Thursday, March 11, 2004


In a clever twist of rhetoric Dave over at Maderblog supports my stance on mandatory voting and then extends my argument, somewhat logically, into an area he knows I'm not willing to follow him.

Mader writes:

I expect, then, that Matt will join me in calling for an end to closed-shop unionism, one of the most serious affronts to liberty in Canada.

After all, the right to unionize must necessarily include the right not to unionize. Right?

Absolutely. However, closed-shop unionism does not deny the right not to unionize. When an individual joins a particular work-place or profession he does so, presumably with the knowledge of who he will be associating with. If the job or profession he is entering requires that he join a union or some other professional association, he enters willingly with this knowledge. His right to association is exercised by taking the job, his right to not-associate is exercised by not taking the job. Does this limit the job prospects of people who do not want to associate with a union of professional association? Yes. But all rights have limits, this one to me is reasonable.

What of people who find themselves joining a non-unionized workplace that one day becomes unionized?

First, their right to not-associate is not completely overridden because they are always free to leave their job, but even I will admit that is not really practical or fair.

Second, the right to not-associate is not completely abbrogated because the individual retains the right to de-certify the union. In Ontario all unionized workplaces are required by law to post prominent instructions on how to go about de-certifying a union. No such reciprocal responsibility exists in non-unionized workplaces.

Thirdly, all unionization drives (ones in Ontario are what I am most familiar with) are governed by strict government regulations and require a majority vote of employees to cast a ballot in favour of forming a union, so the process is democratic to begin with. Certainly it is a situation of collective rights trumping individual rights, but there are cases where this happens and I'm fine with that.

The logical counter-argument here in relation to the original point about mandatory voting is obviously that if mandatory voting were instituted it would be done by a democratically elected government and therefore would be justified. This is true, and if that were to happen I would be forced to accept the general will of the Canadian citizenry as represented by parliament. That doesn't however mean that I have to agree with the decision or abide by it, but I do have to accept the consequences. If Canada adopted mandatory voting I would refuse to vote on principle and then be forced to accept whatever the consequences of that decision.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:18 p.m.