Economics

Vote Selling vs. Voting

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Economist Greg Mankiw, former chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, thinks free markets are pretty good, but not free markets in your vote. Fellow economist Bryan Caplan thinks that the real problem of externalities Mankiw sees isn't just with selling votes, but with voting itself.

Caplan's October reason cover story on "The Four Bone-Headed Biases of Stupid Voters."

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39 responses to “Vote Selling vs. Voting

  1. lol pwnd

  2. The set-up for this is as silly as “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”
    Move along.
    Nothing to see here.

  3. Hey Eric, for $10,000 I will vote for Giuliani. No questions asked. But you must pay me in time for me to donate that money to the Paul campaign. Thanks.

  4. Brandybuck:

    While you can sell your vote for $10,000, you can not contribute to any campaign more than $2,300. Huh?

  5. Money laundering. All I have to do is buy some Ron Paul Liberty Dollars! Oh wait…

  6. If 2 Rudy fans will agree to vote for Paul, I will vote for Rudy.

    Any takers?

  7. thoreau:

    I am thinking Dondero, may be. Edward second?

  8. Dondero, my friend, I am sure you know that I am just kidding, right?

  9. While you can sell your vote for $10,000, you can not contribute to any campaign more than $2,300. Huh?

    You can give an additional $5,000 to the Ron Paul Blimp!

  10. I’ll agree to vote for anybody for a mere $5.
    We still have the secret ballot, don’t we?
    You’ll just have to trust me.
    [mutters sucker under breath]

  11. You can give an additional $5,000 to the Ron Paul Blimp!

    That is funny!

  12. It seems like vote buying could actually do a lot to offset externalities. After all, in the situation described, where a vote is held on a public good costing three dollars per person that will provide bob with $8 and fred and joe with $0, bob isn’t the only one who can buy votes. Fred would take a four dollar bribe from Bob to vote for the proposition just as readily as he would take a one dollar bribe from Joe, and Joe would gain from paying one dollar to protect against a three dollar loss. Bob’s break even point occurs at a $5 bribe yielding a net $2 value to fred, and joe’s break even point occurs at a $3 bribe yielding a net $3 value to fred, so fred will choose to take joe’s bribe and vote with him. The only situation in which Bob would be willing to bribe enough to sway Fred’s vote would be one in which he’s voting for a market efficient outcome: he can only afford such a bribe if he can transfer enough utility to make the majority better off and still have extra utility himself.

    This isn’t to say that I favor vote bribing, but my opposition to it is a matter of fairness rather than efficiency. When I sell my vote in a competitive bid, I’m essentially engaging in blackmail. Fred votes for the side that ought to win, but only because Joe gave him two dollars for essentially nothing. Theoretically, Fred could keep bringing up this issue and keep profiting forever; he’s threatening theft and getting paid off.

  13. Jorgen —

    What would happen in the real world is that our nice well funded political organizations would just buy our votes instead of trying to lie to us first.

  14. yeah, from what I hear that was pretty much what happened in the 1800’s, at least out here in Chicago. I guess at least we would get something out of politics in the form of cash.

  15. I guess at least we would get something out of politics in the form of cash.

    But aren’t promises of tax cuts just a form of bribing? “I will give you back $2,000 a year for your vote.”

  16. Brandon Berg (in the comments section) put it best:

    Brandon Berg writes:

    Besides, vote-selling is inherent in democracy. The principal means by which politicians procure votes is by promising to steal money from some taxpayers and give it to others. With an honest market in votes, people would have to use their own money, which could conceivably improve outcomes relative to the status quo.
    Posted November 22, 2007 03:01 PM

  17. jorgen,

    You’re from chicago?? You didn’t happen to take a game theory class at LUC’s grad school, cause that brought me back.

  18. Jorgen,

    In any binary proposition where the sum of values of one of the outcome exceeds the sum of the values of the other, there exists a division of the surplus (i.e., vote buying) such that all parties would be willing to vote for the same outcome. That’s Wicksell’s unanymity principle in a nutshell.

    A short paper on replacing votes with bids can be found here.

  19. This reminds me of one of my favorite H2K discussion that became a favorite Slashdot discussion from the turn of the century.

  20. But aren’t promises of tax cuts just a form of bribing? “I will give you back $2,000 a year for your vote.”

    Not without quite a stretch. But welfare is a form of bribery: “Vote for us and you get money without doing anything else”.

  21. Vote for us and you get money without doing anything else

    It is even worse: “Vote for us and you we get give your money without us doing anything else.”

    But regarding my quote, it is even worse. It basically says: “we will generally take your money, but if you vote for us we will give you some back.”

  22. iih,

    It is even WORSER! It is “vote for us if you don’t have any money and we will give you money from someone else who does not deserve to have it”.

  23. I guess there is a virtue in being disenfranchised. One is not amenable to bribery.

  24. I guess there is a virtue in being disenfranchised. One is not amenable to bribery.

    I am not getting that one. Or perhaps I have been brainwashed by the current misuse of the word “disenfranchised”.

  25. Guy- I mean it literally. As a non-citizen (legal of course– the “in demand” kind), I pay taxes like everyone else, but do not get to vote. The theory is that I have a right to vote “elsewhere” but do not get to pay taxes in that “elsewhere”, so I pay it here instead. Technically, it is a right that I give up when I sign the “visa contract” or whatever it is called.

  26. rephrase that: the “highly skilled in demand” kind

  27. Ah, okay. I keep forgetting that you are a visa armed worker here. And you were talking about yourself. My bad.

    I was thinking the “disinfranchised” as the folks who can vote, but are being promised services if they vote a certain way.

    Odd thing, they tend to vote about as much as Americans under 25, but a certain party keeps tossing public money at them to vote for them.

  28. Oh no, don’t worry about it.

    I was thinking the “disinfranchised” as the folks who can vote, but are being promised services if they vote a certain way.

    Ah, yes, I see. I do not see those as disenfranchised, though. They choose it that way.

  29. “Guy Montag”–that sounds “Frenchy”. You’re sort of the hawk on the forum, right? You and SIV?

  30. Dondero, my friend…

    Splitter!

  31. Guy-

    Nice try.

    What do you mean? If you mean my question, it is a sincere one.

  32. Taktix:

    Dondero, my friend…

    Splitter!

    You see, Dondero and I are friends now. A long while ago, Underzog and I also became friends, as strange as that may sound.

    (P.S., it is said that Eric is a big guy, better stay safe)

  33. iih – Guy’s handle is an allusion to this book.

    As for Dondero, even if he is big – someone once said “God created man, Sam Colt made them equal.” One more reason not to vote for the anti-2nd amendment candidate Dondi endorses.

  34. “Guy Montag”–that sounds “[f]renchy”.

    NEIN!

    And, yes, I am one of the hawkish ones around here.

  35. Ah, thanks Guy Montag!

  36. As J sub D notes, the premise is false. There really can’t be a contract unless both parties can enforce it. As long as we have a secret ballot, there is no way for the payor to enforce the deal.

    Really, seriously, nothing to see here.

  37. As J sub D notes, the premise is false. There really can’t be a contract unless both parties can enforce it. As long as we have a secret ballot, there is no way for the payor to enforce the deal.

    If you can get a camera into the voting booth then there is an possible enforcement mechanism.

  38. RCD,

    Check the link I gave above to the Slashdot story about voteauction.com. They had that part figured out before the State of NY took them to court.

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