I object to the idea of making voting compulsory, put forth by Bloomberg writer Peter Orszag in The Japan Times’ June 25 Op-Ed, “For a better democracy, have everybody vote.”
Compulsory voting would institutionalize the hollowing out of democracy. It would compel me to vote for a mediocre candidate just because he or she might be a lesser evil in a system that presents us with power-hungry, good-for-nothing people to elect.
Orszag says one merit of compulsory voting is reduced political polarization, yet he makes no reference to the uncompromisingly polarized Congress that has paralyzed the U.S. government. Wouldn’t his proposal lead to an even more paralyzed government by forcing uninterested people to vote for candidates whose names were imprinted in their brains after relentless advertising?
Isn’t it more important to reform the processes of debate and resolution in a national assembly? If politicians are allowed to devote their paid hours solely to mudslinging against their political enemies and to crushing their bills, a high voter turnout would serve to legitimize corrupt and privatized politics. It’s stupid to have to point out that democracy is more than participation in elections; democracy means participation in decision-making.
Orszag’s claim that compulsory voting would make negative advertising less effective is child’s talk. The reality is that the combination of big money and mind-manipulating techniques can fool an entire nation into thinking, for example, that an evil war of choice is an unavoidable holy war. If negative advertising doesn’t work, more sophisticated techniques will be devised.
Rather than play with a fantasy, let’s honestly review the history of democracy and find out why respectable and reliable statesmen have disappeared, one after another.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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