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The Ethics of Voting

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Overview

Nothing is more integral to democracy than voting. Most people believe that every citizen has the civic duty or moral obligation to vote, that any sincere vote is morally acceptable, and that buying, selling, or trading votes is inherently wrong. In this provocative book, Jason Brennan challenges our fundamental assumptions about voting, revealing why it is not a duty for most citizens—in fact, he argues, many people owe it to the rest of us not to vote.

Bad choices at the polls can result in unjust laws, needless wars, and calamitous economic policies. Brennan shows why voters have duties to make informed decisions in the voting booth, to base their decisions on sound evidence for what will create the best possible policies, and to promote the common good rather than their own self-interest. They must vote well—or not vote at all. Brennan explains why voting is not necessarily the best way for citizens to exercise their civic duty, and why some citizens need to stay away from the polls to protect the democratic process from their uninformed, irrational, or immoral votes.

In a democracy, every citizen has the right to vote. This book reveals why sometimes it's best if they don't. In a new afterword, "How to Vote Well," Brennan provides a practical guidebook for making well-informed, well-reasoned choices at the polls.

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Editorial Reviews

Philosopher's Magazine

The real value of books such as this lies in their potential to raise the level of public debate. . . . Brennan's argument is detailed and searching, which means that it presents a challenge to anyone prepared to take it seriously.
— Alan Haworth
Choice
Brennan advances the extraordinarily provocative argument that the sine qua non of civic virtue is not political participation (especially not voting) but the moral duty to promote the common good. . . . Students will appreciate Brennan's highly instructive exercise in argumentation. He constructs cogent justifications for his conceptual framework, outlines reasons for rejecting contrary views, and meets plausible objections to his own formulation.
Philosophers' Magazine
The real value of books such as this lies in their potential to raise the level of public debate. . . . Brennan's argument is detailed and searching, which means that it presents a challenge to anyone prepared to take it seriously.
— Alan Haworth
Boston Globe - Josh Rothman
[Brennan's] relentless focus on the problem of 'wrongful voting' pays off. . . . [His] argument lodges a serious objection to research in political science and behavioral economics suggesting that even lazy voters can use shortcuts to vote well.
Boston Globe
[Brennan's] relentless focus on the problem of 'wrongful voting' pays off. . . . [His] argument lodges a serious objection to research in political science and behavioral economics suggesting that even lazy voters can use shortcuts to vote well.
— Josh Rothman
Philosopher's Magazine - Alan Haworth
The real value of books such as this lies in their potential to raise the level of public debate. . . . Brennan's argument is detailed and searching, which means that it presents a challenge to anyone prepared to take it seriously.
From the Publisher
"[Brennan's] relentless focus on the problem of 'wrongful voting' pays off. . . . [His] argument lodges a serious objection to research in political science and behavioral economics suggesting that even lazy voters can use shortcuts to vote well."—Josh Rothman, Boston Globe

"The real value of books such as this lies in their potential to raise the level of public debate. . . . Brennan's argument is detailed and searching, which means that it presents a challenge to anyone prepared to take it seriously."—Alan Haworth, Philosopher's Magazine

"Brennan advances the extraordinarily provocative argument that the sine qua non of civic virtue is not political participation (especially not voting) but the moral duty to promote the common good. . . . Students will appreciate Brennan's highly instructive exercise in argumentation. He constructs cogent justifications for his conceptual framework, outlines reasons for rejecting contrary views, and meets plausible objections to his own formulation."Choice

"The Ethics of Voting . . . offers a set of provocative and tightly-argued claims. It also changes the way scholars across the social sciences and humanities might want to ask questions about voting. . . . Jason Brennan has written a short, accessible, and tight book that deserves a place on scholars bookshelves."—Art Carden, Public Choice

America
[T]houghtful. . . . Brennan is a good guide through philosophically complex territory. He writes clearly, uses analogies well and includes some nice humorous turns. It is a worthwhile book, if not ultimately convincing.
— David Carroll Cochran
America - David Carroll Cochran
[T]houghtful. . . . Brennan is a good guide through philosophically complex territory. He writes clearly, uses analogies well and includes some nice humorous turns. It is a worthwhile book, if not ultimately convincing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691154442
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/29/2012
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,415,854
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Jason Brennan is assistant professor of ethics at Georgetown University. He is the coauthor of "A Brief History of Liberty".

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Voting as an Ethical Issue 1
Chapter One: Arguments for a Duty to Vote 15
Chapter Two: Civic Virtue without Politics 43
Chapter Three: Wrongful Voting 68
Chapter Four: Deference and Abstention 95
Chapter Five: For the Common Good 112
Chapter Six: Buying and Selling Votes 135
Chapter Seven: How Well Do Voters Behave? 161
Afterword to the Paperback Edition: How to Vote Well 179
Notes 185
References 205
Index 213

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