Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ethics question about voting

I was wondering about the following ethics question. It is one of those questions that I see an ethicist writing a long drawn out paper with proofs and lemmas and lot of other stuff, but I really do not have a clear intuition about, so I am not sure where to start.

What if I am poorly informed about the electoral process and the candidates available in the election in which I am eligible to vote. Am I ethically obligated not to vote? We tend to take it for granted that voting is your right, but it is very plausible for one to have a legal right to do something which you have a moral right to refrain from doing.

I would think that it is fairly irresponsible to vote for someone you know little about, in an electoral process you barely understand. Moreover I would guess it is unethical.

Then again, perhaps one might say that if I chose to vote using a non-reliable procedure, such as heads I vote for Bush, Tails I vote for Kerry, I am not violating any ethical precepts. It may be silly, but not unethical.

Do I have any obligation to vote for someone who I believe would be 1)in my best interest 2) In the best interest of the country? 3) In the best interest of humanity 4) in the best interest of Jesus and his followers? 5) In the best interest of the least well off?

I can really see this one going either way. Perhaps in the same way that I feel I have personal obligations to myself or others, I can feel I have to use my influence to make the public to take on those obligations as well. On the other hand, I can see it being argued very well that I have personal obligations to myself, the poor, the Arab world, or whomever, but I have no right, or no obligation in any case, to attempt to sway the vote (with my personal vote) toward a candidate who will aid me in fulfilling my personal obligations. Perhaps I prefer to have the president elected by luck (Ie, the coin-toss).

This can get really involved. I think I need to think about this more.

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