A Bad Argument for the Virtue of Voting


"The whole strident non-voting blogging and facebooking thing always struck me as perfect for that "Things White People Like" website. After all, the added-to-the-voting-rolls-in-the-last-hundred-years-both-here-and-abroad community is quite decidedly a community of color. There is a genuine racial dimension to this. When you fought for these rights in your lifetime you're not going to be too sweet on the idea that voting is such a bad thing."

I am going to give a very similar argument to show how bad the above is. It does not prove voting is bad! It does not say the object of the argument I give is "just the same" as voting! What I am demonstrating is an argument that is just as good as Kuehn's above. So, here goes:

"The whole 'don't discriminate against blacks' things always struck us Irish as perfect for that 'Things White People Like' website. After all, we Irish really only got into a position where we could discriminate against another group in the last hundred years or so. When you fought during your own lifetime to get into a position to discriminate against a group even more looked-down-upon than you you're not going to be too sweet on the idea that discrimination is such a bad thing."

The above argument, of course, doesn't make any sort of case for discrimination against blacks at all. What it does is show why certain ethnic groups might be more likely to cling to such discrimination. Well, so what? Showing that group Y has a motive for valuing practice X says absolutely nothing about the goodness of X. Or does Daniel really want to wind up claiming that if interest in slowing global warming turns out to be more highly supported amongst L.L.-Bean-shopping yuppies than in the housing projects, this proves working against global warming is a silly cause?


  1. I don't know if it's an argument against not voting. Like you say, that sounds like a crappy argument.

    It's a point that I think a lot of the strident opponents of voting* who see it as culpability or enabling politics we don't like, etc. miss the importance of voting because it's a right that they've never been without.

    And presumably that's not a factor for a lot of other strident opponents. But it's worth thinking about.

    Why do rich people disproporationately not care about social programs?

    Why do draft dodgers disproportionately not care about elective wars?

    Why do poor people disproportionately not care about the property rights of the rich?

    Why do kids of liberal parents who always paid for everything for them disproportionately not care about the market economy?

    Lots of reasons. One big reason might be because they haven't spent as much time thinking about it from another person's perspective. I am less providing a logical proof than I am providing what I think is a useful observation.

    * - Again - I want to make clear to everybody - if you're not invested in the election I'm not scolding you for not voting. That's fine! I sat out the 2004 election because I didn't feel all that invested in it

  2. Ya the more I think about it it's such a bad argument for why voting is good that I'm a little insulted you read me as writing like that! "Black people used to not be able to do it" isn't just not a coherent argument, it's not even in the ballpark of a coherent argument.

    It's a robustness check. Do lots of people coming from lots of different angles of life seem to agree with you? Yes? Good. Probably a good sign. Do very few agree with you? Why is that? Are you comfortable with the explanation of why?

    Asking and answering those questions on any given issue seems very beneficial to me!

    1. Welk, sorry if i misread you.

  3. Gene, refuting bad arguments that assuage white guilt strikes me as perfect for the "Stuff White People Like" website. After all, After all, the added-to-the-white-guilt-sufferers community is quite decidedly a community of color ...

    1. Interesting and I think very true! Both having white guilt and trying to refute white guilt are very much in that category.

  4. I'm not trying to be a jerk Daniel but I don't understand what is happening here. You are the most misunderstood of bloggers on planet Earth.

    In contrast, I always know exactly what Reverend Wright is saying.


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