Sunday, July 6, 2008


Suppose I decide to vote for Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, who will assuredly lose the presidential election this year. Further suppose that my least favorite of the two major candidates wins the election by carrying my state by one vote. I guess I would regret my vote for Barr.

What are the odds that I would regret my vote for Barr? In the tightest election in decades, a few hundred votes in Florida separated Al Gore and George Bush. If any single voter had switched his/her vote . . . there would have been no difference in the outcome.

My vote this will almost certainly not matter.

But, you say, what if everyone felt that way? If no one voted, I would want to vote, so that I could decide the election. But that event in a presidential election is equivalent to a thermodynamic impossibility--about as likely that I will spontaneously combust.

So my vote is entertainment. I enjoy voting. Voting gives me a sense of community--of being a part of something old and large and good. Republicans and Democrats do not form the same kind of community for me. I do not get a thrill from voting for either.

But I do enjoy voting in favor of freedom. So if a candidate stood for the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property rights), I enjoy voting for her.

(No candidate would be crazy enough to do that. The press would take an axe to someone who was actually in favor of the right to free speech/religion/association/etc.)

So if I enjoy casting my vote, then it has done its duty. It doesn't have to make a difference.


rasa said...

My vote this will almost certainly not matter.

It's my highly unpopular opinion that if you cast your vote for Barr, and your least favorite of the two major candidates won your state by one vote, that it does matter. It sends the message (regardless of whether it's heard or listened to!) to that major party that you are dissatisfied and aren't going to just settle for the best of the worst.

I've voted third party candidates in every Presidential election I've voted in, because I feel neither the Democrat nor Republican candidate on the ballot represented me. Did I for one moment believe they had the ability to win? Of course not. You and I have pretty wildly divergent views on things, what with me being a commie pinko bleeding heart left wing tree huger and you being... not, but I think the sentiment still holds.

The most important lesson I've learned in my life is this: Don't neglect doing something because you think "it doesn't matter". It may not matter in a grand and overarching way, but in some small way, it does. That's how I approach voting. Empty gesture or not, I vote for who I feel best represents me, not who has been chosen for me.

John Arkwright said...

I think we agree. If you are voting to send a message "regardless of whether it's heard or listened to!" then I think you are vote due to entertainment value for yourself. Sorta' like a person playing a violin on a solitary mountainside.

But I could be wrong. You, after all, are the world's foremost expert on you.