming their voting preferences? Is it permissible to vote in ignorance, on the basis of beliefs about social scientific matters that are formed without sufficient evidence?


Važan dio o epistemičkoj etici glasovanja…

Consider the question: What do doctors owe patients, parents owe children, or jurors owe defendants (or, perhaps, society)? Doctors owe patients proper care, and to discharge their duties, they must 1) aim to promote their patients’ interests, and 2) reason about how to do so in a sufficiently informed and rational way. Parents similarly owe such duties to their children. Jurors similarly owe society at large, or perhaps more specifically the defendant, duties to 1) try to determine the truth, and 2) do so in an informed and rational way. The doctors, parents, and jurors are fiduciaries of others. They owe a duty of care, and this duty of care brings with it certain epistemic responsibilities.

One might try to argue that voters owe similar duties of care to the governed. Perhaps voters should vote 1) for what they perceive to be the best outcomes (consistent with strategic voting) and 2) make such decisions in a sufficiently informed and rational way. How voters vote has significant impact on political outcomes, and can help determine matters of peace and war, life and death, prosperity and poverty. Majority voters do not just choose for themselves, but for everyone, including dissenting minorities, children, non-voters, resident aliens, and people in other countries affected by their decisions. For this reason, voting seems to be a morally charged activity (Christiano 2006; Brennan 2011a; Beerbohm 2012).

That said, one clear disanalogy between the relationship doctors have with patients and voters have with the governed is that individual voters have only a vanishingly small chance of making a difference. The expected harm of an incompetent individual vote is vanishingly small, while the expected harm of incompetent individual medical decisions is high.

However, perhaps the point holds anyway. Define a “collectively harmful activity” as an activity in which a group is imposing or threatening to impose harm, or unjust risk of harm, upon other innocent people, but the harm will be imposed regardless of whether individual members of that group drop out. It’s plausible that one might have an obligation to refrain from participating in such activities, i.e., a duty to keep one’s hands clean.

To illustrate, Suppose a 100-member firing squad is about to shoot an innocent child. Each bullet will hit the child at the same time, and each shot would, on its own, be sufficient to kill her. You cannot stop them, so the child will die regardless of what you do. Now, suppose they offer you the opportunity to join in and shoot the child with them. You can make the 101st shot. Again, the child will die regardless of what you do. Is it permissible for you join the firing squad? Most people have a strong intuition that it is wrong to join the squad and shoot the child. One plausible explanation of why it is wrong is that there may be a general moral prohibition against participating in these kinds of activities. In these kinds of cases, we should try to keep our hands clean.

Perhaps this “clean-hands principle” can be generalized to explain why individual acts of ignorant, irrational, or malicious voting are wrong. The firing-squad example is somewhat analogous to voting in an election. Adding or subtracting a shooter to the firing squad makes no difference—the girl will die anyway. Similarly, with elections, individual votes make no difference. In both cases, the outcome is causally overdetermined. Still, the irresponsible voter is much like a person who volunteers to shoot in the firing squad. Her individual bad vote is of no consequence—just as an individual shot is of no consequence—but she is participating in a collectively harmful activity when she could easily keep her hands clean (Brennan 2011a, 68–94).


Bi li svi trebali imati jednako pravo glasa?

The dominant view among political philosophers is that we ought to have some sort of representative democracy, and that each adult ought to have one vote, of equal weight to every other adult’s, in any election in her jurisdiction. This view has recently come under criticism, though, both from friends and foes of democracy.

Before one even asks whether “one person, one vote” is the right policy, one needs to determine just who counts as part of the demos. Call this the boundary problem or the problem of constituting the demos (Goodin 2007: 40). Democracy is the rule of the people. But one fundamental question is just who constitutes “the people”. This is no small problem. Before one can judge that a democracy is fair, or adequately responds to citizens’ interests, one needs to know who “counts” and who does not.

One might be inclined to say that everyone living under a particular government’s jurisdiction is part of the demos and is thus entitled to a vote. However, in fact, most democracies exclude children and teenagers, felons, the mentally infirm, and non-citizens living in a government’s territory from being able to vote, but at the same time allow their citizens living in foreign countries to vote (López-Guerra 2014: 1).


I najkontroverzniji i najzanimljiviji dio: epistokracija.

Early defenders of democracy were concerned to show democracy is superior to aristocracy, monarchy, or oligarchy. However, in recent years, epistocracy has emerged as a major contender to democracy (Estlund 2003, 2007; Landemore 2012). A system is said to be epistocratic to the extent that the system formally allocates political power on the basis of knowledge or political competence. For instance, an epistocracy might give university-educated citizens additional votes (Mill 1861), exclude citizens from voting unless they can pass a voter qualification exam, weigh votes by each voter’s degree of political knowledge while correcting for the influence of demographic factors, or create panels of experts who have the right to veto democratic legislation (Caplan 2007; J. Brennan 2011b; López-Guerra 2014; Mulligan 2015).

Arguments for epistocracy generally center on concerns about democratic incompetence. Epistocrats hold that democracy imbues citizens with the right to vote in a promiscuous way. Ample empirical research has shown that the mean, median, and modal levels of basic political knowledge (let alone social scientific knowledge) among citizens is extremely low (Somin 2013; Caplan 2007; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996). Further, political knowledge makes a significant difference in how citizens vote and what policies they support (Althaus 1998, 2003; Caplan 2007; Gilens 2012). Epistocrats believe that restricting or weighting votes would protect against some of the downsides of democratic incompetence.

One argument for epistocracy is that the legitimacy of political decisions depends upon them being made competently and in good faith. Consider, as an analogy: In a criminal trial, the jury’s decision is high stakes; their decision can remove a person’s rights or greatly harm their life, liberty, welfare, or property. If a jury made its decision out of ignorance, malice, whimsy, or on the basis of irrational and biased thought processes, we arguably should not and probably would not regard the jury’s decision as authoritative or legitimate. Instead, we think the criminal has a right to a trial conducted by competent people in good faith. In many respects, electoral decisions are similar to jury decisions: they also are high stakes, and can result in innocent people losing their lives, liberty, welfare, or property. If the legitimacy and authority of a jury decision depends upon the jury making a competent decision in good faith, then perhaps so should the legitimacy and authority of most other governmental decisions, including the decisions that electorates and their representatives make. Now, suppose, in light of widespread voter ignorance and irrationality, it turns out that democratic electorates tend to make incompetent decisions. If so, then this seems to provide at least presumptive grounds for favoring epistocracy over democracy (J. Brennan 2011b).

Some dispute whether epistocracy would in fact perform better than democracy, even in principle. Epistocracy generally attempts to generate better political outcomes by in some way raising the average reliability of political decision-makers. Political scientists Lu Hong and Scott Page (2004) adduced a mathematical theorem showing that under the right conditions, cognitive diversity among the participants in a collective decision more strongly contributes to the group making a smart decision than does increasing the individual participants’ reliability. On the Hong-Page theorem, it is possible that having a large number of diverse but unreliable decision-makers in a collective decision will outperform having a smaller number of less diverse but more reliable decision-makers. There is some debate over whether the Hong-Page theorem has any mathematical substance (Thompson 2014 claims it does not), whether real-world political decisions meet the conditions of the theorem, and, if so, to what extent that justifies universal suffrage, or merely shows that having widespread but restricted suffrage is superior to having highly restricted suffrage (Landemore 2012; Somin 2013: 113–5).

Relatedly, Condorcet’s Jury Theorem holds that under the right conditions, provided the average voter is reliable, as more and more voters are added to a collective decision, the probability that the democracy will make the right choice approaches 1 (List and Goodin 2001). However, assuming the theorem applies to real-life democratic decisions, whether the theorem supports or condemns democracy depends on how reliable voters are. If voters do systematically worse than chance (e.g., Althaus 2003; Caplan 2007), then the theorem instead implies that large democracies almost always make the wrong choice.

One worry about certain froms of epistocracy, such as a system in which voters must earn the right to vote by passing an examination, is that such systems might make decisions that are biased toward members of certain demographic groups. After all, political knowledge is not evenly dispersed among all demographic groups. On average, in the United States, on measures of basic political knowledge, whites know more than blacks, people in the Northeast know more than people in the South, men know more than women, middle-aged people know more than the young or old, and high-income people know more than the poor (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996: 137–177). If such a voter examination system were implemented, the resulting electorate would be whiter, maler, richer, more middle-aged, and better employed than the population at large. Democrats might reasonably worry that for this very reason an epistocracy would not take the interests of non-whites, women, the poor, or the unemployed into proper consideration.

However, at least one form of epistocracy may be able to avoid this objection. Consider, for instance, the “enfranchisement lottery”:

The enfranchisement lottery consists of two devices. First, there would be a sortition to disenfranchise the vast majority of the population. Prior to every election, all but a random sample of the public would be excluded. I call this device the exclusionary sortition because it merely tells us who will not be entitled to vote in a given contest. Indeed, those who survive the sortition (the pre-voters) would not be automatically enfranchised. Like everyone in the larger group from which they are drawn, pre-voters would be assumed to be insufficiently competent to vote. This is where the second device comes in. To finally become enfranchised and vote, pre-voters would gather in relatively small groups to participate in a competence-building process carefully designed to optimize their knowledge about the alternatives on the ballot. (López-Guerra 2014: 4; cf. Ackerman and Fishkin 2005)Under this scheme, no one has any presumptive right to vote. Instead, everyone has, by default, equal eligibility to be selected to become a voter. Before the enfranchisement lottery takes place, candidates would proceed with their campaigns as they do in democracy. However, they campaign without knowing which citizens in particular will eventually acquire the right to vote. Immediately before the election, a random but representative subset of citizens is then selected by lottery. These citizens are not automatically granted the right to vote. Instead, the chosen citizens merely acquire permission to earn the right to vote. To earn this right, they must then participate in some sort of competence-building exercise, such as studying party platforms or meeting in a deliberative forum with one another. In practice this system might suffer corruption or abuse, but, epistocrats respond, so does democracy in practice. For epistocrats, the question is which system works better, i.e., produces the best or most substantively just outcomes, all things considered.

One important deontological objection to epistocracy is that it may be incompatible with public reason liberalism (Estlund 2007). Public reason liberals hold that distribution of coercive political power is legitimate and authoritative only if all reasonable people subject to that power have strong enough grounds to endorse a justification for that power (Vallier and D’Agostino 2013). By definition, epistocracy imbues some citizens with greater power than others on the grounds that these citizens have greater social scientific knowledge. However, the objection goes, reasonable people could disagree about just what counts as expertise and just who the experts are. If reasonable people disagree about what counts as expertise and who the experts are, then epistocracy distributes political power on terms not all reasonable people have conclusive grounds to endorse. Epistocracy thus distributes political power on terms not all reasonable people have conclusive grounds to endorse. (See, however, Mulligan 2015.)


Ima još o etici kupovanja glasova i pravednosti obveznog glasovanja. Read the whole thing. 

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