Voting Videos

by on November 3, 2008 at 10:20 am in The Arts | Permalink

Here’s a great little video from PBS (!) featuring Gordon Tullock on why he doesn’t vote and why you shouldn’t either.  (Andrew Gelman and Noah Kaplan beg to differ in this article, but their theory applies only to altruists – not to Gordon!).

And from The Teaching Company here is a free video on voting theory, i.e. Arrow’s theorem, the Borda count and all that other good stuff.

1 Team John L November 3, 2008 at 11:31 am

Great video, but I wonder what effect that mindset has on outcomes. For instance, I’ve heard this idea expressed by quite a few libertarians and anectdotally, I believe they’re less likely to vote. Does this mean that we have less libertarian influence in our government because libertarians (or any other group) tend to vote less than average?

2 Bob Kozman November 3, 2008 at 12:09 pm

I’ve been asking the Teaching Company for several years now to run a course on Game Theory. This is a brand new offering and I just ordered the DVD. Thanks for the notice!

3 C L November 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

My rational argument in favor of voting is as follows: While I have an insignificant chance of being the deciding vote in favor of the presidential candidate, I have a small but measurable chance of deciding the local city council election (1300 people or so in my district). I do have a preference in that election, and it’s worth my time to walk 2 minutes down to the polling station to vote in that race. While I’m there, the extra effort to register my preferences in other elections is practically zero (measured in fractions of a second), so I might as well. If the presidential election were the only race on the ballot, I wouldn’t vote either.

4 Andrew November 3, 2008 at 1:03 pm

We have the worst prospects for government in my memory, and I am the least motivated to vote ever. One would think a good system would have feedback loops that cause bad government to be followed by better government. I don’t think this is the case with the way our current system operates. Bad government motivates the extremists. So, a poorly run statist administration is likely to be followed by a very vigorous leftist regime.

There is another problem. People think their vote “helps” and they are wrong.

5 josh November 3, 2008 at 1:28 pm

libertarians care about other people, student.

6 Andrew November 3, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Politicians care about other people too, but they do it with my money.

7 jason voorhees November 3, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Also, one more thing. It’s a mixed strategy nash equilibrium to vote. I think that was what Tullock was getting at towards the end when he said he’d vote when no one else did. Of course, the point is that in the real world, since those probabilities are so tiny, that is likely not what is motivating people either.

8 jason voorhees November 3, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Student – No, it’s not. BUt one penny for your opportunity cost is an unreasonably small value. My point was to make it as generous as possible. If you set the opportunity cost of your time equal to $5 – the price of a matinee movie ticket – then redo the math. It comes out to $33 million. And that is several orders of magnitudes higher than what I’ve seen from the risk literature on the subjective value of life.

Point being. Realistic values for p and C are going to cause V to get huge. Too huge to really make sense.

9 Bob Murphy November 3, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Does this mean that we have less libertarian influence in our government because libertarians (or any other group) tend to vote less than average?

Yes but we also have happier libertarians. They might even do something useful like criticize Tyler’s latest post, rather than wasting time in a meaningless process.

10 Jorge Landivar November 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm

The side effects of groups of people not voting is an externality. We often internalize it by making it a moral issue.

11 John Pertz November 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm

How is voting helpful to the rest of society? How is not voting an insular activity? I do not understand the logic behind those assumptions. If we all agree that politics, and ultimately our decision to vote, is the culmination to an irrational acceptance of some bizarre political narrative, specifically designed to aid the cause and career of one candidate and his ideas, ideas that could be possibly cataclysmal, then how can we ALWAYS say that voting is a selfless “good” act. In many ways it could be an irrational sanctioning of awful acts.

12 kxm November 3, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Tyler/Alex – Take a look at Richard Tuck’s latest book on “Free Riding” that addresses the paradox of voting as a canonical example. There is an excellent review at the London Review of Books:

The review itself is quite dense, but it is a subtle argument and definitely worth reading.

13 meter November 3, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Didn’t we just have this conversation a few days ago?

I referenced Tullock – his logic breaks down because he has no idea how many people will go out and vote. Therefore he cannot accurately say how much weight his vote has had until after the fact.

Yes, we all know that in the real world the # of voters will be >2, so his vote will more than likely be diminished by some orders of magnitude. However, look what happened in Florida in 2000. Nonvoters in Florida had a chance to influence 8 years of history for millions – more like billions – of people.

14 TGR November 3, 2008 at 11:28 pm

If you vote, you’re consenting to the system of which the voting is a part, and thus you’re somewhat more obligated to abide by the laws enacted by whoever wins. If you don’t vote you’re less obligated.

15 Jay November 3, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Addendum: I have hit on 20 before. It was in a tournament though and I was rationally desperate.

16 Andrew November 4, 2008 at 4:13 am

“libertarians who don’t vote are nothing better than a bunch of stinkin’ commies”

Nope. The majority of the voters are free riders. For the cost of standing in line, they elect people who will take the money that we’ve worked for to pay for their whims.

17 Anonymous November 4, 2008 at 6:48 am

Conclusion: Andrew doesn’t understand what free rider means.

18 Russ R November 4, 2008 at 8:32 am


I’ll double down on a soft 20 (i.e. A & 9) against a weak dealer card.

My reasoning is that it’s a chance to put more money on the table when the probability of winning is already high.

19 MyVoteCounts November 4, 2008 at 4:07 pm

If you look at the large turnout this year and in 1992, it looks like people vote in order to avoid loss or pain, i.e. if I don’t vote we could end up with another Bush for four years. Ironically, Bush IS spreading democracy–to his own country.

20 aion kina March 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm
21 aion money May 12, 2009 at 9:27 pm

It is enlightening !

22 club penguin May 19, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I referenced Tullock – his logic breaks down because he has no idea how many people will go out and vote. Therefore he cannot accurately say how much weight his vote has had until after the fact.

23 skin moles January 4, 2011 at 6:38 am

People has their own views. He stated that one should not vote, what if all do the same? One vote does count to get a whole. He is just messing. But he has the rights to say it that way and I would just respect that. But in my perspective that is totally wrong.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: