Shklar’s Argument: A Reason for No One to Complain

Judith Shklar argues that individuals who have been left out of the “club” of citizenship in the past are only concerned because of social standing implied, that no one wants to be beneath another individual. She denounces an ideal citizen as an individual who is involved in politics and decision- making. Instead she feels that, due to low turn out at the polls, particularly of those minority groups who received the vote later, it is shown that no one actually wants to vote, they only want the RIGHT to vote. But is she right? And if she is, what does this mean for our country- which prides itself on a government “…for the people, by the people.”

Following Shklar’s argument and assuming that citizen’s do not actually want to make decisions for the government, an interesting paradox arises. Our government, though representative, is innately democratic. However, in this democracy, citizens do not want to make decisions. Shklar may be right that the fight for citizenship and equality is only prized because of its worth and social implications, however if this is the case, then NO one can complain that the government is not helping them or caring about their individual needs. If someone chooses not to participate in politics and voice their needs, then they can’t be upset that they’re not being considered in it.

Voting is a right that every citizen 18 years old has unless they have forfeited that right. Illegal immigrants should vote when they become citizens. Everyone else, in today’s society, is very much included and welcomed at the polls. Shklar is right in that there WERE people that were not included in politics, but now they are. If they choose not to participate, then they can stay quiet about the government and what it ought to do for them.

It was mentioned in class that perhaps Shklar is suggesting that we got democracy all wrong and people should not need to vote to be considered in politics. If this is indeed the case, then Shklar is suggesting that the United States is the new Cuba, a dictatorship; or at best, an oligarchy. One needs only to visit Cuba to know how well that works and how much the people who do not vote are considered.

To wrap it up, Shklar’s argument that citizens only want the right to vote, and not actually to vote, indicates a series of implications about the American Government. It implies that citizens do not care about voicing their opinions of the government, which is not the case as there are plenty of people voicing their opinion. It implies that a government based on citizen involvement is not the type of government that people want. Regardless of whether people want to inconvenience themselves to better their political representation, it is their responsibility as a citizen. Citizen involvement is what sets the United States and Cuba apart.

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