Bryan Caplan  

The Mankiw Column Fortune Didn't Want You to Read

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It's called "Why Some People Shouldn't Vote." And if you think you've anticipated his whole argument, you're probably wrong. At least I was.


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TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/595
The author at amcgltd in a related article titled The Educated Non-Voter writes:
    Someone you know not going to vote? Don't be a hater! I do this sort of thing often when I'm answering a survey. Never occurred to me to do it on a ballot, but that's just me. Via Econlog.... [Tracked on November 6, 2006 1:36 PM]
COMMENTS (7 to date)
Ragerz writes:

I agree with Mankiw. But ONLY if you assume an ill-informed voter AND that informed voters have the interests of non-voters in mind enough such that random voting does not lead to superior results for non-voters.

Ignorance, thankfully, is something that can be corrected. Most people who advocate more widespread voting (for intellectual rather than partisan reasons) are not advocating ignorant voting. They are advocating that people become informed about the candidates and issues and then vote.

Especially since not everyone who is informed and votes is going to have the best interests of the ill-informed non-voter at heart. The argument for voting is basically an argument that one should ensure, to the degree one is able, that one's interests are not trampled upon.

Marko writes:

As soon as I read Mankiw's piece I came to this blog to see Brian's reaction. Unfortunately, there really wasn't any. I'm still hoping for a more detailed post on this topic, since it is so critical to Brian's forthcoming book.

Anyhow, what seems strange to me is that although I don't think Mankiw's positive analysis is right, prescriptions seem correct. I don't really know a lot about the methodology of economics, but is this strange, or it happens frequently?

JD writes:

Mankiw's argument fails to account for the "Miracle of Aggregation" . Who cares about random noise- as long as it is truly random, it doesn't matter.

Brennan and Lomasky's theory of experessive voting can certainly account for both facts presented in Mankiw's piece- low turnout and roll off voting.

From the instrumental voter point of view the voting puzzles still exist: Why does anyone turnout to vote? Conditional on voting, why doesn't everyone vote for themselves?

Randy writes:

I think the right to vote is important, but that actually voting is not. It is important that the people maintain the power to throw officials out of office, but not important that everyone participate in deciding who will hold office.

I also think that voting in the hopes that a politician will make my life better is akin to praying that the rain will stop. My time is far better spent working for a promotion - or buying an umbrella.

Bill writes:

Nothing new here...

I love econ, but I find it distressing that often when I hear of a new econ theory, it's just a subject I've been casually discussing with my (non-economist) frieds for years. Shouldn't professionals come up with stuff that's not obvious to laymen like me?

aaron writes:

I've thought this for many years and it reflects my voting style.

This year I might make an exception. If I vote today, instead of doing research, I'm going to hedge my votes by simply voting against all incumbants.

Dean writes:

I agree with Mankiw in that it is better if some people stay home. Many people vote but don't know where the candidates stand on issues or who they are. An example of this is Sean Hannity's "Man on the Street" where he shows random pictures of Peloski, Reid, hasting, Jessica Simpson, Alec Baldwin, and Paris Hilton, the truly bad thing was everyone could identify Simpson, Baldwin, Hilton but couldn't identify Peloski, Reid, Hastings, or where the candidates stand on issues. Also some people have no idea who is in office, I remember hearing someone say Clinton was still the president and some other people had no clue who Rumsfeld, Cheney, or Rove was. Really if you can't identify important officials in the government you shouldn't vote.

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