One of the axioms of modern political journalism is that anything that encourages greater participation in the political process is a good idea by definition, and any measure which permits marginalized voices to be heard with greater force is by necessity a positive thing. Left unchallenged is the assumption that all voices are indeed worth hearing, however stupid, extreme or uninformed, and that allowing the indifferent, the insane and the ignorant to speak will not simply end up with them drowning out the voices of those with more knowledge and better judgment. The thinking seems to be that since history teaches us that outright dictatorship is bad, more participation is always better, and if only we could properly divine the true "will of the people", all problems in political life would quickly melt away.
It is from such wellsprings that many dubious "reform" initiatives arise, such as the wish to dump the Anglo-American First Past the Post system in favor of the frankly disastrous Proportional Representation alternative, employed to such glorious effect in storied republics such as Weimar Germany, modern day Italy and the State of Israel. It is also such thinking which is to blame for the delusion that greater youth participation in politics is necessarily desirable; after all, the young tend to be more liberal on most social questions than their parents, so translating this tendency into votes can only be for the good in advancing the cause of liberal politics - or so the thinking goes if one subscribes to the Whig View of Political Demographics. But what if this belief in the liberality of youth turns out to be ill-founded, at least in certain cases?
Over 25 percent [of] young Swedes think that it would be “good or very good” for Sweden to be less democratic and ruled by a strong and dictatorial leader, according to a new study.
According to the survey, 26 percent of 18-29-year-olds thought that it would be good or very good if a “strong leader who didn’t have to care about a Riksdag or an election” ruled Sweden.
Older generations value democracy higher. 97 percent of those over 30 stated that it is important to live in a democratic country.
Sweden makes for a shocking and close-at-hand counter-example to any supposed inexorable progress of liberalism, but in truth I could have chosen any number of other examples which would have served equally well to illustrate my point: for instance, it was the youth of early 1930s Germany which did the most to deliver that country into Hitler's hands, and it was the youth of 1970s Iran which most fervently embraced the radical conservatism preached by Khomeini from the safety of his Parisian exile. That most of these youth in both cases ended up deeply regretting their earlier enthusiasm is well known, and it might be tempting to excuse their errors as a necessary part of some "learning process", but any would-be apologists for these foolish enthusiasms of youth must consider just how costly in innocent lives both disasters ended up being - a little less youthful participation in politics would surely have been worth the huge savings in needless death and destruction.
Of course, all of the above takes it as a given that "liberalism" as currently defined is also a good thing in every respects, but even this assumption is a flawed one, especially where economic matters are concerned. As much of what passes for "liberal" nowadays is merely enthusiasm for ever more burdensome taxation - especially of the most productive sectors of the economy - ever greater government expenditure and ever more onerous regulation, to the extent that youth does support such "liberality" with other people's money (and why should it not, seeing as so many of the young are either in school, unemployed or at the bottom of the wage scale?), its "liberal" tendencies in this direction are invariably of a harmful variety. That student union ignoramuses are in the main unable to stir their apathetic colleagues out of their hung-over slumbers to cast their votes has almost always been an unalloyed blessing over the last 30 years, and one shudders to think what state, for instance, the United Kingdom would be in today, had all the Ed-Miliband style union lefties been able make a difference between 1979 and 1997 ...
I could go on in similar fashion about other demographic groups which fail to vote in proportionate numbers, but I think my point well-enough established, to wit, if there are people who choose* not to participate in the electoral process, there are very likely perfectly good reasons to leave them to their own devices. Forcing (or even attempting to cajole) everyone to vote will not necessarily deliver a more desirable outcome unless one redefines the purpose of politics as being about participation as an end in itself - in which case, why not come right out and try to make the case for direct democracy and government-by-plebiscite?
*As opposed to being forcibly prevented, which is another matter altogether.