Jason Brennan and Lisa Hill on compulsory voting

June 20

The question of whether voting should be compulsory is a perennial subject of debate among scholars, political activists, and others. Georgetown philosopher Jason Brennan and Australian political scientist Lisa Hill’s recent book Compulsory Voting: For and Against is the best and most thorough recent contribution to the literature on this subject. Hill argues for compulsory voting, while Brennan argues against it.

The strength of this book is that it covers such a wide range of arguments and issues so well, including some that have gotten little or no previous attention – such as Brennan’s argument that virtually all of the supposed benefits of compulsory voting can be better achieved by a voting lottery.

My own view on compulsory voting is that it is both an unjust infringement on liberty, and likely to exacerbate the already severe problem of voter ignorance (albeit, perhaps only modestly). But although I have been following this issue for a long time, I still learned a lot from the book, including from Hill’s effective and insightful marshaling of the case for the side in this debate I don’t have much sympathy with. If you are at all interested in the subject, you should read it too.

Those interested in this issue may also want to follow Brennan’s blogging on voting-related topics at the excellent Bleeding Heart Libertarians Blog.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Cambridge University Press asked me to write a blurb for this book, which I was happy to do. I was not paid to do so, however.

Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and popular political participation. He is the author of "The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain" (forthcoming) and "Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter."
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