Should You Need A License To Vote?
Posted By James Campbell 20238971
Probably, but let me explain myself…
Would the public as a whole be better off if a government could go ahead and make unpopular decisions that will benefit us in the long term? For example, the stem cell debate in Western Australia is being revisited. We are the only state that has restrictions on the technology. Many claim that the state has been left behind in medical research as a result. If the government had been able to go ahead and legalise it without fear of being voted out by an uninformed and scared public, would we be ahead?
Would we be much more productive in the agricultural sector if we had been allowed to use GM technology 10 years ago and have had the time to be able to develop it to adapt better to WA, instead of the government having to stall it to please a scared public?
If the government had acted 20 years ago and built a large amount of nuclear power stations (in one of the most tectonically stable countries in the world), fossil fuel power generation in Australia could just be a relic of the past. Would we be better off if the government did not have to please a scared public? A public that reverts to images of Chernobyl and Fukushima (two accidents in 30 years out of hundreds of plants throughout the world) in their mind every time nuclear energy is mentioned.
If the government did not have to please an irrational public, would John Howard still be in power, and would detention centres be over-flowing, with more boats on their way as is the case with the current government? Would Temporary Protection Visas still be in effect – where genuine refugees are protected until the threat has passed, and queue jumpers sent home? This would provide a reason for would-be asylum seekers to re-think a decision to risk theirs and their family’s lives to get to Australia, while also taking away a people smuggler’s ability to guarantee a permanent home in Australia as they are currently able to do because of soft government policy.
The paper by (Bauer, Allum et al. 2007) outlines the concerns that scientists have about the Public Understanding of Science (PUS), and the ability of the public to make informed decisions. It believes that the voice of the people is only beneficial if the people command knowledge of science and politics, and that at present there is a gross lack of public literacy in science.
This begs the question: Should the public be forced to pass a mandatory literacy test in order to vote? Or should we just leave the important scientific decisions to scientific panels that review and decide on scientific issues of the day? While obviously the public does not directly vote on issues of the day, governments are forced to make wrong decisions for the country because the better alternative is unpopular with the voting public and they fear being voted out.
Either way it is a hard decision that when put down to a public vote will never get passed anyway, which is my point.
Bauer, M. W., N. Allum, et al. (2007). “What can we learn from 25 years of PUS survey research? Liberating and expanding the agenda.” Public Understanding of Science 16(1): 79.