Many of us feel that we have a duty to participate in politics in one way or another. But a lot of political participation seems to be causally futile. Maybe the most obvious example of this is voting in very large elections (such as a national presidential election). The chances of casting the deciding vote are astronomically small. So a natural question arises: why would we have a duty to do something that is almost guaranteed to make no relevant causal impact? Chris Freiman, a philosopher at the college of William & Mary, proposes an answer: we have no such duty. In this interview, he addresses a number of objections to this response, including objections from free-riding, complicity with injustice, expressive duty, and, of course, the ever-popular “but if everyone thought this way…”. We conclude with a discussion of Peter Singer-inspired arguments to the effect that not only are we allowed to ignore politics, but we are in fact morally obligated to do so.
For more on Chris Freiman’s work, see his website.
0:00 – Intro to Chris Freiman and public goods
5:12 – Futile political participation, voting, thresholds
18:34 – “If everybody thought this way” and free-riding
33:55 – Complicity with injustice and accepting state benefits
43:09 – You can always leave, an obligation to tax evasion?…