Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Before the election is completely behind us, I want to make two pleas based on the comments of recent posts

1. Can we please stop pretending that the so called "voter's paradox" is any more sophisticated or mature than "every vote counts". I've been hearing both since grade school. Sans marginalism in the case of the voter's paradox back then, of course, but "no single person's vote really counts" is as much a grade school platitude as anything else you could say about democracy. This bubble really needs to be deflated.

2. In a similar vein, "only people who don't vote get to complain" is just as dumb as "only people who vote get to complain". In fact they're dumb statements for the exact same reason.


  1. 1. Voter paradox with marginalism is plenty more sophisticated than without. And since voter paradox sans marginalism is as sophisticated as "every vote counts" voter paradox with marginalism is more sophisticated than "every vote counts".

    2. Yes! Both of those are endlessly exasperating.

    1. I think I disagree. Or maybe you could explain exactly what you mean. There's an implicit marginalism in "your vote doesn't count", isn't there? It's understood the cost of voting is low, I think. The claim is that your one vote won't change the election.

      What does marginalism add to this except a way of pointing out that this very pedestrian point is consistent with the way we talk about optimizing behavior as economists? I don't understand what sophistication is added to the argument itself.

    2. There can be an implied marginalism. But I don't think most people really get it. I think most people don't think much further than the idea that their vote is only a small percentage. (In my experience for instance, people get confused when you ask them who casts the decisive vote in an election which is won by 1 vote) I think we have differing faith in people's understanding of that sort of thing.

  2. So if Obama sucks, the people who didn't vote for him are just as culpable as the people who voted for him? How does that work? Does it apply to bank robberies too?

    1. If Obama sucks, non-voters can complain because they bear the cost of him sucking.
      If Obama sucks, Obama voters can complain because they bear the cost of him sucking.
      If Obama sucks, Romney voters can complain because they bear the cost of him sucking.
      If Obama sucks, Johnson voters can complain because they bear the cost of him sucking.

      I don't think your voting decision is at all related to your right to complain about your leaders.

      If you're interested in culpability I would have thought Obama would be culpable for Obama sucking. Certainly you could argue that Obama voters have poor judgement, but I'd assume you were already making that argument by not voting for Obama in the first place.

      I have no idea what bank robberies have to do with this.

    2. Wouldn't Obama voters share some of the blame for putting him in office if he sucks? Pretty attenuated of course, but not blameless.


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