A thought inspired by Sunday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Nazir 62
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No vote to hurt.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
Everybody on Earth should have the right to vote, but that right does not include the power to vote to hurt other people.
This assertion is problematic, and of course, it is nearly impossible to define the line between causing harm and failing to advance someone’s interests. However, it is still worth examining.
The concepts of the electoral process, equality, freedom, and commitment are tightly bound. If all individuals within a specific group possess equal status, and the group needs to make a decision based on values (as opposed to expertise), then it logically follows that each person should hold an equal vote in that decision.
One way to justify this inference is that each person has their own domain in which they are free to act. This domain may encompass their own body, personal future, creations, possessions, and so on. Naturally, these domains overlap, and each person must have an equal say in the choice to relinquish some of their freedom in a collective decision-making process.
When you cast your vote, you are contributing your share of the power to make a decision. The value of your vote lies in the obligation it represents. By voting, you commit to the decision so that the group can move forward and act on it. You cannot commit to something that is not yours or that you are not free to do.
It is widely accepted that freedom is limited by the requirement that it should not inflict harm on others. You have the right to free speech; however, you do not have the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded hall, nor is it acceptable to incite violence. If freedom does not extend to the right to hurt others and since voting is an expression of your freedom, it follows that you do not have the right to vote to hurt others.
There is always a danger in discussing limitations on the right of the majority that the ideas will be used in the service of authoritarian rule. However, the principle of no vote to hurt would not be the first that sets boundaries on the immediate gratification of the will of the majority. Many societies have different solutions for how to implement a balance of powers with checks and balances that restrict the possible abuses of that the majority might wish for.
The protection of minority rights is not a new concept. Perhaps the idea that the power of the vote does not extend to hurting others is a way of expressing something similar.