Friday, November 7, 2008

Economists and Anarchists Can Find Common Ground

I love that economists argue that voting is irrational, because it's statistically very unlikely that your individual vote will make any difference at all. They're right! I also love that some of my anarchist friends don't vote because on a historical level, US domestic and foreign policy doesn't change all that much, and for anything resembling a better world to emerge, we must fundamentally alter what we have now. They're right too!

Here's Tyler Cowen, over at the wonderful (if confusing, b/c I'm stupid) Marginal Revolution. He doesn't take the traditional economist position.

Most of what you do is for expressive value anyway, so you shouldn't feel guilty about voting, if indeed you vote. The people who think they are being instrumentally rational by not voting are probably deceiving themselves more. They are actually engaged in an even less transparent form of expressive behavior (protest against the voting system) and yet cloaking that behavior under the guise of instrumental rationality. The best arguments against voting are simply if you either don't like voting or if you don't know which candidate is better. High-status people hardly ever offer the latter justification, even though the split of opinions among high-status people suggests that not all high-status people can in fact know which candidate is better.

In other words, both voting and not voting are motivated by the thought that you are better than other people. I am glad that we have an entire day devoted to this very important concept.

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