North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Voting is irrational

Voting is irrational

David V.
HeroicLife
Shanghai, CN
Post #: 126
From a cost-benefit perspective, the cost of voting far outweighs any material benefit. For example, in a presidential election, your vote is one out of 120+ million. Your chance of casting a tie-breaking vote is infinitesimally small, so small that you could win million-dollar lottery jackpots thousands of times before casting a tie-breaker. This is especially true in states dominated by a single party, such as Texas, New York, or California. Even in the 2000 Presidential election, your Florida vote would only have changed Bush's 537 vote margin to 536 or 538.

Furthermore, even if your candidate does win, all you get is a grab-bag of promises which are unlikely to be fulfilled. In the 2006 general elections, the Democrats were sworn into power due to public discontent with Bush's policy in Iraq. Despite Democratic promises and their congressional majority, they have not passed any of their promises. Whatever the reason, it is clear that electoral victory cannot guarantee the achievement of campaign promises, and certainly not from their power as individual politicians. Even the president has relatively limited power in a democratic system.

Some might argue that if everyone else evaluated voting in this manner, a single vote would be meaningful. But the fact is that people do continue to vote by the tens of millions.

Many people vote because of the psychological benefit it provides, such as a feeling of patriotic duty. If they don't care to justify or analyze their emotions, there is nothing I can say to them. But if you actually want to influence the political state of the country, it would be far more productive of your time to donate the resources you would have spent researching candidates and going to the polls to your favorite political cause. Washington lobbyists are very expensive, yet they can be more influential than the votes of millions of individuals.

I'll close with economist Steven E. Landsburg:

Even for the most passionate partisan, it's hard to argue that voting is a good use of your time. Instead of waiting in line to vote, you could wait in line to buy a lottery ticket, hoping to win $100 million and use it to advance your causes -- and all with an almost indescribably greater chance of success than you'd have in the voting booth.

Donovan
Donovan.A
Dallas, TX
Post #: 27
First I want to post what Ayn Rand has to say on this:

Voting

The right to vote is a consequence, not a primary cause, of a free social system?and its value depends on the constitutional structure implementing and strictly delimiting the voters' power; unlimited majority rule is an instance of the principle of tyranny.

"The Lessons of Vietnam," The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 24, 3.


A majority vote is not an epistemological validation of an idea. Voting is merely a proper political device?within a strictly, constitutionally delimited sphere of action?for choosing the practical means of implementing a society's basic principles. But those principles are not determined by vote.


"Who Is the Final Authority in Ethics?"
The Objectivist Newsletter, Feb. 1965, 8.


Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority.


"Collectivized 'Rights,'" The Virtue of Selfishness, 104


The citizens of a free nation may disagree about the specific legal procedures or methods of implementing their rights (which is a complex problem, the province of political science and of the philosophy of law), but they agree on the basic principle to be implemented: the principle of individual rights. When a country's constitution places individual rights outside the reach of public authorities, the sphere of political power is severely delimited?and thus the citizens may, safely and properly, agree to abide by the decisions of a majority vote in this delimited sphere. The lives and property of minorities or dissenters are not at stake, are not subject to vote and are not endangered by any majority decision; no man or group holds a blank check on power over others.




"Collectivized 'Rights,'" The Virtue of Selfishness, 103.


http://www.aynrandlex...­


As David knows already. I think his point is the result of philosophical, psychological, and political apathy, which I believe means to surrender the direction of our nation's policies to those who are not apathetic, but active.
Chad
prorescue
Norman, OK
Post #: 54
Not really taking sides in this, but would like to throw into the mix that at the presidential level, your vote doesn't count anyway. Let's not forget that in the 2000, whether you include Florida or not, Gore got more votes than Bush. More Americans walked into the voting booth and punched Gore on the ballet than punched Bush. Yet because we still have winner take all states in the electoral college, Gore never took office, the loser of the election did. If I remember correctly, this was the third time in U.S. history this has happened. Is it really voter apathy to abstain from a rigged election?
Karen G.
skgainey
Sulphur, OK
Post #: 13
My thought is: Is it apathy to sob when you are getting raped? Or should you scream and bite and kick and pee your pants? When something is rigged (yes, I totally agree with that) just acknowledging it or distancing yourself from it means you are accepting the inevitability of it. I am glad our forefathers did not just scream 'Foul! No fair!' when confronting the British. In fact, I believe the British were the ones that felt our fighting tactics were less than honorable.

I do know voting seems like a waste of time - it is in essence a form of apathy when you know in your heart it will take hundreds of thousands of others thinking like you do to make a difference. But even with limited time we can go a step farther. What about bumper stickers? Signs in front of your house? If I remember right Ben Franklin owned a printing press.

There doesn't seem to be a lot we can do, but by not doing Something we have allowed our country to deteriorate to the point it is today. There are many things (and candidates) that are not perfect and don't reflect exactly what we want, but any value towards freedom and away from socialism will get my public support. To me, the America I leave for my grandchildren is worth at least a vote.

Karen
Donovan
Donovan.A
Dallas, TX
Post #: 28
American Heritage Dictionary - Cite This Source
ap·a·thy :

Lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.

Lack of emotion or feeling; impassiveness.


[Latin apathīa, from Greek apatheia, from apathēs, without feeling : a-, without; see a-1 + pathos, feeling; see kwent(h)- in Indo-European roots.]

http://dictionary.ref...­

If philosophy influences if or why we vote, if philosophy influences who we vote for,
then what is the alternative to not voting, and abstaining from participation all together? The essence of this discussion is, does the individual count? Does my one vote matter? Remember, that taking no action is a choice and an action.

I ask you, David:

How many people do I need to convince to vote with me, to sanction my voting? What are you advocating instead? When you finally do convince others that we need to change our political system on philosophical grounds, do you also plan on telling them, "oh, by the way don't bother to vote because your vote means nothing?" Will you want to transfer this same message to 10 people? How about 1,000? How about 10,000,000? What percentage of our population actually votes? From what I know of our political state, the U.S. is suffering from apathy. The would be defenders of our rights are more worried about what's on TV and eating chips than voting, what we see and live now is the result of this attitude! Perhaps, people should be taxed and penalized for not voting!
Chad
prorescue
Norman, OK
Post #: 43
Please note I said at the presidential level your vote does not count. I've not seen the same type of system for other levels of office. For example, when you vote for the mayor of your city, there is not a city wide electoral college but just a count of the actual votes. Therefore your vote should count for something. However, I rarely vote for candidates because I refuse to vote for Republicans or Democrats. I do try to vote on issue related ballots, for example I make it a point to vote against any tax question. When I abstain from voting for candidates this is not apathy as defined in the preceding post. Especially here in Oklahoma, which has the most difficult ballot access laws in the country. It is illegal for any other party to be listed on the ballot in the state of Oklahoma (it is also against state law to write in a candidates name). In Oklahoma it is legal to run as a Republican, Democrat or as an Independent. No Libertarians, no Greens, no Communists, no anything. The only time a political party has gained legal standing and a spot on the ballot is when an outside national organization has mobilized tons of money for short term ballot access as in the case of the Libertarians or United We Stand during a presidential election. This is because just for short term legal status, i.e. one election cycle, a significant portion of the state's population has to sign a petition for ballot access. This in turn requires hiring people to gather the signatures which is only possible at great expense.

At this point, I believe I would probably only vote for a candidate running as an independent who supported the same general positions as Objectivists. Since I have yet to see such a candidate, I abstain. This is not apathy. My non-apathy takes the form of trying to spread the ideas of Objectivism so that more people will eventually want to vote for the type of candidate I would.
Donovan
Donovan.A
Dallas, TX
Post #: 30
I see several arguments against voting in this thread:

1. The opposition is too numerous, therefore it's hopeless to vote.

2. The candidate will not implement his promises.

3. The candidates are not in harmony with Objectivists principles.



Argument #1 to me is apathy. Concern about who someone else votes for does not change what I would want to endorse with my vote.

Argument #2 is apathy again to me, because this blanks out the fact that there have been areas of improvement even if not to the full degree that we desire. The repeal of prohibition, women's right to vote, poor laws that have been repealed, and so on.

Argument #3 is apathy to me, because this simply states the candidates are not close enough, or do not share enough of my principles for me to vote for them. In such a case, I look for the best candidate and at this time I think such candidates do still exist. However, I must agree that if all the candidates were too horrible and truly evil, I would accept the rationality of abstaining. This is the strongest argument I see against voting.

To be even more clear on my position I want to state that I do of course agree that it is imperative to influence our culture and society on philosophical grounds.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 665
Hi David,

You make an interesting argument, and I have been thinking about in the few days since you made your post. It is a version of the "Voter's Paradox." Here's my two cents to add to the discussion.

From a cost-benefit perspective, the cost of voting far outweighs any material benefit. For example, in a presidential election, your vote is one out of 120+ million. Your chance of casting a tie-breaking vote is infinitesimally small, so small that you could win million-dollar lottery jackpots thousands of times before casting a tie-breaker. Even in the 2000 Presidential election, your Florida vote would only have changed Bush's 537 vote margin to 536 or 538.
(Emphasis added.)

The logic of the underlined statement is questionable. It appears that the premise of this statement is that a person's vote does not make a difference, i.e., have "any material benefit," unless his vote happens to be "a tie-breaking vote." I think that this misses the point that to reach vote number 120,000,001, whether it is a tie-breaking vote or not, requires counting the other 120 million votes. Each vote "counts" -- win, lose, or draw (except for Chad's).

It also misses the point that political parties and politicians must pay attention to how people vote and why -- including who votes against them and even if it is only a matter of the lesser of evils as the voter sees it. The parties and politicians must try to garner enough votes to win. If a person (or class of persons) makes it his (or their) policy not to vote, parties and politicians can be completely unconcerned with his (or their) interests.


Furthermore, even if your candidate does win, all you get is a grab-bag of promises which are unlikely to be fulfilled. In the 2006 general elections, the Democrats were sworn into power due to public discontent with Bush's policy in Iraq. Despite Democratic promises and their congressional majority, they have not passed any of their promises. Whatever the reason, it is clear that electoral victory cannot guarantee the achievement of campaign promises, and certainly not from their power as individual politicians. Even the president has relatively limited power in a democratic system.
(Emphasis added.)

This argues that voting makes no difference because "even if your candidate does win ... electoral victory cannot guarantee the achievement of campaign promises." I think that this argument is highly questionable. Whether or not electoral victory obtains fulfilled campaign promises, electoral victory will likely promote movement in the direction of those campaign promises, which one way or another can certainly make a difference in our lives, sooner or later.

I think electoral outcomes do make a difference, and individual politicians make a difference, too, even if only as a matter of the lesser of evils.
David V.
HeroicLife
Shanghai, CN
Post #: 127
The parties and politicians must try to garner enough votes to win. If a person (or class of persons) makes it his (or their) policy not to vote, parties and politicians can be completely unconcerned with his (or their) interests.
I agree with this. It matters to politicians whether they win or lose by 5% or 50%. However, from the perspective of the individual deciding how to best invest his limited resources, his impact on the margin is so infinitesimal (< .00001%) that it does not have any practical value.
Whether or not electoral victory obtains fulfilled campaign promises, electoral victory will likely promote movement in the direction of those campaign promises, which one way or another can certainly make a difference in our lives, sooner or later.
I agree with this as well. However my point is not that who wins is irrelevant, but that electoral victory does not guarantee any policy results, and in fact, policy results are unlikely based on any one victory. We must take this into consideration when comparing the potential value of political victory to other means of influencing policy -- for example, lobbying/bribing politicians, giving them good/bad PR, or influencing their advisors.
David V.
HeroicLife
Shanghai, CN
Post #: 128
I do know voting seems like a waste of time - it is in essence a form of apathy when you know in your heart it will take hundreds of thousands of others thinking like you do to make a difference.
This is a very good point. Voting as a form of political activism is in fact a form of apathy. As you say, the value of a vote is so infinitesimal, that the feeling of self-importance and participation in the political process people get from participating in the electoral process is entirely illusory. Yet voting gives people a false impression that they are somehow "making a difference." The people who really matter are those who take far more intellectually challenging and uncertain measures -- attempting to change the intellectual and philosophical climate. In the end, all the votes in the world are meaningless next to the fundamental ideas about society that actual shape policymakers actions.
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