David R. Henderson  

To Vote or Not to Vote?

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One of my favorite writers and thinkers on the Cato blog, Cato at Liberty, is Jim Harper. He posted yesterday on voting, titling his piece "Don't Not Vote." He makes some good points but goes too far. The issue for me, by the way, is not that I disagree with his bottom line: I vote pretty regularly. But reasons matter.

First, I like how he starts, writing:

A fair number of libertarians pride themselves on not voting. Among their reasons: One person's vote is so unlikely to influence the outcome of an election that almost any alternative action is a better use of time. That reasoning has appealing simplicity. For consistency's sake, our hyper-rational non-voting friends should refrain from applauding at performances or cheering at games.

Where I thought he was going to go is to say that voting is a means of expression, so why cut yourself off from that means.

But the ending sentence in that paragraph is this:

People who want to see liberty advance, and not just bask in the superiority of libertarian ideas, should probably vote--and vote loudly.

That's what doesn't follow. It still is the case that your vote has an almost infinitesimal chance of influencing the outcome.

Ah, says Harper, but so what if your vote doesn't determine the winner? It influences the margin of victory. He writes:

Here's one use of vote information that I'm familiar with as a former Hill staffer: Folks in Congress assess each other's strength and weakness according to electoral margin of victory. When a one- or two-term member of Congress is re-elected by a wide margin, it's a signal that he or she is there to stay. That member is going to have a vote for a long time and will acquire more power with increasing seniority. The stock of that person and his or her staff rises, and they immediately have more capacity to move their agenda.

OK, but let's not lose our numeracy.

A personal story. Because I left Canada in 1972 just before an election, I never voted in Canada. And I couldn't vote in the United States until June 1986, after I had just become an American citizen. I voted the first chance I got. What a disappointment! Everything I told my students in class about the economics of voting was true. It's not just that I didn't influence the outcome. It's also that I didn't noticeably influence the margin of victory either.

If you find yourself persuaded by Jim's point about margin of victory, ask yourself this: Think of a candidate, candidate A, whose views you liked a lot more than those of his opponent, candidate B. To make it real think about an actual candidate A whom you voted for. Now ask yourself, without checking data, by what number of votes did he/she win?

I bet the best you can do is guess to the nearest hundred and, for most people, it's the nearest thousand.

QED.


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CATEGORIES: Public Choice Theory




COMMENTS (37 to date)
James Hanley writes:

I've played with this math before. In 2012 Barack Obama won with 51.96384% of the vote. Had I voted for him instead of voting LP, his share would have been 51.98385. What's that, 1/100,000th of 1%?

My wife was a bit miffed that I didn't get an absentee ballot before I left the country a few weeks ago, so I couldn't vote on a school bond issue we both supported. I normally would have voted (if only because she'd insist we drive straight from work to the polling place), but I told her I'd make it up to her if the issue failed by one vote. It was a small enough election (small town) that the potential for a draw was not infinitesimal, but I still didn't lose any sleep over it...rightly so, as it turned out.

Brian Holtz writes:

If not-voting is rational because one vote doesn't make a difference, then isn't littering rational too?

Don Boudreaux writes:

Brian,

Your analogy of voting with littering doesn't work quite as readily as you suppose. While your litter alone doesn't make a great deal of difference, it does make some difference. If you litter, there's more litter; if you don't, there isn't more litter. Voting is different. Unless your vote actually changes the outcome of the election, your vote doesn't change anything substantive about the election. If, for example, you vote for candidate Smith but candidate Smith nevertheless loses to candidate Jones by 10,000 votes - or even by just one vote - then neither you nor the world get even a little bit of candidate Smith. You and the world get as much Jones as you would have gotten had you not voted. Your vote for Smith, unlike your litter, doesn't show up in any results.

You might reply that the size of a candidate's victory (or loss) matters: that the size of the majority that carries Jones to victory (or Smith to defeat) matters in determining the policies that Jones will pursue while in office (or be permitted by other branches of government to successfully pursue while in office). In this case the analogy to littering works (if it's true that the size of the majority matters).

But, again, in an important way - in the most obvious way - your analogy fails because each individual vote that is cast for a losing candidate has zero - that is, unlike litter, not even a negligible - effect on the landscape of the electoral outcome.

Tiago writes:

David,

That was always my thinking, but Robert Wiblin talked on a facebook post I can't seem to find about how the expected value of voting is surprisingly high, given that you have reason to believe you are voting for the general good.
Gelman has an article on how the chances of your vote deciding the outcome of an election are indeed very slim - around 1 in 60 million on average. However, if the stakes are high enough, the expected value is pretty big. Suppose you have a choice between Trump and Hillary, and a Trump victory would cause a general loss of 0.2% of GDP per year for four years - or USD 100 billion per year or USD 400 billion total, ignoring interest and inflation. Then your vote has an expected value of USD6,667. It's not a million dollars, but it's sure worth my trip to the ballot box.

GregS writes:

I think about it in terms of “expected benefit to society from my vote,” literally an explicit "probability times payoff" calculation. Suppose a victory for my candidate means some benefit (think of some dollar amount if it helps) accruing to all members of society. This benefit scales up like N, the number of voters, because good policy gets applied to all of society, given an electoral victory. Suppose also that each voter has a 50/50 chance of picking one or the other candidate. The probability that you cast the pivotal vote scales down like 1/sqrt(N). (Play with a binomial distribution a little to convince yourself of this scaling.) The expected value of my vote is the probability multiplied by the benefit of my casting the pivotal vote, which scales like N * 1/sqrt(N) = sqrt(N). So for very close elections, the value to society of your vote actually scales up with an increasing population. Of course if I’m entirely selfish, I only care about the private benefit, which only scales like 1/sqrt(N), so a selfish voter probably won’t vote if there are a few hundred voters or so. But a voter with a social conscience probably will. This is a good starting point approximation, at least for a too-close-to-call election. You can modify it to account for elections where candidates aren’t very different, or there is uncertainty about candidates’ positions, or I doubt my own abilities to pick good policy, etc.

I had this all worked out a few years ago, then I found a paper called “The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote.” It found that the empirical probability of casting a pivotal vote is more like 1/N, not 1/sqrt(N). (This is consistent with each voter acting like a biased coin flip, with the probability of “heads” taken from a uniform distribution on [0,1] then applied to all voters. A 1/N scaling comes out of these assumptions.) So the value of your vote follows a N * 1/N = 1 (constant) scaling, not a sqrt(N) scaling. Still, if you’re concerned with the public benefit, not the private benefit (which is how most voters probably perceive themselves), you should probably vote. It’s an act on the same level as giving a few dollars to charity, not something that rapidly drops off to zero as the number of voters increases. The probability of your vote mattering is indeed small, but that’s only half the story. We wouldn’t calculate the expected value of a lottery ticket by measuring *just* its probability of winning.

All that said, I still prefer the “stand up and be counted/do what you think everyone should do/don’t be lazy” motive for voting. When those don’t work, I dust off this old chestnut and remind myself to get down to the polls.

MikeP writes:

Think of a candidate, candidate A, whose views you liked a lot more than those of his opponent, candidate B. To make it real think about an actual candidate A whom you voted for. Now ask yourself, without checking data, by what number of votes did he/she win?

1

But then I checked (District 13), and it was 2.

Then again, this is not for the final holder of office.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Brian Holtz,
If not-voting is rational because one vote doesn't make a difference, then isn't littering rational too?
My answer is quite different from Don’s. His reply is that it isn’t like littering because your vote is unlikely to determine the outcome. But, he answers, if it’s an issue of the size of the margin, it is like littering.
I don’t think so. When I litter, there’s litter. People notice it. It sucks. The place looks different if I don’t litter. That’s why sometimes, not usually but sometimes, when I’m out on walks and I happen to have a container of some sort with me, I will pick up litter. The result looks much better. But virtually no one can distinguish 10,000 votes from 10,001 votes.

anomdebus writes:

My goto rationale for voting is that, like taking the temperature, you would get a wrong reading if you only sampled the energetic particles.
That said, I don't vote on every issue/office, only those that I think there is a clear better candidate. I'd vote "none of the above" if it were available.
It would make a difference for third parties if they got consistently higher returns. Of course, I can't rule out the two top parties changing the rules to make it even harder to qualify.

HM writes:

The marginalist reasoning is not valid when there are non-convexities. Of course your marginal vote matters zero. But there are also strategic complementarities to voting when your on the losing side -- every vote you put increases the chance of the votes of your ideological compatriots votes will be decisive.

We know that decentralized equilibria are generically inefficient in the presence of strategic complementarities. One way to solve the problem: create social norms in favor of voting and solve the coordination issue.

Now it is of course easy to point out that it's irrational, haha, and the rest.

And then in the end you manage to convince your ideological friends not to vote and you find yourself by the guy with stupid policies and a well-coordinated band of followers.

The cost of spending 30 minutes every fourth year to avoid societal havoc from dedicated crazy people voting is worth it on a collective level.

Yes, it is "irrational" for individuals to do it, by which you mean that individuals have an incentive to defect. But this is always true in public goods provision. When the survival of society depends on the good guys coordinating using social norms, we shouldn't laugh at them...

I stopped voting in the late 1990s, and published my rationale in this paper addressed to a subset of libertarians.

To summarize: By not voting I hope that I discipline my own habits of thought. I should not be tempted to expect what I need in life from democratic-coercive process. Better I learn to trust the invisible hand of voluntary order. I may be a better cultivator of that order when I deny myself the mind-candy of political participation.

KenB writes:

It's one thing for an individual to decide not to vote because the odds of making a difference are so low, but to propose that no one should bother voting for that reason is self-defeating -- the odds of making a difference are low precisely because so many people vote.

John Alcorn writes:

Jason Brennan draws the following conclusions in his book, The Ethics of Voting (Princeton U. Press, 2011):

"1. Citizens typically have no duty to vote. However, if citizens do vote, they must vote well, on the basis of sound evidence for what is likely to promote the common good. They must make sure their reasons for voting as they do are morally and epistemically justified. In general, they must vote for the common good rather than for narrow self-interest. Citizens who lack the motive, knowledge, rationality, or ability to vote well should abstain from voting.
2. Vote buying, selling, and trading are morally permissible provided they do not violate the duties described in point 1. When vote buying, selling, and trading are wrong, what makes them wrong is that they lead to violations of the duties described in point 1. So long as these duties are not violated, vote buying, selling, and trading are not wrong." (p. 4)
By Prof. Brennan's criteria, it would seem that many, or perhaps even most, persons should abstain from voting.

By contrast, Robert Sugden makes the case that deferential voting is crucial to democracy and to political legitimacy:

"[...] no democratic decision-making procedure prevents citizens from deferring to the judgments of those whom they believe to be more competent than themselves. [...] If, for example, I believe that the Catholic Church has special competence on moral questions, I may accept guidance from it in deciding how to vote on the issue of abortion, even though I do not understand the theological arguments involved. If I am concerned about the preservation of wilderness areas, I may endorse the judgments of the Sierra Club about the policies that will best promote this end, even though I cannot explain why those policies are best. [...] My point is that if one group of people perceive another group as more competent than themselves, a democratic system allows the one to defer to the other. [...] political institutions must be justified to everyone in terms each person can accept." —R. Sugden, "Justified to Whom?", in D. Copp, J. Hampton, and J. Roemer, eds., The Idea of Democracy (Cambridge U. Press, 1993) 149-54, at pp. 153-54.

mgleahy writes:

Although I certainly understand the rationale behind the "why vote" utilitarian view, I submit that "voting" ought to be viewed as a form of self-expression (as David posited above) much akin to charitable acts. Their purpose is not to enrich the recipient. As I was often told as a youngster, charity is for the giver. To me, it is similar with voting - it reflects my values and social aspirations, even if only for my personal enrichment.

Peter Gerdes writes:

The whole "do what you think everyone should do" style arguments (as GregS mentioned in his comment) are really annoying as they rely for their force on the listener's lack of imagination. If you insisted the person arguing against voting pick some universal rule everyone could follow it would be this: follow a mixed strategy that says vote with probability p for some small p. However, this is silly anyway as the question is what should you actually do not what should you do if everyone else would do the same.

However, GregS makes an interesting point about the expected probability of being decisive. On consideration I do expect that his model where being decisive turns out to be ~1/n is probably closer to the truth than the 1/sqrt(n) model it isn't that obvious. Thus the utilitarian case for voting is more plausible than one might think. Interestingly, this plausibility doesn't extend to the "showing your support" argument.

Having said this I don't think convincing people the expected utility of voting is high encourages the type of behaviors most voting advocates are hoping for. If we really believed the stakes for individual votes were high we wouldn't (and shouldn't) happily congratulate people for voting if they voted for the wrong guy. We would be assigning overtime, hiding car keys, etc.. etc.. of the supporters for the wrong guy. Sure, democracy and the rule of law are important so actual violence or law-breaking might be net negatives but there is a lot one can do short of that.

A utilitarian case just can't be made to both think voting is important enough to be worth all the trouble but not important enough for us to try and discourage voters for the wrong candidate and otherwise treat people who vote wrong as if they hurt us.

Khodge writes:

This is a fine example of the tragedy of the commons which, whether or not they vote, economists can always use voting as an example.

I, for one, always vote despite the absolute futility most of the time...my congresswoman is one of the most secure in the nation; the state houses have gerrymandered my districts into futility, but we can affect statewide votes. I generally agree that if you don't vote, why should you waste my time telling me what you think about politics (a non-monetary position much, I think, like a vote with Professor Caplan).

MikeP writes:

I generally agree that if you don't vote, why should you waste my time telling me what you think about politics

Interesting. I generally believe that the only people who really have no standing to complain are those who voted for the winner: they actually got what they wanted. Everyone else has had that outcome imposed on them, whether they voted or not.

I always vote even though no one I have never voted for has won office. I vote because it is the most visceral reminder that the government is empowered to do far far more than it is competent to do and far far more than it has any legitimate authority to do.

And I always vote at the polling place so I can be around people who really truly believe they have not only the right, but the civic duty, to pick my rulers for me. I stand there in my little booth punching holes or drawing lines or pressing touchscreens hopelessly for the few people who believe government should have less power and on the side of propositions that try to staunch further government overreach, and I realize how utterly futile it is. It lends a lot of perspective.

The tragedy of the shattered possibilities blends wonderfully with the utter comedy that I can have any impact whatsoever. It's quite entertaining, and I never miss my chance when the infrequent Tuesdays I'm allowed to participate come around.

JayT writes:

One issue with the expected value argument is that you are assuming that one candidate will be "good" while the other will be "bad". In reality, the differences between candidates is dulled quite a bit by all the checks and balances. What's the real expected difference between two major-party candidates? 10-20%?

Greg G writes:

David,

>---" I will pick up litter. The result looks much better. But virtually no one can distinguish 10,000 votes from 10,001 votes.

Virtually no one can distinguish a very tiny piece of litter. In an already littered lot, there is a piece of litter so small (think of it as vote on whether or not the lot should be littered) that it is very unlikely be noticed, but just large enough you can see it if you look hard enough. And it makes a real difference if there are a lot of them.

JayT writes:

One problem with the litter comparison is that pretty much every person would agree that adding litter is a bad thing. there are plenty of people that don't really care one way or another, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone that explicitly wanted more litter in the world, so for every piece of trash you add at some small level you are making the world a worse place.

On the voting side, I don't think anyone thinks maximizing the number of votes is necessarily a good thing, because we have rules like age limits, citizenship requirements, limits on number of times someone votes, and obviously there are a lot of people that think voting is useless. So, when you abstain from voting you are not hurting the world as badly as someone that litters.

jon writes:
  • A fair number of libertarians pride themselves on not voting. Among their reasons: One person's vote is so unlikely to influence the outcome of an election that almost any alternative action is a better use of time.
If you are blogging about why you don't vote, haven't you already wasted that time?
Yaakov writes:

In the Knesset elections in Israel, the chances that your vote will be incorrectly registered to a different party than you voted for, by mere negligence of the election's management, are greater than the chances that your vote will influence the outcome. Of course, both are very small.

But as to the issue itself, Jim Harper is not just for voting, he is advocating: "vote loudly". So, I think what he means is that people should tell all their friends and neighbors who they are voting for and make a big issue to influence others. The voting act itself is probably unnecessary.

Yaakov writes:

About a decade ago I was in an army outpost of four soldiers on election day. It was a local election day so only two out of the four soldiers were eligible for voting (me and another soldier were from localities that have voting at separate dates). The soldiers eligible to vote were sleeping after a night shift, when the voting officer came around in the morning.

She was very angry that we did not clear our bedroom in order to allow her to set up her ballot in it. We told her that she can use the kitchen (there were only two rooms in the outpost), but she was not willing to, because it had a large window (I do not know who she expected to peek, maybe somebody with binoculars from across the border). After some argument she went in and woke the sleeping soldiers up. They were very adamant that they do not want to vote and that she should leave them alone to sleep in peace. She was not willing to give up easily. Finally she had them sign that they are refusing to vote and grudgingly left us alone (she was in a hurry to bring the light of democracy to other soldiers).

So when discussing the importance of voting I do not think the cost is only your time in getting down to the ballots. It could be the possibility to get proper sleep, or the danger of being court marshaled for not setting up a proper room without a window for the ballot nobody wants to use.

Shane L writes:

Expansions of suffrage in history have often been opposed violently. It seems that powerful people see the vote as a potentially devastating institution against their privilege, something worth killing to prevent. The poor, ethnic minorities and women, meanwhile, seem to have understood the vote as a powerful tool for their liberation, something to kill or die for.

Were they wrong? Surely not; reforms of the 19th and 20th centuries often followed expansions of suffrage. Catholic Emancipation in 1829 allowed Catholics to sit in Britain's House of Commons, allowing Irish nationalist parties to emerge and help lead the country towards independence, for example. Would the UK have gotten its National Health Service without the expansions of suffrage in 1918 and 1928?

Hence it is always baffling to me when I see people say that it does not matter. Sure, one vote is not very significant (though in proportional representation it is stronger than in the first-past-the-post system). But one can campaign and change the minds of many people.

Those who choose not to vote cede their power to those of us who do.

Jason Brennan writes:

John Alcorn,

Thanks for the shout out!

I'm actually fine with deference to experts, though not all (or even most) political deference is reasonable. There's a sub-subfield in philosophy called "social epistemology," which studies when deference or belief in others' testimony is rational. Most of our beliefs about the world come second-hand and from testimony. E.g., I believe in the existence of Australia, and was justified in doing so, before I ever traveled there and saw in first hand. When I invoke "justified" beliefs in my theory of voting ethics, I meant to include the rules of social epistemology.

Now, an interesting question is whether most voters who defer to their party are justified in doing so. I think I can show they are not, because experimental work finds that what's really doing the trick isn't that they rationally assess that the party members know more than they, but rather that they are irrational loyal and suffer from intergroup and confirmation biases.

ColoComment writes:

One instance in which a partisan surge in voters made a difference was with the Scott Brown election to the U.S. Senate in 2010. His win changed the composition of the Senate and so required Speaker Pelosi and the Senate Maj. Leader Reid to perform parliamentary acrobatics in order to enact PPACA ("Obamacare.") It passed into law, but only by the measure of a cat's whisker.
I might respectfully suggest that EACH ONE of those Brown voters who may have earlier opted not to vote, but did vote, made a difference. And each Coakley-inclined voter who did NOT vote, also made a difference.
To assist recollection: http://www.briansussman.com/politics/how-obamacare-became-law/

By the way, the more eligible voters whom you can convince that their vote is wasted & so not to bother, the better: it makes my vote all the more significant the fewer opposing votes it must overcome.

Phil writes:

If libertarians pride themselves on not voting, then they better stop complaining that libertarian candidates are not polling well or invited to debates. While an individual vote may be negligible in its impact, an entire class of people are not.

Rather than making a pedantic case for not voting, I would encourage them to organize their peers to do the opposite in order to get more libertarians in office.

LD Bottorff writes:

The cost of spending 30 minutes every fourth year to avoid societal havoc from dedicated crazy people voting is worth it on a collective level.

I'm not sure what country this refers to, but here in the USA we elect representatives to Congress every two years. In addition, there are numerous local and state elections. If your idea of voting is spending 30 minutes every four years, perhaps you should just stay home. I spent more than 30 minutes preparing for and going to the caucus and primary in my state; unfortunately, it didn't stop the dedicated crazy people from leaving me with a choice in November between two presidential candidates who are both egocentric, anti-trade, and in favor of unrealistic immigration policies. I take the time to vote, but I certainly respect Don Boudreaux's reasoning for not voting. Time is precious and the choices are almost meaningless.

Bob Murphy writes:

Tiago wrote:

That was always my thinking, but Robert Wiblin talked on a facebook post I can't seem to find about how the expected value of voting is surprisingly high, given that you have reason to believe you are voting for the general good.
Gelman has an article on how the chances of your vote deciding the outcome of an election are indeed very slim - around 1 in 60 million on average. However, if the stakes are high enough, the expected value is pretty big. Suppose you have a choice between Trump and Hillary, and a Trump victory would cause a general loss of 0.2% of GDP per year for four years - or USD 100 billion per year or USD 400 billion total, ignoring interest and inflation. Then your vote has an expected value of USD6,667. It's not a million dollars, but it's sure worth my trip to the ballot box.

Tiago, out of curiosity, suppose you could buy a second vote in the presidential election for $1,000. Would you take that deal? To be clear, nobody else has that option, only you do. You get to cast your first vote for president for "free" like you do right now, but then you have the option of spending $1,000 in order to have your preference counted twice instead of once. You'd take such an obviously good deal, right?

John Fembup writes:

Why not ask an anonymous panel of experts to name one, and only one, registered voter in every precinct to cast a vote on election day. The results for all candidates would then be extrapolated from that one vote.

Now, that would be a vote that counted.

And it would free the rest of us from that dreadful, irritating civic duty of voting ourselves.

John Alcorn writes:

Jason Brennan,

Thanks for the clarifications!

No doubt, mechanisms of irrational belief-formation color deferential voting. How much? Can experimental studies establish empirical conclusions about behaviors in the wild?

I conjecture that a specific type of rational belief-formation massively structures deferential voting. As Tyler Cowen, Robin Hanson, and Arnold Kling often remind us, Politics isn't about policy, it's about status. Voters ask, Does this political party (or candidate, or expert) respect my group? Does this party rank groups as I do? Voters are keen to get these answers right. Usually, it's not hard for them to figure out.

By contrast, when politics is about policy (e.g., about the long-term, net effects of a 50% increase in the minimum wage on employment and on inequality), it's hard for most voters to form justified beliefs about who deserves deference. There are experts on both sides of every policy issue. It's no wonder, then, that voters fall back on viewing policy issues through the status lens.

Does reasonably accurate status-oriented deferential voting violate the ethical rule, that one should vote for the common good, rather than for narrow self interest? It depends on whether one defines the common good by an external metric (e.g., GDP, an inequality index, happiness surveys). Subjectively, most people seem to conceive of the common good in terms of their normative status vision for society.

Phil writes:

@ Bob Murphy -

That is a nice illustration of the practical vacuity of expected value in a decision with long odds.

Using similar logic, I rationalize buying PowerBall tickets when the jackpot gets above $300 million because the expected value is finally greater than 1.

Brian Holtz writes:

@Don - the OP is all about margin of victory; hence the litter analogy is apt.

@David - see Greg on marginal litter.

@JayT - the unpopularity of littering is irrelevant to whether a utility maximizer should litter (marginally and secretly).

To me, not-littering is like voting: it's a signal I send to myself -- and that I can report to others without being dishonest -- about what I value.

Tiago writes:

@Bob Murphy,

I don't count a benefit to society in general and to myself as one-to-one, not nearly as much - nobody does. So there should be two questions: what is the minimum amount of money which would get me to a poll station if they were just giving away money for free? I think I would go to my poll station for USD100. Second question is: Would I pay USD100 to cast the second vote you proposed? Not until I saw Robert Wiblin's post. But now I think I should and would.

michael pettengill writes:

Civilization, society, is not a game of winners and losers.

Or maybe it is if you believe slavery is civilized.

But We the People endeavors to eliminate the winner vs loser nature of government.

How many matters are purely black and white, totally binary?

Everything that follows We the People is premised on there being no binary issues. No right answer. No absolutes. It is fundamentally premised in being wrong, imperfect.

The matter of governance was and is not limited to government. Many fleeing to the Americas were fleeing authoritarian persecution based on religion. And they striped to eliminate authoritarianism in their decision making. Quakers, Amish, others, do not vote. Instead decisions are made by concensus, which does not mean unanimity of agreement and support.

I see in the constructs of We the People attempts to create such a system. Concensus is reached often by delaying contentious decisions as long as even one objects, until finally everyone agrees that action must be taken, and that those advocating action will carry all the burden.

Decision theory, game theory, et al, is two hundred years more advanced.

Approval voting is the least able to be gamed as creating winners and losers.

Approval voting would have likely selected a different Republican candidate for president, one who got the votes of more than half the voters. Few candidates had high disapproval ratings in polls, so the reason most of the 19 would not have gotten votes of approval was a lack of knowledge of the candidate.

Thus many more voters would be saying "he's my candidate, I voted for him."

And basically, not voting in today's system is merely implying I approve of all of the candidates. Voting is an implied, "I reject all but one candidate" so a vote for Jeb was a total rejection of Kasich because it's impossible to vote for "some governor with moderate, compromising, pragmatic views and styles". Or vote for an "uncompromising religious authoritarian", aka Cruz, Robertson, Barbour trying to win with evangelicals.

And the primary get out the vote motivator is voting disapproval, ie, elections are overwhelming rejection, not in approval.

Thus voting is like cleaning the toilet or in some cases, the septic tank. Many people can dodge it until someone else deals with it. And for some, it's a calling.

Billford writes:

Could not the same reason for not voting apply to brushing one's teeth or doing a push up? Certainly at the margin and in the singular, doing those are irrational too. But, in the aggregate, it seems very rational.

Mike Moore writes:

Voting is like flushing the commode. It's probably not going to matter if one person doesn't flush, but if enough people don't flush, we end up with a room full of ...

I'm going to be flushing, I mean voting, this November and I hope you will too!

JayT writes:

Billford, that would only be equivalent if you only intended to do one push-up or teeth brushing a year, and in that case, yeah, it probably is pointless.

It's not like every time you vote it adds up to one supervote. Every year, the counter goes back to zero and your vote is worth just as much as it was the year before. Which is not much.

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