In the market, most of my fellow citizens are my civic friends, part of a great cooperative scheme. One of the vile and repugnant features of democracy is that it transforms these people–people who should be my civic friends–into my civic enemies.
Today most Americans will do something morally rotten–they will vote, despite being misinformed, uninformed, and irrational about politics. As a result, innocent people around the world, including my children and me, will have to suffer the consequences of bad government. As I say in the introduction to my “The Right to a Competent Electorate”:
Many of my fellow citizens are incompetent, ignorant, irrational, and morally unreasonable about politics. Despite that, they hold political power over me. These can staff offices of great power and wield the coercive authority of the state against me. They can force me to do things I do not wish to do, or have no good reason to do.
As an innocent person, I should not have to tolerate that. Just as it would be wrong to force me to go under the knife of an incompetent surgeon, or to sail with an incompetent ship captain, it is wrong to force me to submit to the decisions of incompetent voters. People who exercise power over me—including other voters—should have to do so in a competent and morally reasonable way. […]Or so I will argue.
The problem here isn’t that people disagree. On many matters, reasonable people will disagree. My theory of voting ethics doesn’t require that you get the correct answer, but rather than you be epistemically justified in voting for what you vote for. From “Polluting the Polls”:
As a first pass, we might say bad voting occurs when citizens vote for harmful or unjust policies or for candidates likely to enact harmful or unjust policies. However, this seems too strong. One might vote for what is in fact a harmful policy but be justified in doing so. For instance, imagine that the past two hundred years, thousands of independent political scientists, each of whom exhibits all the characteristic epistemic virtues, have amassed overwhelming evidence that a particular policy will be good. Yet, sometimes the best evidence is misleading–it points in the wrong direction. The policy might still end up being harmful, though everyone was justified in thinking it would be beneficial We shouldn’t characterize people who vote on the basis of strong evidence as having voted badly.
No, the problem with my fellow citizens isn’t so much what they vote for by why they vote. The overwhelming majority of them haven’t put in the proper care to develop their political beliefs in a rational way, on the basis of the best available evidence. They are like drunk drivers who force me to drive with them. They are like incompetent surgeons who force me to go under their knives. They are like jurors trying a capital murder case, who find the defendant guilty without having paid attention to the evidence, or because they evaluated the evidence in a bigoted or irrational way.
Those who exercise power over others have a moral duty to do so competently and in good faith. The overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens will violate this duty today. This makes them my enemies, when they should have been my friends.