Instrumental right to vote and socialism, are they in conflict?


From an instrumental point of view, in democracy, when we exercise the right to vote, we are “selling” our votes to the highest bidder in a “free market” where we choose to vote by the candidate or proposal that better serves our goals.

In a democratic system where the government tries to impose a non-market socialism where its citizens can’t sell anything at the price of the free market, but only at the “right” price that the state has decided is the appropriate for that good or service, would such a government try eventually to remove from their citizens their right to vote too, or coerce them to vote in the “right” way anyway.


Posted 2015-10-31T18:19:38.450

Reputation: 433

Is there any chance you could expand on the context and motivation here a little bit? What have you been reading that's made this an interesting or important problem in your study of philosophy? – Joseph Weissman – 2015-10-31T19:10:11.567

@JosephWeissman The thought that a democratic country that are trying to move to a non-freemarket economy would have to remove the right to vote from its citizens came to me as an afterthought listening to the episode Why Democracy? from The Public Philosopher. Although not because of something that they said, but rather how those this would explain situations like the one is happening in Venezuela, and other socialist countries.

– rraallvv – 2015-10-31T19:59:50.433

You are confusing an economic system with a political system with socialistic policies. They are not the same. Having one does not entail have the others. Not a question for this forum. – Swami Vishwananda – 2015-11-03T04:42:59.500

@SwamiVishwananda That's precisely my point, should have the vote instrumental value then it becomes part of an economic system and susceptible socialistic policies. – rraallvv – 2015-11-03T04:55:20.970

I don't understand why the vote for off-topic. This seems to be squarely in the realm of political philosophy. – James Kingsbery – 2015-11-03T18:48:42.860



I think there is an assumption here that any socialist aspects in society will automatically lead to a reach for socialist aspects everywhere in society. That assumption is an interesting point to argue, but I'm not confident it's self-evident enough to make it an assumption.

It is possible to have a socialist government that identifies that the "best" way to continue furthering its socialist objectives is to expand outward to take the "vote." It is also possible to have a democratic government that communally decides the best way to handle a small portion of society is through application of socialist methodologies, and then uses the energy gained by using this "best" approach to further protect the right to vote.

Of course, in all systems, there's a little bit of both extremes. The debate as to how to manage public resources is a continuing challenge that is not well captured as purely democratic or purely socialist. Also note that the arguments you put forth could also be applied to the electoral college in the US. The logistics of the use of any one extreme archetype of government is tricky enough that you'll see mixed solutions everywhere.

Cort Ammon

Posted 2015-10-31T18:19:38.450

Reputation: 16 681


I recall growing up in a Britain which had nationalised rail, telephone, gas and electricity.

I also recall reading somewhere that Roosevelts America viewed from where we are today would be seen as a socialist state.

In neither of these two situations did the franchise contract.

Given this empirical evidence, it doesn't seem particularly self-evident to me that socialism - in the sense that you use it - is neccesarily tied to undemocratic modes of government; though it was an argument used by Hayek, in the Road to Serfdom to say exactly that.

There are other more subtle ways that the franchise can be 'taken' away without it being actually taken away; for example - voting can become ineffective and the population cynical or indifferent.

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2015-10-31T18:19:38.450

Reputation: 1


In practice there are many mixed forms of "democracy," "markets," and "socialism."

But the idea there there is somehow an interdependence between a "free market" and "political freedom," is, in my view, utter propagandistic nonsense.

The easiest error to point out is the idea of a "free market." There have always been "markets" but from the time of the East India Company up until the era of global banks, pharmaceutical patents, and multinational oil companies there is no "market" that is not founded, determined, and actively conditioned by state governments.

The enormous sway of military defense contracts, the supplementation of corporate costs in everything from worker education and infrastructure to research, the massive tax costs entailed by registering, securing, recording, and protecting "property" of all sorts means that there is absolutely nothing "free" and "natural" about pricing. The most comprehensive example is simply the tax-bonded funding and private bank "pricing" of money credit itself, on which every other "price" is based. The most important U.S. historical example is agriculture, where extensive price intervention and government support was absolutely necessary to stabilize American farming, research, shipping, and food supply.

Markets are creations of governments, and governments grow as markets grow. Markets, as well as political or military power, can also place severe constraints on "democracy." The ancient Athenians might be astonished at how few things we can vote on and that only "representatives" can actually vote on legislation. Other ancient governments might note that these "representatives" do not represent economic classes, but only regions. In sum, the the number of things we can actually vote on is extremely limited, often by markets interests, as is evident in things like wage laws, corporate legal exemptions, extended copyrights, and pharmaceutical patents.

In history and practice there are many complex interactions of markets and democracy. To some extent they are interdependent, and it will be interesting to see how the China variation emerges. But the rigid linkage of "free" markets and political "freedom" is largely a Cold War goblin story, and it is always far easier and more controlling to erode the effectiveness of voting than to overtly curtail it.

Nelson Alexander

Posted 2015-10-31T18:19:38.450

Reputation: 11 748

I take your point, but "Markets are creations of governments" seems too strong. It seems that markets, for example, often emerge despite the government condoning or allowing them. That seems to indicate that markets are natural phenomena independent of governments, that governments then (as you say) condition, ensure fairness, etc. – James Kingsbery – 2015-11-03T18:45:46.257

As Mozibur Ullah points out, there are actually serious arguments tying together economic and political freedom. That you disagree with them does not make them non-sense. – James Kingsbery – 2015-11-03T18:47:49.787

It is true that "markets" can exist in primitive border trading and barter. And agora have existed in all forms and structures throughout recorded history. But commodity markets in the modern sense require state institutions, including registration and protection of property, communication, recording of contracts, money accounting of some form, policing and courts, not to mention roads and infrastructure. These institutions shape the market boundaries, rules, and pricing. There is no "natural" market system. Works by Polanyi, Meiksins-Wood, and many others are compelling on this topic. – Nelson Alexander – 2015-11-03T23:13:31.660

And thus, of course, political systems and economic systems are "tied together." But to deem them somehow wholly determinative of some ill-defined "freedom" is, in my view, more often nonsense than not. New "freedoms" arise in some classes and nations, as old "freedoms" are likewise lost. The many histories of the enclosure moments, colonial companies, coercive commodity farming, workhouses, and the world slave trade as essential to the rise of British industry and finance paint a more complex picture of "freedom" and franchise. – Nelson Alexander – 2015-11-03T23:21:55.887

And thus, of course, political systems and economic systems are "tied together." But to deem them somehow wholly determinative of some ill-defined "freedom" is, in my view, more often nonsense than not. New "freedoms" arise in some classes and nations, as old "freedoms" are likewise lost. The many histories of the enclosure moments, colonial companies, commodity farming, workhouses, and the world slave trade as essential to the rise of British industry paint a more complex picture of "freedom" and franchise. Many "freedoms" are costly state services funded by cheap "unfree" overseas labor. – Nelson Alexander – 2015-11-03T23:30:14.230