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Why do I vote? More often than not, it's against a candidate as opposed to for a candidate. There's also the issue of not letting that ignoramus "Joe Blow" down the street set and direct policy. And finally there's the issue of losing the right too complain by not voting.

Ahh... Democracy, ain't it grand?


Posner offers a rationale for voting that typifies his consequentialist viewpoint (and, perhaps, his yearning for a SCOTUS appointment in Obama's second term). Had such a mindset prevailed in 1776, all of us would remain subjects of the British Crown today.


You could also add "fear" as a reason people vote. Many political campaigns use fear as a method to get out the vote and scare people from voting against their opponent.

I personally believe there should be a test people must pass before they vote. I think it would make the process much more effective and put our nation on better footing.


Isn't this just basically a tragedy of the commons? If one person doesn't vote Democrat it won't make a difference, but if every Democrat decides not to vote because their investment of time is a waste, then America would have had a Romney presidency. Which may well be a bigger cost to a single Democrat than the cost of voting (and vice versa with a Republican and the cost of an Obama presidency).

The tragedy of the commons can be solved 2 ways. First, by everyone voluntarily paying their share in the hope that everyone will do likewise. Probably works OK sometimes - libraries and museums do get built from donations, even though a single donor could opt out and still enjoy the benefits.

So why not canvass the possibility that voters recognise this problem and that the collective practice of voting is a rational response to ensure the self-interest of the individuals who vote a particular way? I vote not because I know that my individual vote counts, but because I know that if every Democrat didn't vote we'd all be worse off ... and, crucially, I know that other Democrats know this as well. So we all vote on this implicit understanding.

Of course the other way to solve thew tragedy of the commons is to compel everyone to pay money to cover the cost of the common good. In Australia we do this via compulsory voting. But that'd probably be too socialist for you Americans :).

Terry Bennett

How about voting for Romney in New Jersey, where your contribution is universally acknowledged to be not merely a negligbly small one sixty millionth but truly zero? Large numbers of people in the 42 pre-determined states did stay home.

For me, the wonder of every modern Presidential election has been the 40% or so who do not vote - more than enough voters to elect an entirely different candidate. Our winning candidate barely gets 30% of the eligible vote.

The referenced "paradox" is created by our hosts' chosen perspective, through the eyes of the individual. Voting is necessarily a team effort. A player who goes 0-for-20 in the World Series, or one who rides the bench, still gets a ring if his team wins. The party-aligned individual is involved in a quasi-contractual relationship within the election process. The independent who self-aligns also signs on to the compact and commits to the responsibility of voting.

Others, such as myself, have higher aspirations than free-riding - which is not only why I voted at all but also precisely why I voted as I did, foregone futility notwithstanding. It is morally offensive to me to have to listen to a man who has never actually produced anything in his whole life, lecturing another man who paid $1.9 million in incomes taxes last year about his "fair share". You can get a lot of votes when you promise to give your constituents benefits and make somebody else pay for them, but I do not believe this bodes well for the country. I prize our equality even more than our freedom, and it has been systematically taken from us by the inherent and even lauded free-riding built into the Democratic agenda.


The authors are clearly brilliant, yet in this case their point is foolish and shortsighted. Ultimately, the economist's best interest is to preserve whatever society/environment allows them to best be heard, produce, and enjoy recognition and profit without state restriction. And nothing contributes to that end more than preserving the pillars considered indivisible from that type of society- in this case, respectively, the economist friendly USA and its voting system. And empirically railing against the voting pillar as frivolous does nothing but erode, albeit very gradually, the societal abstractions key to supporting the private economics profession as a whole.


I voted because it's my civic duty. Surely Professors Becker and Posner, who, like me, are over 50 and took civics in school, have heard of that.

I was under no illusion that, as a resident of uncontested Illinois, my Presidential vote would make a difference. But we also had hotly contested elections for congressman and state representative. Anyway, my ancestors fought, and some died, for the right to vote so I'm going to do it.

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