Res Publica

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Response to Umbers: An Instability of the Duty and Right to Vote

  • Ten-Herng LaiEmail author


Lachlan Umbers (Res Publica., 2018a) defends democracy against Jason’s Brennan’s (Philos Q 61:700–724, 2011) competence objection, by showing that voting even incompetently does not violate the rights of others, as the risk imposed is negligible, and furthermore lower than other permissible actions, e.g. driving. I show there are costs in taking this line of argument. Accepting it would make arguing for the duty to vote more difficult in two ways: since voting incompetently is permissible, and not voting imposes less risk than not voting, then not voting is permissible; in terms of fairness, voting incompetently is worse than not voting, if voting incompetently is permissible, then there cannot be a fairness-based duty to vote.


Right to vote Duty to vote Risk Competence objection Democracy Fairness 



I would like to thank Lachlan Umbers, Geoffrey Brennan, Shang Long Yeo, and Toby Solomon for useful discussion and feedback. This research is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Philosophy, Research School of Social ScienceAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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