More Voting Disclosure

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Occasional Reason contributor Jeremy Lott makes the small government case for … the small government party! At least in pro-Kerry states.

NEXT: Feel My Power, Colin!

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  1. This logic works just as well in decidedly pro-Bush states too.

  2. Hellooooooo!!!! This logic works in ALL states. How can the fiction that your individual vote could possibly make a difference in who gets elected still be so pervasive. The 2000 election proved conclusively that your vote couldn’t possibly decide the election. If it could, they’d pick the winner by some other means. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

  3. Lott assumes that Kerry would spend more money, overall, than Bush, because he’s spoken about programs that he wants to fund at higher levels, but he hasn’t identified programs he wants to cut.

    A recent study by an NGO (I think it was the National Taxpayers Union, but I’m not sure) reported that Kerry’s promises from the campaign trail add up to $1.7 trillion, while Bush’s add up to $2 trillion+.

    Somebody remind me, which programs has Bush proposed to cut?

  4. >The 2000 election proved conclusively that your >vote couldn’t possibly decide the election.

    For MY vote, that is true, but I was writing a column trying to sway a mass of people. I think that Kerry is much worse than Bush but that Bush is plenty bad and shouldn’t get a free pass. Solution: Small government would-have-been Bush supporters in states that are in the bag for Kerry should vote Libertarian. If it’s a large enough vote, it might fire a warning shot against the bow of the Republican ship of state.

  5. It is more important to vote for the LP in close swing states. If Bush losses those states by less than the LP vote, the GOP will notice and see that small government voters will abandon the GOP even if it means electing a democrat, only then will they care about recapturing those votes. If they know that people will vote for the LP in safe states, but will come back to the GOP when it is close, then they hae no incentive to pay any attention to small government voters as it will never cost them power. That is why the vote swap theory makes no sense to me. I personaaly think it is hopeless to look for libertarian ideas in the GOP. I am a republican and voted for Bush in 2000, but it is clear that the GOP is now a big government conservative party, focused on social issues and military strength. That will continue to be their focus as they try to appeal to hispanics and other minorities and do thqat with their socialy conservative message.

  6. Mr. Lott, people around here don’t like to think about the implications of actions people carry out in the aggregate. When I argue that suburban sprawl is an irrational way for a city to grow, I often get a retort demonstrating that it is rational for an individual to buy a house in a new subdivision at the edge of the metro area. There seems to be a prejudice against considering the impact of an action when carried out at any scale greater than the individual.

  7. If you want to fire a real shot across the bow of Republicans, small-government conservatives should stay home en masse.

    (Insert obligatory argument about suburban sprawl being a result of zoning and state ownership of roads.)

    – Josh

  8. People around here are perfectly capable of thinking of the implications of actions people take in the aggregate or are at least with regard to some issues (or else what are all the theories of efficient markets and dispersed intellegence about?). This is the case if by actions in the aggregate we mean the sum total of individual actions, which is surely the case in surburban sprawl.

    Surburban sprawl probably has many causes. One is certainly from a libertarian point of view govt. subsidy of highways (or from a liberal point of view govt. neglect of alternative means of transportation). At any rate highways are unfairly being discriminated for, as a means of transportation, by the govt., which probably has it’s own, albeit lousy, reasons for this.

    But I’m not entirely sure surburban sprawl isn’t also rooted in … dadadum … human nature. As in human beings inherently prefer having some space of their own. Human beings are built to want to live at only a certain population density and no more. (Surburban gardens are also one of a city dwellers only real contacts with “nature” of any sort). It is true that surburban life can for some be overly alienating but dense urban life may still be distasteful, as neither approximate what humans are evolved for. Now, these *may* be innate human preferences but ALL human prefernces take place in an economic universe of trade offs and scarcity and not in a vaccuum. So if you subsidize sprawl you will get more of it and if you don’t you will get less of it (only the rich will be able to afford it 😉 – horrors!!).

  9. Of course govt. support for housing via the mortgage tax deduction is also another major subsidy to suburban sprawl. I know, I know, it’s your money … but it is not an across the board tax break or even a tax break across an income level. It’s a tax break saying one lifestyle is preferable to another (and one lifestyle may indeed *be* preferable to another *if* all other things held constant. But in individual decision making there are always trade-offs). And make no mistake about it, without the mortgage tax break *or* any corresponding offsetting tax break, the taxes on the *middle class* would be a hefty chunk of middle class income indeed.

    Also people are flooding into real estate now as the only decent investment around and this owes much to govt. involvement.

    So sprawl may be partly human nature perhaps yes … but also the dice are weighted by govt..

  10. I wasn’t trying to start a sprawl debate, but to use that issue as an example of the limitations of individualistic thought in analyzing large-scale phenomena. Though the example about markets demonstrates that my point needs to be refined.

    The Adam Smith point about individuals and markets – that pursuit of individual good leads to progress overa broad front – is an important insight, but the esteem in which this dynamic is held tends to blind people to an alternate dynamic. Namely, that the actions of individuals pursuing their own good can, in the aggregate, lead to a reduction in the overall good, when the achievement of the goals on the individual level imposes costs on other people.

    In the sprawl example, an individual decides to move from the city to the suburbs for, among other reasons, cleaner air. But now he’s burning a lot more fuel to get to work, which increases the net air pollution, even as he himself may be breathing cleaner air. So now, somebody who would have stayed in the city moves out because of the reduction in air quality, and that second individual is now polluting the air more. The individual pursuit of cleaner air has harmed the overall air quality.

    A simpler example is panic and stampeding during a building fire. The ferociously individualistic rush for the door, shoving other people, etc. that each individual carries out in order to maximize their own interests results in an outcome in which fewer people get out the door.

    Because libertarians have such a partisan attachment to the Adam Smith dynamic, they tend to ignore the alternate dynamics.

  11. joe-

    I think what you’re getting at is the difference between a Nash equilibrium and a global optimum. Free markets almost inevitably lead to Nash equilibria: Nobody has an incentive to deviate from his or her current strategy. Such equilibria maximize individual well-being given the current circumstances, and they also tend to (frequently, but not necessarily always) maximize overall well-being relative to similar alternatives.

    However, there can be multiple Nash equilibria. Market outcomes can be sensitive to initial conditions, and there’s no guarantee that a market will evolve toward one equilibrium rather than another. One of those may yield greater overall happiness for everybody involved, but to get there from another equilibrium would require that everybody make adjustments that may be quite painful in the short-term.

    Thus one could say that maximizing individual outcomes won’t always yield the “best” overall outcome. However, before anybody accuses me of being anti-market, there’s no guarantee that a regulated market will succeed in reaching an outcome that a free market could not reach. Indeed, there’s considerable evidence to the contrary.

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