Saudi Arabia is apparently struggling with the decision of whether not women should be allowed to vote.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Women may neither vote nor run in Saudi Arabia's first nationwide elections, the government announced Monday, dashing hopes of progressive Saudis and easing fears among conservatives that the kingdom is moving too fast on reforms.
The Saudis have far different standards of "progress" and "reform" than we Americans do, but I asked a over a year ago.
As Dean Esmay notes, it's been 83 years, and what have women really done for us? Prohibition -- good move. That worked well. Oh sure, it was ratified before women could vote, but it was their idea. Let's see... that's pretty much it.

Let's be serious here though and really consider. Are we as a nation better off having given women the power to vote? I agree that from a moral perspective it was the right thing to do, but I don't think the issue is that black and white; there were substantial groups of women opposed to granting women suffrage.

Similarly in Saudi Arabia, some women are opposed to voting.
Some women considered the move yet another indignity in a country where they need their husbands' permission to study, travel or work. But others said they wouldn't trust themselves to judge whether a candidate is more than just a handsome face. ...

Many women in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, have balked at getting the ID cards — introduced three years ago — because the photographs would show their faces unveiled.

There are really two questions to answer. First, is there a right to vote? Second, will allowing women to vote make Saudi Arabia a "better" place (presumably as defined by the Saudis).

The answer to the first question is no -- there is no right to vote. Voting is merely a tool that's incredibly useful for protecting liberty. It would be theoretically possible to have a perfectly free and just society under the rule of an absolute monarch. Unstable, perhaps, but possible, and therefore voting is not a right in the same way that, say, free expression is.

The answer to the second question is more complicated, because I don't know much about what Saudis want from their government. I suspect that many Saudis want to maintain a repressive theocracy, in which case allowing women to vote probably isn't a good idea. However, if they want to move towards a more liberal, free, and wealthy society, allowing women to vote would probably be a step in the right direction.

Unlike early 20th century Americans, modern Saudis have very little liberty, so their first nationwide election is likely to increase freedoms all around, whether or not women participate (if it's implemented honestly, of course). Still, as a tool for creating freedom they would probably do well to enfranchise as many people as possible.



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