Today is Election Day in Canada. I just returned from performing my "civic duty."
A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about politics. They readily admitted they neither knew nor understood many of the issues pertinent to this election. They did not understand the platforms of the different parties.
I talked with that friend again today before we each voted. This person knew which party they were going to vote for. I asked if they had read the party's platform, or any of the other party's platforms. They hadn't. I asked if they had done any research to better understand any of the issues pertinent to this election. They hadn't. I said "So then you're on your way to inflict your ignorance on Canadians?"
I didn't feel good about this person voting because they admitted that they didn't understand many, if any, issues. (I think they picked the party because someone they respect picked that party. It seemed like this other person was getting two votes; theirs, and my friend's.)
As I was giving my friend a hard time for voting out of ignorance, it occurred to me that I'm not much better. I estimate I have a 20% greater understanding of the issues than they do. I don't understand monetary policy. I don't understand foreign policy. I don't know what to think of the Carbon Tax.
Suddenly I didn't feel good about me voting. I was about to inflict my ignorance on the people of Canada.
Note to Canada: If the person I voted for gets elected, and things don't turn out well, I'm sincerely sorry.
As I stood in line I wondered how many people there understood much about Canadian history, law, and political system. I took several Law courses in university. I think the average Canadian's understanding of the legal system comes from having watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound was off, but they think they got the gist of it.
You're average person can't program their VCR. How can they make an intelligent decision on how to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels? How can they decide which is the better monetary policy to help us through these tough economic times?
People say "If you don't vote, you can't complain."
Why not? You can complain about anything you want. This is a free country. You can complain about things you can change and things you can't. Complain all you like!
Some say voting should be mandatory because people fought for us to have the right to vote. I don't know my Canadian history well enough to tell you which war, or wars, were fought to secure the right for Canadians to vote. Either way, any war fought for democracy is a fight for freedom. Freedom includes the right to vote, and the right to not vote. If you don't have the right to not vote, it's not true freedom.
I assume that each of the major parties receive votes from smart, well informed people. If that's true, then intelligence and informedness don't seem to actually contribute to making good electoral decisions.
Of course, we probably make our voting decisions the same way we make most decisions: non-rationally. Thats why the tall guy with better hair usually wins.