Thursday, November 1, 2012


Any guesses about why we vote on Tuesdays? It's pretty interesting and has to do with horse and buggies, and is explained in this Ted talk video.

Then this video talks about why your vote doesn't matter.

PBS - "Voting Schmoting" from Tilapia Film on Vimeo.

Don Boudreaux, GMU economist, explains the reasons why he doesn't vote here, which touches on the some of the same points mentioned in the video above. Here's a brief excerpt:

First—and least interestingly—my vote will never determine the outcome of a political election. The chances that my voting for candidate Smith rather than voting for candidate Jones (or rather than not voting at all) will assure that Smith wins the election are practically zero. Put differently, from my perspective, the outcome of any election will be what it will be no matter what I do or don’t do at a polling place on election day. Because my time is valuable, I never vote; I instead spend my time on activities whose outcomes I am more likely to affect.

Some people insist that non-voting is “selfish.” Perhaps. But note that I’m not the only person to benefit from my refusal to spend my time pointlessly. By not voting, I have more time to prepare for the classes I teach, or more time to write articles that (I hope) at least some people enjoy reading, or more time to spend helping my son with his homework or just enjoying time with my family. Because my refusal to vote changes nothing, the cost to others of my not voting is zero. But the cost of my voting to others (my students, my colleagues, my adoring reading public, my family) is real. So by not voting, I make at least some people better off while making no one worse off.
Spoken like a true economist, right? There are some other considerations in the voting equation, namely, the sphere of influence that a person wields over the people in his/her circle. Another economist, Russ Roberts, explains his non-voting position in a more palatable way than Boudreaux does. His point was mostly about educating others, and how touching other people personally will do more to swing an election than what a simple vote does.

In any case, I haven't voted in awhile, mostly because I'm not registered in Utah, and the absentee ballot where I am registered to vote has been problematic to get the last few times. I've mostly just resigned myself to the fact that I have never actually lived in a swing state, so my vote matters very little. There are other issues of smaller scales that maybe I could help tip the scales more, but in the end, I think I largely align with these thinkers. At this point, voting is mostly just a symbolic gesture, but it still feels good to do it.

(The biggest reason why I don't register to vote in Utah is that I would have to give up my CA driver's license, and I keep holding on to the thought that some day I'll buy a Disneyland pass, in which case, I'm going to want that California resident discount. The price I pay...)

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