[op-ed snap] The ethical act of voting

Mains Paper 2 : Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Understanding importance of voting


CONTEXT

Voting is the duty of having to act not for individual benefit, but for the benefit of the larger society.

Human Nature

  • There is a puzzling trait that is pervasive and human.
  • It is that we often judge others with a different yardstick than with which we judge ourselves.
  • This is also part of a deeper human malaise: we think others are wrong and we are right in our beliefs and opinions. Elections exemplify these tendencies very well.

Sentiments during Elections

  • In the time of elections, we repeatedly hear these sentiments about other voters.
  •  Upper classes  – The upper classes will tell you that poorer citizens vote only to get benefits such as cash, clothes, television sets and other consumer goods.
  •  Majority group – The majority group will say that the minorities vote as a bloc since they have all been told whom to vote for.
  • These are seen as examples of voters not doing their duty of voting for the best person, namely, the best political representative who will govern well.
  • Ideological Approach – Those who support a particular party will say something similar about those who are voting for another party.
  • It is as if when people vote for money or as a vote bank, they are not doing what they should. But then it could also be argued that a person who blindly votes for one ideology or another is pretty much doing the same thing.

Getting paid for voting

1.Practice of gettin paid for voting

  • This practice is not only endemic across States but is also done quite brazenly in some places.
  • Party members go house to house and distribute money and other goods. This is done in the open and is a performance in itself.

2.Against Democracy

  • In the case of taking money or goods, voters see elections as a transaction.
  • This goes against a fundamental principle of democratic voting, which is that voting is not a transaction.
  • When we do a job for someone we don’t know, and which benefits that person, we generally expect to get paid for that act.
  • Voting is not a job – Voting is not a job in that sense. It is not a job which is eligible for some compensation.

3.Questions regarding voting

  • Are we voting for our own sake or for the benefit of others?
  • Does voting improve our well-being or that of others, the elected politicians?
  • Or is it that the ultimate purpose of an individual’s vote is to improve the well-being of the larger society?

4.Answers

  • If a person wins because of our votes, then he or she derives enormous benefit from being a member of the legislature.
  • The logic for getting Paid
    • Why can’t the voter who is enabling opportunity for another person’s wealth ask for a share in that wealth? If voters do so, then they are behaving rationally.
    • Giving money to voters is thus like an investment. The amount of payment to voters is really a measure of how much elected representatives hope to make during their tenure!
    • When we vote based on our ideology, we are following the same logic as those taking money.
    • When a group of rich people vote for a person who supports lower taxes, they are doing exactly the same as the poor, since voting is used as a transaction to get something they desire.

Way Forward

  • Voting is not a transaction – The fundamental problem lies in viewing voting as a transaction, the aim of which is to get some benefit for an individual or a group.
  • But we have to recognise that voting is not like any other transaction.
  • Voting is an ethical duty – The duty that is inherent in the act of voting is an ethical duty, not just a constitutional one.
  • It is the duty of having to act not for individual benefit, such as money or ideology, but for the benefit of the larger society.
  • For benefit of the larger society – Such benefit for the larger society will include others benefiting as much as each one of us does through each of our votes.
  • Beyond Self Interest – It is also a recognition that a democratic action like voting is primarily for the good of something larger than one’s self interests.

 

 

 

 

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