David R. Henderson  

My Election Outcomes: Final Update

Will Profiling Even Work? A Su... The Autobiography of Malcol...

Or, Did I Optimize or What?

I've posted a couple of times now (here and here) about a local election in Pacific Grove in which I took part. The proposal on the ballot, Measure A, would have imposed an added "parcel tax," that is, a property tax, on properties in Pacific Grove. One of the things that makes this an attractive vehicle for the pro-tax forces, by the way, is the "taxation with representation" aspect. Only Pacific Grove residents are allowed to vote, but many properties in Pacific Grove, as the pro-tax forces have figured out, are owned by non-residents.

I calculated long ago that whenever I fight these things, I have a good chance of winning but also, considering my time value, an even better chance of spending more in the fight than the whole present value of my tax savings from winning. Bottom line: If I consider just my own self-interest and also don't consider the pleasure I get from the camaraderie with fellow tax fighters, I should never fight the tax increases. In this case, the tax increase would have cost me personally $65 a year for 5 years. Present value: approximately $300.

But I enjoy fighting them and, like McGruff the crime dog, taking a bite out of government. So I fight these tax increases, unless I'm in an incredibly busy quarter, but I don't invest heavily. My friend Carl Mounteer is a good writer and a great researcher. So he typically writes the first draft of the ballot arguments and I quickly rewrite them because the basics are all there and so I spend little time. I distribute signs to about 10 or so neighbors so that the signs remind people that (1) it's a tax increase, and (2) there are people out there who oppose it. I'll write an op/ed or two and a letter or two to the editor. I go out after the polling places have closed and pick up all the signs to re-use against future tax increases. Total time taken: 4 or 5 hours. The most pleasurable parts are dealing with Carl and meeting or re-meeting with neighbors.

Where is all this leading? To why I think I optimized ex post. The final election results, after all the ballot counting, came out yesterday. Here they are:

Vote Count Percent
YES 6,102 66.37%
NO 3,092 33.63%
Total 9,194 100.00%

Had the pro-tax side gotten just 28 more votes and the anti-tax side 28 fewer votes, we would have lost. Do I think I influenced at least 28 votes out of over 9,000? Yes I do.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Ken B writes:

Now that's fun!

Chris H writes:

There's also a fun flip side here too. If you and your compatriots did the minimum amount of work required to achieve your goal, your opponents exerted the maximum amount of they could short of achieving their goal. And given this is an all or nothing game, that put them into just about the optimally inefficient position from their perspectives. So if you happen to get any enjoyment out of the thought of opponents working hard and still failing this should also be the optimal outcome for you from that point of view as well!

Ken B writes:

@Chris H: Victory tastes best sliced thin!

Keith writes:

@ChrisH: Actually, they could have wasted much more, had they overspent by a sufficient margin. So their level of effort/spending was not minimally efficient.

Chris H writes:

True, as long as they value the tax increase less than the value of all resources they could have possibly used. Which is likely a safe assumption to make.

A better statement would be to say they are in about the most optimally inefficient position they could be in while still having Dr. Henderson and the anti-tax people achieve their goal.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top