Location: Teams (online only)
Title: Laissez-Faire Democracy? Reasons to Regulate Votes
Abstract: Most economists and political philosophers accept a simple argument for empowering governments to regulate citizens’ and private firms’ economic activity: Markets, they say, suffer from various market failures. In many such cases, governments can correct or prevent these market failures through various interventions and regulations. The expected benefits of intervention exceed the expected costs. Therefore, governments should intervene. We contend that this kind of argument works in defense of having governments regulate citizens’ votes and voting behavior as well. We start with a brief survey of the standard defenses of market regulation. We then show that voting behavior suffers from the same problems that afflict market behavior and suggest that these problems give rise to an equally strong presumptive case for government regulation of voting behavior as for market behavior. Next, we sketch several proposals for how to regulate votes. From here, we address three central objections: it is impermissible in principle to regulate votes, vote regulation is unnecessary because voting itself is a form of regulation, and no institution could be trusted to regulate votes. We conclude that none of these objections succeed and that the presumptive case for vote regulation stands.