Opinion

No, Every Vote Really Doesn’t Count

Arthur A. Fleisher and Alexandre Padilla Arthur A. Fleisher III is Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Alexandre Padilla is an Associate Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver and the John Templeton Visiting Research Associate at the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University
Font Size:

 Our 2016 major Presidential candidates are habitual liars, dishonest in almost every spectrum you can imagine, paranoid and conspiratorial, heading rogue and nefarious foundations, and addicted to the political power they can wield without much knowledge of the implications of these policies. Then there is Donald Trump.

The 2016 election will most certainly not hinge on your decision to vote for this or that candidate or any other ballot issue.

For example, even if we simplify that we have an Electoral College and you do not directly vote for a candidate, the probability that your specific vote will sway a mass election is approximately zero. The only time your vote has a consequence is if your candidate loses by one vote or is tied, otherwise it will win/lose regardless of your decision to vote.

What are the chances that that whichever candidate wins, she or he will win by one vote? Certainly, we do not deny that “people” matter, but their vote does not matter as much as we think. The fact of the matter is that our specific vote will have nothing to do with who wins the Presidency, let alone any national policy enacted over the next four years.

Studies seem to show that voters do not behave as simply self-interested as many economists would argue. In many cases, when voting, people think actually in a rather altruistic manner. The problem is that when voters vote altruistically, they really have no idea about how their views actually work out in our political system.

Do not misconstrue what we are saying. We are not saying voters are stupid or uninterested in the policies that affect their lives or the people they care about. What we are saying is that that people do not have the time or energy to learn about these complex policies and their multifarious implications before casting their votes.

We end up with public policy outcomes from all political parties that assume that unicorns exist.  They don’t. Policies in most cases reflect this pessimistic view.

Unfortunately, politicians and voters do not want to deal with these realities and it will not really matter (much) who we put in charge. Some people believe better people should be put in charge, but this too will be of little consequence. The problem does not come from the people in charge, but from the system and incentives it creates. Instead, what we should want to see is fewer decisions put in the hands of politicians and more left to individuals.

Why shouldn’t people be able to voluntarily contract with others to rent rooms in their house or to pick up others and drive them short distance in their private cars? In many jurisdictions we let the political system decide whether these ‘disrupters’ can compete. We should not. There should be fewer impediments to allow individuals to experiment in what is the best way to contribute to their lives and ours.

Don’t fret, the fate of the nation is not in your hands on Election Day. Pick whomever you want. The plethora of other choices you make on Tuesday will impact your life much more than your decision at the ballot box.

Arthur A. Fleisher III is Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Alexandre Padilla is an Associate Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver and the John Templeton Visiting Research Associate at the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University