Sunday, November 17, 2002

Why Vote?

You might have noticed that it is not in your interest to vote. There is only a negligible chance that your vote will matter; rarely are elections won by one vote. So, voting will be highly unlikely to make any difference to whether your favored candidate wins. Voting is therefore irrational if only self-interest is taken into account.

The reason to vote is that it is your duty. We all have a duty to learn about the issues and the candidates, make a considered choice of the best candidate, and vote for him. It is important that Americans do this in as large numbers as possible, so that the chance of the best candidate winning is most likely. With every eligible American deliberating over the issues and candidates and then voting, the results of the election will be most likely to be the best. More brain power uncovers the right answer better than less. Therefore, anyone who doesn't vote is a freeloader. It is about the same as littering. One piece of paper won't matter. But to litter that piece of paper is to transfer the burden of not littering onto one's fellows and to take a free ride: a clean city.

This is a good example of a case in which acting morally is not in your interest. Taking the trouble to read up on the issues and spend an hour voting is not in your interest. But it is your duty. (What's duty based on? Altruistic desire, as Hume demonstrated.)