Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why Vote?

The authors of Freakonomics have an article in The New York Times Magazine about the futility of voting. I had taken a Law & Economics class in which we discussed the irrationality, from an economist's standpoint, of voting. Voting is pointless, economists would argue, because your single vote is not going to make any difference. Further, “voting exacts a cost - in time, effort, lost productivity.” So why do we vote?

Messrs. Dubner and Levitt note that, in Switzerland, amid declining voter participation, the mail-in ballot was introduced. This was predicted to minimize the “cost” of voting. However, voter turnout actually decreased. The authors, citing a paper by economist Patricia Funk, aver that the incentive to vote was in being seen at the polls, since there was social pressure to participate in the democratic process. “It may be that the most valuable payoff of voting is simply being seen at the polling place by your friends or co-workers,” they conclude.

I beg to differ. Who that you know do you see at the polling place? What kind of social pressure is there to cast a ballot? I think an individual's vote can make a difference. Messrs. Dubner and Levitt acknowledge the “voting-as-civic-duty idea.” While it is rare that an election is decided by one vote, if everyone took the position that voting was not worth his or her time, we might as well not have a democracy.

Votes do count in Texas when proposed constitutional amendments are on the ballot. Depending on whether enough people do or do not turn out, the success or failure of an amendment that writes discrimination into the Texas Constitution will be determined. If a voter supports a third party candidate or an independent, and wishes to express his or her dissatisfaction with the two major parties, a vote for Ralph Nader or Kinky Friedman is a good way to register that sentiment. This support for a candidate that is not affiliated with the major parties will be more apparent than a vote for a Dem or a Republican would be.

I think economists just like to take controversial positions. I am going to continue to vote.


  • i think continuing to vote is a solid choice, matthew. as for kinky, are you in favor of voting for kinky? is that similar to how minnesota actually voted jesse "the body" ventury into office?

    By Blogger kari, at 7:38 AM, November 06, 2005  

  • I am casting my vote for Kinky Friedman. I do not know the circumstances surrounding "The Body's" election to the Minnesota governorship, but, if people were weary of the two big parties, that might have been similar to the situation if Kinky wins the race. He has to make the ballot, first, though.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 5:09 PM, November 06, 2005  

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