October 2002

I know of a country in which people are fined if they don’t vote. Voting is considered a duty not a privilege.

Imagine the field day the United States media would have were such an idea ever seriously proposed in this country. The rightwing apologists in the employ of corporate-sponsored think tanks, the witty columnists in the employ of mass media outlets, the bloggers and tweeters. An attack on American freedom, democracy, values! Big Brother! Ridiculous!

In the midst of such a spectacle one might, among other things, wonder if the individuals and organizations that held power in the United States were deathly afraid of representative democracy—of a situation in which all those eligible actually voted (even if only to avoid the fine). Or, more soberly, one might suppose that the powerful had recognized that, were everyone to vote, they would have to devote even more of their budgets to bribery and manipulation, and so it only made good business and political sense to do everything they could to get such a universal-voting proposal dismissed.

But let us not ignore the great value of fining those who refuse, forget or can’t be bothered to vote. Under such circumstances dutiful voters, emerging from their polling places, might enjoy a feeling of well-being quite beyond any normally associated with going to the polls in the United States. (I.e., the exquisite pleasure, known also to many motorists, of avoiding paying a fine.)

Categories: American culture, The Real World, Zed

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