Does a low turnout threaten democracy?
In this general election, I intend not to vote. I don't promise that I won't vote - that's just my intention at this time. The superficial reason for my not voting is that every party has, as far as I can tell, at least one policy which I find objectionable*. That can't be a very good reason, however, because it's been true of every general election in which I have been able to vote, and this is the first general election that I intend to sit out. After much introspection, I worked out some time ago that my real reason for voting whichever way I did, was to provide myself with a conversational gambit. Last time I voted Conservative because I wanted to shock my friends. (It worked too - one friend was so shocked he assaulted me.) This time, I want to lecture my friends about the economics of rational ignorance and rational irrationality. Therefore, the logical choice is not to vote.
Inevitably this carries some risks. It is likely that I will encounter some self-important prig, who will berate me for my irresponsibility and how, if everyone behaved the way I did, democracy would come to an end. To this I have a snappy response: Can you name any examples of democracies collapsing as a result of a low voter turnout? Appealing though this strategy is, it potentially suffers from one flaw: the self-important prigs might be right. It would be terribly embarrassing if they then proceed to chime off a long list of democracies whose collapse was preceeded by a general election with a low turnout. Germany, 1933, perhaps? Or Chile, 1970? I have no idea. Unfortunately, a brief excursion into Google suggested that a much longer excursion would be required, so I'll take the lazy way out. Does anyone else know the answer to that question, or whether there is any academic research on the consequences of low voter turnout?
If you really think that low voter turnout is a serious problem, then read this.
If poetry is more to your taste, then here's a poem about democracy written by Scotland's greatest bard.
*UPDATE: When I wrote this, I had, in the back of my mind the thought that the UK Independence Party might be an exception. I have no particular objection to their policy of withdrawal from the EU. They are opposed to ID cards, as am I, and a while ago, when one of their spokesmen was on Question Time, he voiced the opinion that it was time to think about legalising drugs, which I favour. I had a hunch, however, that I probably disagreed with their immigration policy, but being rationally ignorant, I was too lazy to find out for sure. Now, thanks to Mark Holland, the fantastically camp entertainer, I am happy to say that I can withold my vote from the UKIP, secure in the knowledge that I not only find their approach to immigration objectionable, but downright despicable.