[EM] Lesser-of-2-evils voting

Forest Simmons fsimmons at pcc.edu
Tue Jan 27 18:55:01 PST 2004

On Mon, 26 Jan 2004, Alex Small wrote:

> Mike-
> When you argue that people should vote sincerely because one vote doesn't
> matter, you basically describe a "tragedy of the commons" as I understand
> the term.  Suppose somebody said "Well, there's no harm in wasting
> electricity and water.  After all, my electricity alone isn't contributing
> to a power crisis.  And my water usage alone isn't what causes strain on
> the water supply in a relatively dry state like California."

The main difference here is that the water user is doing something that if
everybody did it, the result would be bad.

Mike is saying that in a zero info election, if everybody would vote their
conscience, there would be a good result; God would finally break the yoke
of the tyrants.

The trouble is that people have been brow beaten into not trusting their

When (someday) God asks me why I didn't vote the conscience that he gave
me, and I reply that I trusted the polls and voting advice more, it's
going to sound pretty lame.

Our wisdom, power, etc. is pretty pitiful compared to that of deity. We
are mere babes. So why do we think we can out guess the devil better than
the source of our conscience?

If we vote our conscience, then God will take responsibility for the
consequences.  Otherwise, we have to.

> I suspect your first response might be to point out ways that power
> companies, energy bureaucrats, water bureaucrats, agribusiness, etc. all
> manipulate the markets for these commodities.  Even so, we can still
> consider the hypothetical case of an individual living in a situation
> where the resource constraints are real and dictated by nature, not
> artificially dictated by crony capitalism.
> So, what do you say to the person who wants to waste resources?  It isn't
> any one person that strains resources, it's millions of people.  You can
> call for laws dictating that he can only buy the most efficient light
> bulbs, and that he must use low flow showerheads and toilets and what not.
>  However, even the most efficient light bulb is wasting energy if it's
> running when you don't need it.  So there are limits to how much relief
> mandates can provide.  In the end, there's no getting around the fact that
> his individual usage has been multiplied by millions of people, and that's
> what's straining resources.  The individual cannot point to his own
> insignificance to avoid responsibility.
> Now consider elections.  I'll leave aside your argument that the Dems and
> GOP are equally bad because it is a political point specific to a
> particular context.  I'll just stick to your other point, that even if
> there is a difference your vote is still too tiny to matter, because that
> point pertains to any debate over any election strategy, even if the
> candidates are Pete Camejo and Dick Cheney.
> Sure, your one vote probably won't matter, even if (especially if?) you
> live in Florida.  The margin in FL was somewhere between 100 and 2000
> votes depending on which after-the-fact recount you believe.  In any case,
> it was pretty tiny.  But it was still bigger than one vote.  Once again, a
> person who voted for a "doomed" candidate can say "My vote alone wouldn't
> have changed anything."  Just like the person wasting resources can say
> that his vote alone wouldn't matter.  The fact is, collectively the people
> who voted for that "doomed" candidate DID matter if the election was close
> enough.
> Now, there may be good long-term reasons to vote third party.  I happen to
> think so.  I think there is good to be gained in the long term from
> sending a message even if it means a "greater evil" beats a "lesser evil"
> in the short term.  But despite that, there's no denying that actions have
> consequences.

>  I advocate voting third party because I believe the
> long-term benefits OUTWEIGH THE DISADVANTAGES, not because I believe there
> are no disadvantages.

I would even vote Republican if my conscience told me to, because the
advantages of living by one's conscience are very long term, in fact

> So if you want to vote third party, by all means do so.  I certainly do.
> But don't try to falsely insist that there's no connection between your
> vote and the outcome.  Instead, just argue that this is about long-term
> good, not the short term.

 ... especially if long term equals eternal.


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