Non-Participation and Consent in Democracy (Part Two)

In the previous post, I talked about four reasons for non-participation.  These could be grouped as internally-decided and externally-decided; the distinction being those reasons decided by the actual person, even if this is not well-reasoned, are internally-decided, whilst those decided for a person by others are externally-decided.  This distinction will, of course, blur, but is still useful.  An internally-decided reason is one that comes from the free thought of a person and, as such, can be reasoned with or can persuade.

An externally-decided reason may be accepted by a person for many reasons.  It can be imposed by order or can accepted by the person as coming from a (true) authority on this matter [there will be a later post about authority, but as that is a big subject I do not want to expand too much on it here], to give two examples.  From these examples, it can be seen that this is quite dangerous.

Following the Risorgimento, a limited democratic franchise was introduced (around 1% of adult male suffrage; increased to full adult male suffrage by the early 20th century CE) and the Popes ordered Catholics not to vote.  One can think of Anarchists taking the externally-decided route, that because it is in their principles and without examining them.

Of course, persons will normally decide by both internally- and externally-decided factors.  There is a complex relationship between these factors and this could be a topic to return to later.

I will now examine three further reasons for non-participation.  Fifthly, the political party’s non-reflection of the actual view’s of the voter.  It may be the voter has no political party that reflects his/her views or that the party that comes closest has policies that the voter is against, for example, a voter may agree with many of the policies of the Scottish Green Party, but consider her/himself to be British and not wanting to vote for a separatist party.  This reason may be coupled with the third reason from Part One; instead of voting for a party, s/he is active in other societies.

Sixthly, there is the worry that a vote cast will not count or not make any difference to the outcome.  This is a reason often put forward to prevent people voting as a reason not to vote.  Clearly, one individual vote amongst thousands may not be decisive, but if sufficient supporters of one position or a party decide not to vote then that party or position will lose and an opposing position or party will triumph and perhaps will be regarded as having a sufficient mandate to rule or be implemented against majority opinion.

Seventhly (and the fourth reason may be seen as a special case of this), the voter has a lack of confidence in him/herself despite political and legal equality.  This is different from the sixth reason which is about confidence in the outcome, whereas this is about the inner confidence of the voter.  We are now into an area of positive freedom.  Supporters of pure negative freedom could claim that anyone and everyone has full political and legal rights and it is up to them to exercise them and, if they do not, that is their issue alone.  Part of my reply that democracy is a social system intended for the benefit of all (that is, not just all the enfranchised, but save that for a later post) and that anyone entitled to vote should be encouraged to do so and part of that encouragement is to find out why not.  As stated, this is because of lack of confidence and this lack of confidence will be from poor education.  This is, admittedly,  rather a sweeping statement; there may be other elements but a lack of confidence for most people will be from their education where they have not been encouraged to see themselves for what they are, that is, the rulers of their society, which they must be if democracy is to be more than endorsement of other people’s rule, that is, where democracy is merely a formal process open to the anarchist’s criticism, that the citizen of a democracy is merely voting to take part in his/her own oppression.

Another part of my answer is legitimacy for a democratic system is through consent.  Consent will form the main subject of  Part 3.


Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

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