Is voting more important than personal freedom?

In this thread Shakes talks about fining people for not voting.

So what I want to know is, which is a higher ideal, participating in the democratic process or having personal freedom.

I lean toward personal freedom. It’s none of your business how I spend my time. Why should I be compelled to vote? This is supposed to be a free country, and compelled voting is a form of compelled speech.

So what do think, which is more important?


Personal freedom, hands down. Of course you hope people would hold that freedom dear enough to actually learn about the process of protecting it, but…in my experience, people think it grows on trees.

This is not a free country. Choosing one of a hundred sugary cereals is not freedom, choosing one of a hundred overmarketed and overpriced and polluting cars is not freedom. Having to pay money and live in a house that can only be a certain range of colors because of local ordinances designed to preserve the property value of the neighborhood, with a mowed lawn and a mailbox is not freedom. Multiple choice is not freedom.

We are constrained in our every thought and our every action by those around us. What are laws if not people telling other people what to do and what not to do? Parents tell their children what to do, employers tell their employees what to do, doctors tell their patients what to do. So why shouldn’t the government tell us to vote? I think, given that personal freedom is an illusion, I’ll take voting. Hell, we have compulsory income taxes, why not compulsory voting?

Wow, I’m agreeing with mswas and disagreeing with Spatial Rift. That’s rare. :stuck_out_tongue:

The refusal to make a choice is also a choice, and shouldn’t be taken away.

Ah, but you can choose *none *of the above, can you not? You can choose not to buy a cereal, to take the bus, not to buy a house, and not to vote.

Spatial Rift 47 Well, I agree that this isn’t a free country, but that it SHOULD be, and that we should not say “Well fuck it, we’re not free anyway, so lets reduce freedom some more.”


Okay, time for part 2 of my argument. The lack of freedom is a good thing. We need it. We depend on it. We wouldn’t be having this discussion without it. All human societies depend on having something called a moral order, which is just a dichotomy between right and wrong, good and bad. More often than not this takes the form of a religion, but it could be many other things as well. Anyway, it’s this moral order that allows for, say, the standardization of the collection of symbols written as “chair” to refer to a thing we sit down in.

A moral order, in other words, is how we interact with one another. It sounds simple, but it can allow for very complicated behavioral protocols. One part of the moral order might say “it’s good to violate this other part of the moral order under this circumstance,” which gives us the idea of not being tried and punished for a murder committed in self-defense, or while you’re a soldier on the battlefield. So a moral order can give us the free range to act as we need to even though it eliminates actual freedom.

Mika, adding more choices doesn’t change the fact that it’s multiple choice, nor does it change the fact that society enacts severe penalties on those who choose not to choose, i.e. being apathetic and lying in a gutter all day. There is an excellent short novel, Bartleby the Scrivener by Melville, which illustrates this point nicely.

You are absolutely wrong. Freedom does not mean that there are no rules. Because people don’t live in a vaccuume we have laws we try to design to protect everyone’s freedoms. For example:

Choose a not sugar cereal, or a grapefruit or no cereal. Freedom is not making sure every possible breakfast choice you can imagine is available to you. Companies try to make available food they think people like to eat and you have the freedom to decide which, if anything, you would like to eat.

Then buy a hybrid, or a bike, or take the bus. Freedom is the ability to choose.

No one is pointing a gun to your head and telling you to live there. Other people also have to look at your house. Why should you have the right to detract from the neighborhood by painting your house day-glo orange?

No you aren’t. You can think whatever you like. You can say whatever you like but you have to expect people to react to it.

Yes, until the children are old enough to provide for themselves and make their own decisions.

[QUOTE=Spatial Rift 47]

employers tell their employees what to do,


You always have the right to find another job if you don’t like what they tell you to do. You voluntarily entered into an agreement with your employer - they will give you money in exchange for work.

You always have the freedom to not follow your doctors advice, or to not even go.

Why should it? What would be the benefit?

I don’t think you understand what personal freedom is.

Compulsory voting would be bad in more respects than it would be good.

The first problem is that it assumes that everyone who votes knows about the candidates. This is simply not true. Even as it is many people who vote get all their information from political ads on TV. And many people vote straight down the party line regardless of who the candidates are. People who don’t vote now are (in the vast majority of cases) even more clueless. Forcing them to vote would make them flip a coin to chose who gets their vote. Compulsory voting would get more votes cast, yes, but more votes would not necessarily translate to election of better people.

The thing to do is to encourage everyone to lern about the candidates and vote for who ever they feel would represent them best.

This discussion is directed to adults, not children.

Nonsense. Common conventions used to communicate have nothing whatsoever to do with morality. If they did, then speaking French would be inherently immoral because us normal English-speaking people couldn’t understand it.

I can’t parse that last sentence, as it is built out of two mutually exclusive assertions.

In fact, there is no “severe penalty” for choosing not to choose. If you lie around in a gutter, someone will move you if your presence becomes a nuisance, and you will continue to lie around in whatever convenient location you find yourself deposited.

Personally, I haven’t voted for a Presidential candidate since voting for WJ Clinton over GHW Bush. I finally decided that I was never voting for the lesser of two evils again, I would only vote for someone I wanted to have the postion and not against the person I didn’t want to have it.
Of course, in the past election it was fairly tough not to vote against GW Bush… but his opponent, being Kerry, made me strong.

What if you believe that the government is incapable of being a moral authority? For instance, I think that our government is amoral, that it is incapable of being a moral authority as it legislates based upon corporate interests rather than the interests of the people. I can go to jail for selling pot because it is in competition with pharmaceuticals. Any government that legislates aesthetics, based upon either the majority, or whichever lobbyist can schmooze the right congressman is incapable of moral judgement. I think that the majority of things that our government forces us to do is not ideal, because too many of the ideas are one size fits all attitudes when one size most definitely does not fit all.


This is exactly my point. Within a society, we all impose a (mostly) common set of rules on one another. We need to do this, or else we wouldn’t be able to do things like sustain agriculture or talk to one another. Once those rules are in place, they constrain and influence our actions. Hence, lack of freedom. I’ll say it again: adding more choices doesn’t change the fact that it’s multiple choice.

Steve MB, if you don’t believe that we have moral reactions to uses and violations of common conventions, try going a whole day communicating only with the word “Boing!” I was careless with that sentence though. Let me rephrase: “So a moral order can give us all the possible actions we might need to take even though it eliminates actual freedom.”

mswas, government has never been about morality, government is about power. That said, I think that - for the most part, and recent events excluded - the US government has worked for most people. Certainly some things need to be changed. I think compulsory voting would be good to add because, as I said in the other thread on the subject, it doesn’t matter if the horse wants to drink or not if it isn’t near the water in the first place. Institute compulsory voting, and then make sure that everyone is informed. It will be that much easier to do once everyone has to vote anyway.

Taking your argument to it’s logical extreme, the government should be able to legislate any rules at all since we don’t have absolute freedom defined by you as some kind of lawless anarchy.

If you would like to argue in favor of a law for mandatory voting to be passed, you need to provide some kind of argument how it would improve society.

See the last paragraph of my previous post. And for the record, I don’t think the government should be able to legislate anything it wants to. It needs to be balanced by all the other influences in our lives.

A tyranny coupled to an impossibility. Methinks you should ponder the First Rule Of Holes (when you’re at the bottom of one, stop digging).

If compulsory voting is tyrannical, then so are compulsory income taxes. Since we don’t consider income taxes tyrannical, compulsory voting must not be tyrannical either.

Some people do consider income taxes tyrannical; granted it’s not a popular view. Regardless, I don’t think it’s a good comparison. Taxes pay for services that most people use and most approve of (at least as a concept, if not all particular services).

I agree with mswas, which is another thing you don’t see very often. When terms like “moral authority” start being thrown around in discussions of government, I get nervous. Governments tend to use moral authority (or morality) as an excuse for abridging freedom, and I think people should be free not to vote, regardless of whether they are informed or not.

Taxes pay for useful services, yeah, but there’s no one to actually perform those services and perform them well unless we vote people into office. And if you don’t like the tax analogy, there are a lot of other compulsory things that we all (or almost all of us) just do. For example, there’s compulsory not-stealing, compulsory not-murdering, compulsory clothes-wearing, etc.

I think it’d be better for you to find things people are compelled to do, not things they’re compelled not to do.
What I was attempting to say is that taxes result directly in services in a way that voting does not. We can argue about examples, but my point is that not all compulsory things have to be tyrannical. Forcing people to vote - when the benefits of voting are debatable - is probably more tyrannical than forcing them to pay taxes for, say, the roads they use every day.

Lumping together everything under the sun is an example of the “Politician’s Fallacy”:

  1. We must do something.
  2. Proposal X is something.
  3. Therefore, we must do X.