Monday, 8 June 2009

The consequences of passivity

Carl Popper's much-paraphrased definition of democracy is "the ability of citizens to get rid of their Government on a whim". I've always struggled with the idea of whim when it comes to important democratic choice, but whim exercised in the ballot box is infinitely preferable to staying away from the electoral process altogether.

I now think the Government ought to add consideration of compulsory voting to the melting pot of electoral reform. The system worked well in Australia where I grew up. The penalty for not voting wasn’t terribly high, but it was sufficient incentive to catalyse strong turnouts.

Voting is a privilege and a responsibility. The outcome this weekend shows the cost of stay-on-the-sofa passivity. If we need any example of the importance to all of us of our right to vote, we need only look at the consequences of this week's inaction. We pay through our taxes for ALL elected politicians.

The exercise of holding a pencil over a ballot sheet is an important and clarifying experience. All of us should at least turn up and weigh the consequences of our decisions, even if some of us choose to spoil our papers.

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