Vote Markets

DOI: 10.1080/00048402.2014.892147

Abstract: This paper argues for the legalization of vote markets. I contend that the state should not prohibit the sale of votes under certain institutional conditions. Jason Brennan has recently argued for the moral permissibility of vote selling; yet, thus far, no philosopher has argued for the legal permissibility of vote selling. I begin by giving four prima facie reasons in favour of legalizing vote markets. First, vote markets benefit both buyers and sellers. Second, citizens already enjoy significant discretion in their use of their vote, including the ability to use their vote in ways antithetical to justice and the public interest. Third, vote markets are relevantly similar to other democratic practices that are legally permissible. Fourth, vote markets enable elections to better reflect the intensity of citizens’ preferences. Next, I reply to two counter-arguments. The first contends that vote markets will increase the political power of the wealthy; the second contends that votes must be used in the service of the public interest rather than private interests or influenced by participation in collective political deliberation. I argue that vote markets will not increase political inequalities relative to democracies without vote markets. There is little reason to expect electoral regulations to be less effective in satisfying egalitarian criteria in democracies with vote markets than in democracies without vote markets. Moreover, the claim that votes must be influenced by participation in collective deliberation or serve the common good implies counter-intuitive restrictions on political liberties beyond a ban on vote buying and selling, including an abridgement of equal suffrage.