Happy Tyr’s Day
I am on campus a lot as a student and have been over this last three and a half years and at every election time the message by the school is clear, get out there and vote. “It’s your civic responsibility”. “You can make a difference.” The problem with being an Economics Minor is when you start doing an analysis of voting using economic law and principles, you discover to your horror as a Political Science Major that your individual vote matters little.
It was humorous this last week as the Power Ball Lotto reached 1.6 Billion and I saw people lining up around the country for their almost statistical zero chance of winning it. Many of same people will adamantly tell me I am wasting my vote by voting for Libertarian candidates because they won’t win. The irony is a little thick there because voting is very much like playing the lotto. You are doing an action that might have the very small statistical chance of actually affecting the outcome of an election.
On to the Wolves and Ravens:
I am doing a little bit of switch here because as I already indicated I am a libertarian and so the first thing I am going to talk about is whether government is legitimate. I think it in most cases is not even necessary. Like I said on Sunday in the Pagan Pulpit on Havamal 47 – people in general are decent people. There are always bad apples and some people want protection against those apples, so humans start out with the idea of government as a means to do that. If I take a Classical Liberal position you have government needed for a way of settling deputes and to provide protection of human rights, this would involve a need for courts, internal security (fire and police) and defense. Other than that most other things could be handles by voluntary associations and the free market.
So if we need this minimal government and we want it, how do we get it? Democracy is the notion that the majority rules by voting and that the majority gets the action that they voted for. There are several problems with this. 1) I don’t want this decision to affect myself or others negatively but when the majority rules the effect is felt on those that want the action and those that don’t. 2) I am forcing the other side to my will if my side wins. If I am a decent human being, forcing another to do something they don’t want to do or affects them negatively, should be distasteful to me. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be part of something that is about the tyranny of the majority. What we have in voting and democracy most of the time is mob rule, and the person who can rally the biggest mob around them wins.
OK. Time to look at voting rationally. Two things: 1) The power of the individual vote is insignificant and 2) There are only a few times where your vote can actually matter.
The first is the simply point that the value of a single vote in any election is 1 over N. N being the number of votes actually cast in that particular election. This means the larger and election, the more statistically insignificant your vote is. You actually probably have more of a chance of affecting the outcome of smaller local elections than anything else. The most power if have had personally in this regard is when I sat on two school boards and had a one seventh of a chance of actually casting a deciding vote.
The other part is knowing that the only time you actually to cast a significant vote is when you either break or cause a tie. Otherwise you are just part of the mob. In truth what you are doing is playing the political lotto hoping that you are part of the mob that wins. Also, if you are part of the mob that loses then your vote was wasted and if the election is won, every winning vote beyond what was need to win is a wasted vote. There are a lot of insignificant and wasted votes every election and the most of them are actually cast for the two major parties.
This is why people don’t get informed because I think they instinctively know this. There is little point in spending a lot of time on something that you know won’t have much effect; if any, on the outcome. So people vote their feelings or party line because it doesn’t require much thought.
So what, then? Where does wisdom fit in? I can only say that it might have little to do with voting or government in general. If we were wise we would give government little power and maintain that individuals have strong rights the government can’t take away by voting. Oh, yeah that’s what the founders gave us but we keep going down the path to less individual rights and more government. A course that is not wise, but the desire for security over freedom keeps leading us to despise “The Blessings of Liberty”. . Perhaps people should reconsider that maybe our founders here in the United States were in a sense political geniuses and we should respect their intelligence of individual rights over government power.
Yeah, I vote. But don’t tell me my vote matters or its my civic duty. For me it is more like other people playing the lotto. It’s that slim chance I might make a difference, that I might be in the winning mob. I do it for the thrill of marking my choices and hoping like the power ball player gets his number and dreams. I do it for the thrill of knowing that there is a statistically better chance that I will be involved in a fatal car crash on my way to the polls, than my vote will make a difference – it’s kind of like sky diving for a political scientist.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.