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In this brief report, computed tomography perfusion (CTP) thresholds predicting follow-up infarction in patients presenting <3 hours from stroke onset and achieving ultra-early reperfusion (<45 minutes from CTP) are reported. CTP thresholds that predict follow-up infarction vary based on time to reperfusion: Tmax >20 to 23 seconds and cerebral blood flow <5 to 7 ml/min−1/(100 g)−1 or relative cerebral blood flow <0.14 to 0.20 optimally predicted the final infarct. These thresholds are stricter than published thresholds.
It is a commonplace observation that Adam Ferguson's social and political thought seems troubled by many conflicts. It has even been suggested that his body of work lacks system. Certainly, his corpus is diverse and complex, replete with ambivalence, tension and even paradox. This essay seeks to build a picture of Ferguson's conception of the good polity and to explore the tensions that lie within it. Despite some puzzling exceptions, these tensions are, in fact, reconcilable once they are understood in relation to his social science, his historiography and his attempts to forge a new approach to politics that could be described as ‘liberal-Stoicism’. The discussion begins by canvassing some of the complications and underlying assumptions of Ferguson's political thought.
The Background to Ferguson's Political Thought
Ferguson makes for demanding reading partly because of his somewhat disorderly style of writing and partly because of his ambivalent attitude to many political issues. It is not so much that his thought lacks system as it is that the system that exists must be carefully culled by the reader. Yet, Ferguson leaves no doubt that politics is important, not only because it is highly consequential, but because humans are other-regarding creatures of action and conflict and politics is the ideal forum for the exercise of this special nature. Ferguson agrees with Aristotle that it is language that makes us both fit and destined for life in a polity. Since humankind alone is capable of speech it is the only species destined for political life.
Ferguson's turn of mind is, in many ways, moralistic and romantic, yet his politics seems to have been shaped and constrained by a strong desire to be practical and grounded. Normative moralizing has its place but one should not moralize simply to defend an abstract principle; after all, the point of all systems and institutions is to make people happy.
In Chapter 2, I examined arguments that claimed compulsory voting is justified because it would produce good consequences. None of these arguments was sound. So far the case for compulsory voting isn’t just weak – it’s practically nonexistent.
In this chapter, I focus instead on deontological arguments for compulsory voting. Some of these arguments try to establish that, for one reason or another, citizens have a duty to vote. The arguments then try to show that this justifies government in making them vote. Others argue that compulsory voting would in some way make citizens more autonomous or more efficacious. I argue none of these arguments succeeds in justifying compulsory voting.
Not All Moral Duties Are Enforceable
For the sake of argument, suppose citizens have a moral duty to vote. (Some people prefer to say we have a civic duty to vote, but that doesn’t change anything. It just specifies what kind of moral duty the duty to vote is supposed to be.) Now spot the flaw in the following argument:
The Duty-to-Vote Argument
Citizens have a moral duty to vote.
If citizens have a moral duty to do something, then government may force them to do it.
Therefore, government may force citizens to vote (i.e., compulsory voting is justified).
A common criticism of compulsory voting is that it represents an unwarranted burden on individual liberty. In making this argument, some critics claim that it violates an assumed right not to vote. Obviously, if there is such thing as a right not to vote, compulsory voting is an illegitimate practice.
While there is no doubt that compulsory voting violates the principle of democratic choice, I argue in this chapter that requiring people to vote is a justified burden on personal liberty. I give both rights- and consequence-based reasons for this position while acknowledging that the rights- and consequence-based reasons are somewhat related.
I make three broad arguments from the rights perspective: the first is that because the right to vote partly defines the structure of democratic government, it cannot be waived; in other words, there is no right not to vote. Second, I argue that because voting is the master right that protects all other rights, it should be exercised. Third, although requiring people to vote might violate one interpretation of liberty – negative liberty – it can serve and strengthen a number of other interpretations of liberty, among them nondomination, autonomy, and positive liberty, because of its demonstrated capacity to empower the politically and economically weak. Compulsory voting can therefore be justified as a reasonable infringement of autonomy.
In this chapter, I examine and undermine two sets of arguments for compulsory voting. The first set of arguments concerns ideas about democratic legitimacy. The second set of arguments claims compulsory voting would produce good consequences.
The connection between these two sets of arguments is psychological. While none of the arguments I examine here are sound, the arguments in the first set are particularly flawed. However, many lay-people, journalists, politicians, and even some political theorists find this first set of arguments appealing. But they find these arguments appealing because they are confused. Arguments in the first set are really just confused, badly articulated versions of the arguments in the second set. For instance, some people say compulsory voting is necessary to ensure democratic legitimacy. However, probably no one who says that actually means that democracies without compulsory voting are illegitimate. Instead, she probably just intends to say that compulsory voting would make democracy more responsive to the needs of the poor.
Compulsory Voting and Government by Consent
Alfred Apps, former president of Canada’s Liberal Party, and I once debated compulsory voting. Apps probably supports compulsory voting because he believes it would benefit the Liberal Party. (However, during the debate, Apps admitted he had not read any empirical research on compulsory voting. In fact, the best available evidence indicates it does not help small parties.) But Apps is a cunning politician. He cannot say, “I advocate compulsory voting because I believe it would help me.”
Simply put, compulsory voting exists where the state imposes a legal requirement to vote. The idea of being compelled to vote is anathema to many who live in Western democracies because it seems to run counter to both democratic and liberal values. But even though I agree that, in principle, voluntary political participation is preferable to obligatory participation, I argue in the following chapters that requiring people to vote can be reconciled with both liberal and democratic values.
In defending compulsory voting, I write as a normative political theorist, but I also approach the issue as a political scientist who is wary of normative arguments about elections and voting that do not engage with the empirical world. These kinds of arguments tend, either consciously or unconsciously, to embody assumptions about that world that, in turn, justify real-world laws and practice. Therefore, my argument is informed, where possible, by the empirical data and actual trends in electoral and political behavior. But, in the end, it is a normative argument written from a political-theory perspective.
Much has been written and said about compulsory voting, but quite a lot of it is controvertible. For this reason, the following set of arguments tends to be structured in response to criticism of compulsory voting and the high and socially even turnout it is able to deliver.
The question of whether compulsory voting is inimical to democratic ideals has been partly dealt with in earlier chapters, where I argued that while it infringed on personal liberty, it enhances the democratic values of legitimacy, representativeness, political equality, inclusiveness, minimization of elite power, and final control of the agenda by the demos. In this chapter, I argue that compulsory voting also serves the value of substantive equality of political opportunity (as opposed to either political equality or formal equality of opportunity). I also explore a number of other issues relating to the effect on democratic values of compulsory voting. The first concerns the argument that compulsory voting is overinclusive and therefore introduces distortions into the electoral process that undermine good governance. On this view, not only is compulsory voting a bad idea, but there also is a duty for some people – such as those who vote “badly,” are indifferent to the outcome of an election, or are “unaffected” by the outcome of an election – not to vote in order to protect democratic values. I then argue that although compulsory voting seems to violate the democratic values of voluntarism and autonomy, because of its tendency to empower and protect people politically, it ultimately serves these values. Sometimes we need to reduce a value in order to promote it: specifically, in order to promote overall the values of voluntarism and autonomy, we should compel people to vote. Finally, I argue that compulsory voting is something that we would retrospectively impose on ourselves once we see its good effects, including its ability to solve the voting coordination problem.
Democracy is rule by the people. But what if the people refuse to rule? Many people worry if we do not have government by the people, then we will not have government for the people – at least not for all of them.
During presidential elections in the late nineteenth century, 70–80 percent of eligible Americans voted. For whatever reason, in the twentieth century, participation rates seem to have dropped to 50–60 percent. Midterm national, state, and local elections averaged a mere 40 percent.
A U.S. president has never been elected by a majority of eligible voters. In the 1964 election, 61.05 percent of voters cast their ballots for Lyndon Johnson – the largest majority any president has ever enjoyed. Yet, at the same time, because turnout was so low, Johnson was in fact elected by less than 38 percent of all voting-eligible Americans. We call Reagan’s 1984 victory a “landslide,” but less than a third of voting-age Americans actually voted for him. Less than a quarter of eligible Americans voted to reelect Bill Clinton in 1996. In all elections, a minority of the voting-eligible population imposes a president on the majority.
The main argument against compulsory voting is the sheer weakness of the arguments for it. Over the past three chapters, we examined many attempts to justify compulsory voting. Some of these arguments were incoherent or self-contradictory. Others relied on questionable or discredited empirical speculations. Others relied on false or implausible normative premises. Even if we ignored these serious flaws, none of these arguments could then explain why a voting lottery would not be superior to compulsory voting. All the arguments were defective. The best of the arguments gave us little reason to support compulsory voting. Most of the arguments gave us no reason to support it at all.
At this point, we must conclude compulsory voting is unjust. Governments may not impose compulsory voting on their citizens, even if the overwhelming majority of citizens enthusiastically support compulsory voting. Australia, Belgium, and other countries must repeal their compulsory-voting laws immediately.
In this chapter, I stop refuting arguments for compulsory voting and instead produce an independent argument against it. In a sense, previous chapters argued that compulsory voting is bad because it is not good. This chapter argues compulsory voting is bad because it is bad. Remember, however, that the other side bears the burden of proof. Strictly speaking, to undermine compulsory voting, I do not need my argument in this chapter to succeed. The arguments of the other three chapters suffice.
Before moving on to my general conclusion, I offer first a broad summary of the various steps and components of the rather dense argument I have given in the preceding chapters.
Compulsory voting is the only really reliable and decisive means by which to raise turnout.
Elections and the way they operate are important because voting is the agreed procedure for legitimizing governments.
High turnout is preferable to low turnout because low-turnout elections are less legitimate. Low-turnout elections are less legitimate because they are less procedurally legitimate: they only give a partial and biased picture of the priorities of the electorate. This makes the governments of low-turnout election less substantively legitimate because government attention is directed only to those sections of the population who vote. Because such people also happen to be better off than nonvoters, this exacerbates political inequality and results in unrepresentative government. Universal, socially even voting confers legitimacy on both the electoral process and the government that wins office.
There is no such thing as a right not to vote. The right to vote is fundamental: it is protective of all other rights, and its existence defines the very structure of representative democracy. It cannot, therefore, be legally waived, and any state’s refusal to allow citizens to waive it is justified.
Voting is not a privilege right: it is a claim-power-right. Further, it is not just a (claim-power) right: it is also a duty. Voting is a duty-right. Voting is a duty we owe to other voters so that (a) together we can constitute and perpetuate representative democracy so that (b) we can meet other classes of voters on equal terms for the purposes of self-protection and self-government.
Voting is not just any duty; it is a special duty because the existence and proper functioning of representative democracy depend on its performance. So too do our welfare and rights. When democracy functions well, rights are more secure.
Compulsory voting seems illiberal because it violates one conception of liberty: negative liberty. But, because it enhances other conceptions of liberty such as nondomination, autonomy, and positive liberty, it can be reconciled with liberal values.
Before embarking on a specific defense of the requirement to vote, it is important to discuss the problem to which compulsory voting is a purported solution: low voter turnout. As Ben Saunders has pointed out, “If high turnout is not necessarily democratically better than low levels of turnout, then compulsory voting cannot be justified on the grounds that it is necessary to realize democracy.”
Despite the assumed importance of elections and voting, some commentators have argued that it is not necessary – or even desirable – for everyone to vote and that low turnout therefore presents no problems for democracy or democratic legitimacy. Is there actually anything wrong with low turnout? Can democracy really do without voters? And can we, as individuals, do without voting?
Before starting, it may be worth clarifying what this chapter is not about: it is not about whether aggregative democracy is superior or inferior to other forms of democracy (such as deliberative democracy) as a means for preference gathering and self-government; further, it is not about which voting system best serves democratic values. Neither does it challenge the idea that voting is self-defeating because of the ambiguities and instabilities that can plague voting methods (as per William Riker and Kenneth Arrow). Rather, it takes the following as facts of political life that must be taken into account rather than wished away: namely, that voting – with all its distortions and problems – remains the primary mechanism for establishing legitimate governments in advanced representative democracies and, further, that things are likely to stay this way for the foreseeable future. Given this reality, does low turnout matter?