Thursday, November 8, 2007

Voting Is, Like, So 80's!

It's going to be a busy busy day, so the big topics are going to have to wait. But in the meantime, I thought we might all consider this quote from a student, explaining why he or she thinks that voting is so, you know, over. The community, it turns out, is where it's at.

"Like the government is, like, really far away and something that you can't really affect or change," the student is quoted as saying. "But something that you can actually do in your community and see the results of might be more, like, motivating, like, for people."

The student is quoted in a report, and discussed in this story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (The report itself is here).

According to economist and Freakonomics author Stephen Levitt, the student is 100 percent right and 100 percent rational. Since it is extremely unlikely your vote will change the outcome, there's no point to voting. (Blog post here, more interesting but old NYT thing here).

I'm no economist, but doesn't it seem like if your theory can't explain the point of voting that there's something wrong with your theory rather than something wrong with voting? I mean, given that our whole stupid political system seems to depend on voting, if you're going to argue that voting is pointless, don't you at least owe us an explanation of how the political system should be arranged so that there is no voting?

Philosophers sometimes say, "One man's ponens is another man's tollens." If we agree that A implies B, you might say, OK, B, while I might say, OK, not-A. Here I gotta go with the tollens: if the theory of rational behavior says there's no point to voting you need a new theory.

Especially since things like this are mounting up (see my previous rant about economists and the Radiohead download scheme, here).

Sorry guys. Back to the drawing board!

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