Vote! It's Your Civic Folly!

|

The New York Times, of all places, dares to utter a usually unspoken and terrible truth about voting–go ahead, but don't be fooled into thinking it means much in practical terms.

Advertisement

NEXT: I've Got a Feelin' Somebody's Watching Me

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well, even stopped clocks are right at least twice a day…

  2. They raised an interesting point about voting power and the size of your state. Before going over to the Dark Side, John Banzhaf used his mathematical training to do an interesting analysis of the Electoral College. The results are surprising, and suggest that (1) large states aren’t all getting screwed as some believe and (2) individuals may have more power to sway an election in bloc-voting schemes as opposed to straight popular elections.

    For more, just google “Banzhaf Power Index”. Another interesting follow-up to Banzhaf is Alan Natapoff, a physicist at MIT. (I don’t agree with all of Natapoff’s political statements, but his math is interesting. Most interesting is that he extends Banzhaf’s analysis to account for the fact that people in swing states, irrespective of size, have more power than people in “safe states”, irrespective of size.)

  3. Living abroad with a Texas address in the U.S., where I doubt my vote against a warmongering fascist cokehead would count (and I can’t see voting for a corporatist who is quite willing to use military force to maintain U.S. economic hegenomy), I’m not going to vote this year, and I can I can afford to pontificate a bit.

    Maybe we need to use mandatory voting, as in Australia and Belgium (or Ecuador, where voting is optional after age 60). The mathematical theories suggest that at least with more voters the elections are not thrown by small interest groups, like the Christian Coalition.

  4. Thanks to nobody in particular’s ingeniousness, voting, traffic signals, and lotteries have evolved into mechanisms for messing with the minds of citizens.

    Do the smart thing: Don’t vote. Instead, on election day, and only on election day, buy one one-dollar superlotto ticket.

  5. What a bunch of cynical, arrogant losers!

    What do readers of this web site actually believe in? Anything?

    First time on this site and everything I’ve read is just “This sucks” “That’s lame.” “What’s the point of bothering with anything?”

  6. Voting in our National elections has become an exercise in futility. This is simply a fact of how democracy works in an inflating system. As the population of our country increases the more complex and diverse our society becomes. The result of this is less and less consensus and more and more disenfranchisement for an ever-larger number of citizens. Democracy in ultra-large systems shows its cracks when the totality of that system is so large (almost 300 million in our case) that even a relatively small percentage of that whole translates into tens of millions of citizens. What justice is there when 50 million citizens must abide by the laws or elections of an opposing 51 million? As a controversial example, 34% of Americans support legalizing marijuana (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2001/08/23/marijuana-full.htm). That comes to roughly 100 million Americans! That is more than the entire populations of the United Kingdom AND Canada combined. (Note: I personally do not have a strong opinion, either way, on the issue of legalizing marijuana. Marijuana laws are a clear example, however, of the tensions between individual States’ rights and Federal jurisdiction.) I won’t begin to guess what the maximum tenable population for a democracy is, but I don’t think it a leap of imagination to believe that there is one.

    Furthermore, as time goes on in a democracy and the population increases, a majority is likely to be achieved less and less. For the future I predict we will have the choice of more than two viable candidates for president. This will mean we run the risk of election by plurality. Then what? You may say that this is often already the case in regional and local races and that is true. With the presidency, however, the stakes are much, much higher. What mandate would a President with 35% of the vote have when considering waging war?

    In the end I can see only one viable remedy for this dilemma: empower the citizenry by giving more and more responsibility to local and regional government thereby lessening the influence of Federal jurisdiction and returning Federal concerns to maintaining the basic principles of the constitution and to deal with various inter-state issues. And even this strategy will, most likely, just buy us time. In the end, we’re screwed.

  7. Martina,
    Read more, you will grow to like it. I learn a lot from this site all the time.

    I can’t say what readers of this site actually believe in. There are Democrats and republicans with and without libertarian leanings that get on this site and argue stuff. And there are some comedians who come on and make fun of the people arguing.

    I think that what mindset is supposed to support is that we should have a government as small and unobtrusive as possible. Low taxes, no counterproductive laws and regulations, ect.

  8. I think that the problem with voting is that of the free rider dillemma. As the vast majority of the benefits of electing the right candidate can be more easily delivered by the votes of millions of other voters, many stay home and hope to enjoy the public good delivered by the many others who assume the cost of voting. In this sense, I suppose mandatory voting would make sense under the same analysis that holds that mandatory payment for police protection can correct for the underproduction of this public good by the market.

  9. Martina,

    For the most part, folks try to be humorous, entertaining or at least snarky here. But then there are those long, tedious posts…

  10. I blogged about this a couple of days ago. Is there a logical reason to vote? I posted my response here:

    http://keirwilmut.com/archives/2004/09/27/voting-logic-and-pissing-people-off-at-parties/

  11. kwais,
    Next you’ll be asking Martina if she plans to vote with her vulva.

  12. I blogged about this a couple of days ago. Is there a logical reason to vote? I posted my response here:

    http://keirwilmut.com/archives/2004/09/27/voting-logic-and-pissing-people-off-at-parties/

  13. Martina,

    Too bad about your first impression. Most of us do not want to be ruled by idiots, nor ruled by geniuses. We just want a little more control (heck, a LOT more control) of our own lives.

  14. I blogged about this a couple of days ago. Is there a logical reason to vote? I posted my response here:

    http://keirwilmut.com/archives/2004/09/27/voting-logic-and-pissing-people-off-at-parties/

  15. Martina notes the general angst of the libertarian who has essentially no hope. We are a small government lot, and we have no friends that have any clout whatsoever.

    We are angry about the expanding state under Democrats and we are angry about the expanding state under Republicans. It makes for a bitter existence out in public, so we congregate here with other bitter but interesting people.

  16. kwais,
    Next you’ll be asking Martina if she plans to vote with her vulva!

  17. kwais,
    Next you’ll be asking Martina if she plans to vote with her vulva!

  18. Could it be that they just don’t like who is going to win? That’s when the “this game’s not fair” stuff usually starts …

  19. Could it be that they just don’t like who is going to win? That’s when the “this game’s not fair” stuff usually starts …

  20. In the end, we’re screwed.

    Well, in the end, we’re all dead, but yeah, C.M.’s basic point is right on target – we need to devolve power. Unfortunately, devolution of power very very rarely happens without revolution.

    Carp all you want about voting, but try not to forget that it is a necessary, if not sufficient, component of a free society. If you doubt this, do please provide historical examples.

  21. Could it be that they just don’t like who is going to win? That’s when the “this game’s not fair” stuff usually starts …

  22. C.M. Frederick,

    Your points are well taken, at least by me. The sheer numbers of citizens, not to mention residents and visitors, of the US make even small percentages large amounts of people. And that’s why I’ve come around to supporting the more limited government models. If the government doesn’t have the power to keep those people from doing what non-injurious things they want, then it can’t. I don’t even want to devolve those powers to states and localities, but rather to get rid of them entirely. Unfortunately, it seems that everything is going the opposite direction, in the form of things like bureaucratic legalism (everything must be approved specifically). It’s not hopeless, but it is extremely daunting and disheartening when we seem to drift farther and farther into the realm of “Rule by the whim of the majority,” things like cell phone bans, and universal healthcare, and the war on drugs. People here on this comment board may not like him, but I think Jonah Goldberg is right when he says “Democracy is when 51% of the people can vote to give the other 49% a giant wedgie.”

  23. Could it be that they just don’t like who is going to win? So now the game is unfair, eh?

  24. mandatory voting is the most undemocratic idea i’ve heard in a long time. it truly blows my mind…

  25. mandatory voting is the most undemocratic idea i’ve heard in a long time. it truly blows my mind…

  26. I blogged about this a couple of days ago. Is there a logical reason to vote? I posted my response here:

    http://keirwilmut.com/archives/2004/09/27/voting-logic-and-pissing-people-off-at-parties/

  27. Martina,

    Libertarians generally believe that most of what governments do sucks, that’s true. OTOH, they’ve got a lot more faith than most others in the fruits of the private sector acting in unfettered freedom. I think you’ll see both attitudes expressed here, although perhaps more of the former since being a political forum, it’s mostly the government that gets brought up. As far as this thread goes, since libertarians as an electoral constitute a marginalized minority (is that redundant?) that is severely disappointed with both political parties and either direction of the “normal” political spectrum, it’s perhaps only natural that many of them harbor a fair amount of cynicism toward voting.

  28. Martina,

    Libertarians generally believe that most of what governments do sucks, that’s true. OTOH, they’ve got a lot more faith than most others in the fruits of the private sector acting in unfettered freedom. I think you’ll see both attitudes expressed here, although perhaps more of the former since being a political forum, it’s mostly the government that gets brought up. As far as this thread goes, since libertarians as an electoral group constitute a marginalized minority (is that redundant?) that is severely disappointed with both political parties and either direction of the “normal” political spectrum, it’s perhaps only natural that many of them harbor a fair amount of cynicism toward voting.

  29. C.M. Frederick,

    Your points are well taken, at least by me. The sheer numbers of citizens, not to mention residents and visitors, of the US make even small percentages large amounts of people. And that’s why I’ve come around to supporting the more limited government models. If the government doesn’t have the power to keep those people from doing what non-injurious things they want, then it can’t. I don’t even want to devolve those powers to states and localities, but rather to get rid of them entirely. Unfortunately, it seems that everything is going the opposite direction, in the form of things like bureaucratic legalism (everything must be approved specifically). It’s not hopeless, but it is extremely daunting and disheartening when we seem to drift farther and farther into the realm of “Rule by the whim of the majority,” things like cell phone bans, and universal healthcare, and the war on drugs. People here on this comment board may not like him, but I think Jonah Goldberg is right when he says “Democracy is when 51% of the people can vote to give the other 49% a giant wedgie.”

  30. This does not take into account the horribly slanted ballot access laws. In many states if you don’t get a certain percentage of the votes cast, getting back on the ballot is hard.

  31. This does not take into account the horribly slanted ballot access laws. In many states if you don’t get a certain percentage of the votes cast, getting back on the ballot is hard.

  32. This does not take into account the horribly slanted ballot access laws. In many states if you don’t get a certain percentage of the votes cast, getting back on the ballot is hard.

  33. mandatory voting is about as undemocratic as it gets.

  34. Martina,

    Libertarians generally believe that most of what governments do sucks, that’s true. OTOH, they’ve got a lot more faith than most others in the fruits of the private sector acting in unfettered freedom. I think you’ll see both attitudes expressed here, although perhaps more of the former since being a political forum, it’s mostly the government that gets brought up. As far as this thread goes, since libertarians as an electoral group constitute a marginalized minority (is that redundant?) that is severely disappointed with both political parties and either direction of the “normal” political spectrum, it’s perhaps only natural that many of them harbor a fair amount of cynicism toward voting.

  35. This is all the more reason for the neccessity of federal devolution of power so that our votes can count where it has the most effect – at the local level.

    The more power the feds get, the less our votes end up meaning, both at the federal and local levels.

  36. Martina,

    Libertarians generally believe that most of what governments do sucks, that’s true. OTOH, they’ve got a lot more faith than most others in the fruits of the private sector acting in unfettered freedom. I think you’ll see both attitudes expressed here, although perhaps more of the former since being a political forum, it’s mostly the government that gets brought up. As far as this thread goes, since libertarians as an electoral group constitute a marginalized minority (is that redundant?) that is severely disappointed with both political parties and either direction of the “normal” political spectrum, it’s perhaps only natural that many of them harbor a fair amount of cynicism toward voting.

  37. Good, all you folks who think it’s a waste of time, please don’t vote.

    That makes my vote’s weight (statistically) more than it really should be!

  38. Is there an argument against the efficacy of voting with a ballot that couldn’t be made against the efficacy of voting with a dollar (markets)? Aside, of course, from the paucity of political candidates/ideas on ballot.

  39. Is there an argument against the efficacy of voting with a ballot that couldn’t be made against the efficacy of voting with a dollar (markets)? Aside, of course, from the paucity of political candidates/ideas on ballot.

  40. Martina:

    Then argue a point instead of bitching and throwing out insults.

    I suspect the frustration many on this website and board feel is related to having a minority opinion in a first-to-the-post system. Your voice rarely (if ever) gets heard. Without propotional representation, the middle is, at least politically speaking, the best place to be. It is very frustrating.

    This site explores issues from a different perspective than most media outlets and treats both major parties with irreverence. IMHO, it’s a breath of fresh air.

  41. This is all the more reason for the neccessity for federal devolution of power so that our votes can count where it has the most effect – at the local level.

    The more power the feds get, the less our votes end up meaning, both at the federal and local levels.

  42. Martina notes the general angst of the libertarian who has essentially no hope. We are a small government lot, and we have no friends that have any clout whatsoever.

    We are angry about the expanding state under Democrats and we are angry about the expanding state under Republicans. It makes for a bitter existence out in public, so we congregate here with other bitter but interesting people.

  43. the more people who vote, the greater the chance of a happy result — provided that each person is more likely to vote for… the unBush! (Condorcet corrig?)

    And, Martina, sometimes people talk just plain silly.

    —————

    On a less silly note…

    I feel that if a person plays the game, then he has to accept the score. By this I mean: If I were to vote and my guy lost, I’d have to consider the choice valid and the winner morally acceptable. I’d have to admit that he is my agent, and therefore that I bear responsibility for what he does in my name. By the very act of voting, I’m sanctioning the outcome – affirming the result.

    If I refuse to do these things, then it seems to me I shouldn’t be playing the game.

    It’s a quandry. If everybody thinks as I do, then Bush is a shoo-in.

    (This really does bother me, so if someone has a solution, I’ll be grateful.)

  44. the more people who vote, the greater the chance of a happy result — provided that each person is more likely to vote for… the unBush! (Condorcet corrig?)

    And, Martina, sometimes people talk just plain silly.

    —————

    On a less silly note…

    I feel that if a person plays the game, then he has to accept the score. By this I mean: If I were to vote and my guy lost, I’d have to consider the choice valid and the winner morally acceptable. I’d have to admit that he is my agent, and therefore that I bear responsibility for what he does in my name. By the very act of voting, I’m sanctioning the outcome – affirming the result.

    If I refuse to do these things, then it seems to me I shouldn’t be playing the game.

    It’s a quandry. If everybody thinks as I do, then Bush is a shoo-in.

    (This really does bother me, so if someone has a solution, I’ll be grateful.)

  45. the more people who vote, the greater the chance of a happy result — provided that each person is more likely to vote for… the unBush! (Condorcet corrig?)

    And, Martina, sometimes people talk just plain silly.

    —————

    On a less silly note…

    I feel that if a person plays the game, then he has to accept the score. By this I mean: If I were to vote and my guy lost, I’d have to consider the choice valid and the winner morally acceptable. I’d have to admit that he is my agent, and therefore that I bear responsibility for what he does in my name. By the very act of voting, I’m sanctioning the outcome – affirming the result.

    If I refuse to do these things, then it seems to me I shouldn’t be playing the game.

    It’s a quandry. If everybody thinks as I do, then Bush is a shoo-in.

    (This really does bother me, so if someone has a solution, I’ll be grateful.)

  46. This is all the more reason for the neccessity for federal devolution of power so that our votes can count where it has the most effect – at the local level.

    The more power the feds get, the less our votes end up meaning, both at the federal and local levels.

  47. the more people who vote, the greater the chance of a happy result — provided that each person is more likely to vote for… the unBush! (Condorcet corrig?)

    And, Martina, sometimes people talk just plain silly.

    —————

    On a less silly note…

    I feel that if a person plays the game, then he has to accept the score. By this I mean: If I were to vote and my guy lost, I’d have to consider the choice valid and the winner morally acceptable. I’d have to admit that he is my agent, and therefore that I bear responsibility for what he does in my name. By the very act of voting, I’m sanctioning the outcome – affirming the result.

    If I refuse to do these things, then it seems to me I shouldn’t be playing the game.

    It’s a quandry. If everybody thinks as I do, then Bush is a shoo-in.

    (This really does bother me, so if someone has a solution, I’ll be grateful.)

  48. Martina-

    ‘First time on this site and everything I’ve read is just “This sucks” “That’s lame.”‘

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the irony of bitching about others bitching knocked you clean out of your chair. You are an unequivocal moron.

    Mexile-
    I run into obtuse halfwits like you daily and it drives me absolutely nuts. Here in Utah there are a total of seven presidential candidates, I’m sure Texas has more than two. Vote for shit, you get shit. Don’t vote and you get served shit by others. It is funny you mention Belgium, recently I found one of my colleagues busy filling out paperwork so he could be excused from their elections.

  49. If everybody thought that way, it would be worth voting. But they don’t.

    The civic virtue is persuading other people to vote your way, not voting yourself. You get hundreds of votes that way.

    The important thing is the right to vote, not the actual voting. Consider what happens if you own stock. You get a vote per share. Every year management sends you a proxy card to vote, and you throw it out. Then one year Hostile Takeovers Inc offers to buy your shares for twice their market price. Immediately, management sends you a letter telling you to under no circumstances sell to Hostile, because their offer doesn’t represent the true value of the company. Everybody sells to Hostile, Hostile votes the shares it bought, and management is out of a job. That’s how it works. Hostile didn’t want your shares so much as your right to vote, and it was the right that had the value. Yet you never voted

  50. I blogged about this a couple of days ago. Is there a logical reason to vote? I posted my response here:

    http://keirwilmut.com/archives/2004/09/27/voting-logic-and-pissing-people-off-at-parties/

  51. Martina,

    Libertarians generally believe that most of what governments do sucks, that’s true. OTOH, they’ve got a lot more faith than most others in the fruits of the private sector acting in unfettered freedom. I think you’ll see both attitudes expressed here, although perhaps more of the former since being a political forum, it’s mostly the government that gets brought up. As far as this thread goes, since libertarians as an electoral group constitute a marginalized minority (is that redundant?) that is severely disappointed with both political parties and either direction of the “normal” political spectrum, it’s perhaps only natural that many of them harbor a fair amount of cynicism toward voting.

  52. Martina-

    ‘First time on this site and everything I’ve read is just “This sucks” “That’s lame.”‘

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the irony of bitching about others bitching knocked you clean out of your chair. You are an unequivocal moron.

    Mexile-
    I run into obtuse halfwits like you daily and it drives me absolutely nuts. Here in Utah there are a total of seven presidential candidates, I’m sure Texas has more than two. Vote for shit, you get shit. Don’t vote and you get served shit by others. It is funny you mention Belgium, recently I found one of my colleagues busy filling out paperwork so he could be excused from their elections.

  53. This is all the more reason for the neccessity for federal devolution of power so that our votes can count where it has the most effect – at the local level.

    The more power the feds get, the less our votes end up meaning, both at the federal and local levels.

  54. woah, someone unclogged the drainpipe?

  55. Martina –

    Most libertarians know not to hit the “post” button repeatedly, too.

    (Sorry, everyone. Just figure that I REALLY want a solution to my problem.)

  56. 50 new entries in this thread, mostly being the same 5 entries repeated 10x apiece.

    OK…

  57. Muskogee Okie,

    Yeah, if enough people stay home, it might raise the odds of your vote affecting anything all the way from that of getting hit by a meteor to that of being struck by lightning.

    Don’t let all that power go to your head.

  58. 50 new entries in this thread, mostly being the same 5 entries repeated 10x apiece.

    I said I was sorry. Sheesh!

    (I wonder if the new Florida voting machines will work like the post button here. Push, and get your vote counted 10 times. Now THAT would be cool.)

  59. Testing. Testing.

  60. For people who adhere to conservative principles, it is clearly pointless to vote in elections.

    Just don’t bother.

    🙂

  61. I think the one thing we can on agree on is that the software on this site is lame AND it sucks.

  62. Highway,

    I think we’re getting closer to the ant colony in T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King”, where the legend over the entrance reads, “Everything Not Forbidden is Compulsory.”

    I second the motion to devolve power downward, if not away. But good luck getting the “ins” to give it up.

    R.W. Bradford makes a case for voting in the latest issue of “Liberty” magazine. He suggests that since no individual vote will do much to change the course of an election, one should treat voting more as political expression. A vote for a minor party candidate would be saying (pardon, article not in front of me; I’m paraphrasing), “I don’t like either major party candidate, and in fact, I think that *this* candidate has ideas that I agree with more.”

    Like him, I will feel very good about being able to enter the voting booth and, without holding my nose, pull the lever down for Mr. Badnarik, even with the realization that he’ll probably never win. *My* vote will be different.

  63. Cthulhu for President
    Don’t settle for the lesser evil!

  64. Oh that’s right, it was more likely to be hit by lightning in Florida four years ago than be a person who’s vote made a difference in the entire election.

  65. Voting is a paradox, on several levels. Whether one person votes or not will certainly never effect the outcome of an election involving millions, but en masse our votes certainly do effect who gets into office. The person who gets into office will certainly not do all the things you want him or her to, but he or she may come closer, if you choose wisely, than the available alternative. And if you’re lucky. Events beyond his or her control may affect you much more than who is elected and may constrain the elected official from doing what he or she wants anyway. It’s ultimately all a crapshoot. But then, all of life is, and if you play your cards right (to mix a metaphor!), you increase your odds of getting the best result, if only infinitesimally. Whether that makes voting meaningful or meaningless is up to you. I partake of the habit myself, but I wouldn’t try to convince anyway else that they “should.”

  66. This board malfunctioning? Dozens of repeated posts. I wonder if mine will be appear twice 🙂

  67. Who wrote this posting software? Diebold?

    Hey, it’s on topic…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.