Keeping the bastards honest? I wish…

Today we are enduring – suffering – being battered by – a federal election. It’s tempting to write To Hell With The Lot of You in red ink across both papers, and if I thought the pollies themselves might see it, I probably would. But they won’t, so it would all be for nothing.

The outcome of this election is a foregone conclusion, and it’s also a foregone conclusion (at least in my mind) that the winner will be nauseatingly, unbearably smug and I’ll do what I always do: turn him off when he appears on telly. Not that the other bloke would be any better, and I’d be blacking the set on him as well. That’s the trouble, you see. To hell with the lot of them. Anyone with half a brain can see that both sides lie in their teeth, that neither side will keep their promises, and that the chief focus of either party in power will be to stay there.

Cynical? Moi?

But despite all this, democracy is still the best form of government. And what’s more, compulsory voting is still the best system. You get the government you deserve, they say, and if you don’t vote, you deserve anarchy.

Millions disagree with me, of course. Squillions, in fact. One of their major objections is that compulsory voting violates their civil rights: the right to free speech necessarily implies the right to refrain from speaking. But you can refrain from speaking under the compulsory system, if you’re dead set on it (see my initial wish), and every time I hear this objection, I’m tempted to say oh, poor diddums. We are all, in democratic countries, well supplied with rights, and it’s well past time we gave just as much attention to responsibilities.

Compulsory voting minimises the opportunity for coercion and corruption, and curtails the influence of small special-interest groups who otherwise make it their business to rally (or bribe) voters to the polls in order to weight the outcome. It also prevents socially disadvantaged groups becoming disenfranchised. (Special arrangements are made to cater for them.) In addition, it decreases the role of money in politics, as smaller campaign funds are needed to goad voters into voting.

But above all, it makes the nation’s citizens more politically aware. Some will adhere to one party all their lives come hell or high water, but increasing numbers are weighing their options. The result is a better-informed population with more ability to question the decisions of its leaders. This can only be good.

One person I knew always voted for the opposition on the grounds that a regular change of government prevented the channels of graft becoming too firmly entrenched. I don’t necessarily agree with his thinking, but at least he thought.

So having got that off my chest, I’m now off to the polling booth to exercise my own method of keeping the bastards honest(ish).

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