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Debates Forum

Debates Forum

  1. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    14 Feb '11 17:02
    I think we can all agree that the right to vote is a key element in any democracy.

    But should we really be encouraging people to vote or should we merely allow them to do so if they want to?

    Stephen Dubner, in a recent Freakonomics podcast, took the position that an individual voting is invariably a waste of time and resources. He said that people vote only because they feel good doing so, but that, of course, the odds of their vote mattering are virtually nil.

    He suggests that in any case, if we don't encourage people to vote, only the more committed, more knowledgeable people will end up caring enough to vote and we will probably end up with a better government elected by better informed voters.

    He wryly suggests that if we want to encourage people to help society to feel good about themselves, we should encourage people to pick up one piece of trash on election day, which will likely have a greater impact on society than voting will and consumes far fewer resources.

    He also says that he hasn't voted in decades because, as an economist, he cannot justify spending the time and gasoline necessary to do something that will almost certainly have no effect on anything.

    Anyone agree or disagree?
  2. 14 Feb '11 17:11
    I think people who don't really care about politics should be encouraged not to vote. If you don't want to think about how the country should be run, that's a perfectly fine position to take.
  3. 14 Feb '11 18:01
    One vote is statistically insignificant.
    If it makes you feel good to vote then do it. But I'd agree if you want to help society do a good deed or pick up litter as the quote suggested, don't spend your time voting.
  4. 14 Feb '11 18:32
    I prefer that I am the only person who votes. Seriously. You can trust me.
  5. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    14 Feb '11 18:35
    Originally posted by sh76
    I think we can all agree that the right to vote is a key element in any democracy.

    But should we really be encouraging people to vote or should we merely allow them to do so if they want to?

    Stephen Dubner, in a recent Freakonomics podcast, took the position that an individual voting is invariably a waste of time and resources. He said that people vote on ...[text shortened]... something that will almost certainly have no effect on anything.

    Anyone agree or disagree?
    That's what you get for listening to an economist. Nothing but elitist rubbish.
  6. 14 Feb '11 18:35
    Originally posted by quackquack
    One vote is statistically insignificant.
    If it makes you feel good to vote then do it. But I'd agree if you want to help society do a good deed or pick up litter as the quote suggested, don't spend your time voting.
    Well, I think making oneself feel good (about oneself) counts as a good thing. I think people should be encouraged to vote, if only for this reason.
    When people feel good (about themselves) they will be more willing to do good, like, forinstance, find a bin before they litter.

    The argument that the better government comes from an educated vote, rather than a disinterested one, is flawed. It's actually an anti-democratic argument, since leading it to its ultimate implication we'll be back in Athens, where Pericles and his mates are just finding out that a few hunderd wealthy/educated citizens can be a decision-making body, one that makes 'good' decisions all the time, like, forinstance, the decision that democratic rights should be reserved for the happy few.
  7. Subscriber AThousandYoung
    Poor Filipov :,(
    14 Feb '11 18:40
    Voting is only part of the game. It's also about being a community organizer.
  8. Subscriber no1marauder
    It's Nice to Be Nice
    14 Feb '11 18:40
    Originally posted by sh76
    I think we can all agree that the right to vote is a key element in any democracy.

    But should we really be encouraging people to vote or should we merely allow them to do so if they want to?

    Stephen Dubner, in a recent Freakonomics podcast, took the position that an individual voting is invariably a waste of time and resources. He said that people vote on ...[text shortened]... something that will almost certainly have no effect on anything.

    Anyone agree or disagree?
    Economists are tools.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "encouraging"; I don't support mandatory voting or economic incentives to vote. However, public figures encouraging the people to vote and measures that tend to increase voter participation are OK with me.

    It's part of our nature to want to have some say in collective decision-making. It makes us "feel good to vote" because of this innate sense. But regardless of what Dubner says the aggregation of human behavior like voting has profound effects. There's some people in Tunisia and Egypt who also might disagree with him as to the importance of voting.
  9. 14 Feb '11 19:00
    Originally posted by sh76
    I think we can all agree that the right to vote is a key element in any democracy.

    But should we really be encouraging people to vote or should we merely allow them to do so if they want to?

    Stephen Dubner, in a recent Freakonomics podcast, took the position that an individual voting is invariably a waste of time and resources. He said that people vote on ...[text shortened]... something that will almost certainly have no effect on anything.

    Anyone agree or disagree?
    My first knee jerk reaction is to agree, but political parties (and candidates) always encourage people to vote, vote for them that is. So encouragement will always take place from them.
    I'm sure communists have the same view, they think only the few people in their circle have the right to vote on anything. In a way you are making the same argument as an autocracy for their lack of democracy. The only difference is that we have the choice to vote, with a few exceptions.
    Even informed people have very different views with each other on how the country should be run. I'm not sure it would improve anything.
  10. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    14 Feb '11 19:02
    Originally posted by no1marauder
    Economists are tools.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "encouraging"; I don't support mandatory voting or economic incentives to vote. However, public figures encouraging the people to vote and measures that tend to increase voter participation are OK with me.

    It's part of our nature to want to have some say in collective ...[text shortened]... le in Tunisia and Egypt who also might disagree with him as to the importance of voting.
    But voting isn't what changed the situation in Tunisia and Egypt. In fact, all the voting that was done for years only helped to legitimize and perpetuate the status quo in those countries. It took direct action outside the electoral process to bring about meaningful change.
  11. Subscriber AThousandYoung
    Poor Filipov :,(
    14 Feb '11 19:08
    Originally posted by quackquack
    One vote is statistically insignificant.
    If it makes you feel good to vote then do it. But I'd agree if you want to help society do a good deed or pick up litter as the quote suggested, don't spend your time voting.
    One vote is statistically insignificant compared to...a bunch of other single votes.

    Obviously these single votes have power if they can make others' single votes insiginificant.
  12. Subscriber AThousandYoung
    Poor Filipov :,(
    14 Feb '11 19:10
    Originally posted by rwingett
    But voting isn't what changed the situation in Tunisia and Egypt. In fact, all the voting that was done for years only helped to legitimize and perpetuate the status quo in those countries. It took direct action outside the electoral process to bring about meaningful change.
    "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.
    The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is
    wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts
    they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,
    it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...
    And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
    warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
    resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
    to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
    in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
    time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
    It is its natural manure."

    Thomas Jefferson


    That bit about 20 years fits neatly in with the riot patterns in Los Angeles.
  13. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    14 Feb '11 19:13
    Originally posted by sh76
    I think we can all agree that the right to vote is a key element in any democracy.

    But should we really be encouraging people to vote or should we merely allow them to do so if they want to?

    Stephen Dubner, in a recent Freakonomics podcast, took the position that an individual voting is invariably a waste of time and resources. He said that people vote on ...[text shortened]... something that will almost certainly have no effect on anything.

    Anyone agree or disagree?
    I tend to agree.

    For most elections, from an individual perspective, my vote will contribute less to society than doing some community work. Of course, this has very little to do with the value of having the option to vote in a society which I think is crucial for a well functioning government. It's just that too many people vote already.

    A system with proportional representation may mitigate this, though, as every percentage point may matter so the likelihood of your vote making a difference is larger (albeit still small if say 50% of the population still vote).

    Dubner is not an economist, by the way.
  14. Subscriber no1marauder
    It's Nice to Be Nice
    14 Feb '11 19:38
    Originally posted by rwingett
    But voting isn't what changed the situation in Tunisia and Egypt. In fact, all the voting that was done for years only helped to legitimize and perpetuate the status quo in those countries. It took direct action outside the electoral process to bring about meaningful change.
    Sure, but the demands of the people are for meaningful elections i.e. democracy first and foremost. A properly functioning democracy makes "direct action" unnecessary. A tyranny makes it essential.
  15. Donation rwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    14 Feb '11 20:08
    Originally posted by no1marauder
    Sure, but the demands of the people are for meaningful elections i.e. democracy first and foremost. A properly functioning democracy makes "direct action" unnecessary. A tyranny makes it essential.
    A meaningful election requires that something meaningful be put on the ballot. Too often democracy is used to simply give an aura of popular support to the elite agenda. It makes for much smoother implementation than open tyranny.