11 February 2008

Should I Sell My Vote?

Apparently it's illegal to sell or trade votes for the president, although I've never bothered to look up the relevant statute. Of course, to be precise, that's not a vote for the president, but for an elector for the president. But in a comment on a prior post I jokingly offered to sell my vote to a New Zealander. Unfortunately, he declined, so my bank account is no richer.

Nor is my conscience soothed. As I've pondered this over the last few days, it seems to me that New Zealanders, and Aussies and Brits, French, South Koreans...in short, everyone who lives in the free world, is a constituent of the U.S. President. During the Clinton impeachment, a friend of mine received a call from a former business partner in S. Korea, who asked why the Republicans were messing around with "the leader of my world." It's a good point, and one I've thought about a lot in the past decade.

I get a vote, but I'm a political scientist. I can do the math, and I know my vote simply doesn't matter. Actually, most political scientists can't quite figure that out. I had one almost punch me in the nose once because I dare to teach my students that voting is a collective action problem: we're all better off if everyone participates, since we can't have popular sovereignty otherwise, but the more people participate, the less it matters--to me personally or to the public's interest in popular sovereignty.

And then there are all these folks outside our borders, who in a real way are the President's constituents (like it or not), but who don't get a vote. So, on the off-chance any significant number of people see this blog, let me know what country you're from and who you want me to vote for. I'll count the votes of anyone who is (a) outside the U.S., and (b) in a democratic country. I'll let majority rule, and the non-U.S. constituents will at least get one vote.

6 comments:

James K said...

"voting is a collective action problem: we're all better off if everyone participates, since we can't have popular sovereignty otherwise, but the more people participate, the less it matters--to me personally or to the public's interest in popular sovereignty."

Of course its actually worse than that. Because each vote as essentially no impact, people who do vote will often just vote based on a "feel-good" factor rather than carefully evauating which cnadidate would implement the best policies. That's why mushy populism is so common, mush tastes good and it doesn't matter if its filling.

James Hanley said...

JamesK, I'm wholly agreed on the "mushy populism" comment. You'd make a good political scientists--if I ever make it to NZ, I'll buy you lunch.

James K said...

Some of this material gets covered in economics courses. After all, if government is going to be implementing policies, you need to understand government.

kehrsam said...

This is by far the most insightful commentary I've seen on the election so far.

http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/do_we_really_want_another_black

Personally, I was going to vote for Martin Sheen again. Or is he term-limited?

James Hanley said...

Yes, well, how can I compete with the Onion? I neither as smart or as funny.

James K said...

Ah yes, The Onion. Its what convinced me that American could actually do satire (you can get a very distorted picutre of a culture by looking at it from a distance).

If only there was a New Zealand equivalent, after all we have an election coming up later this year too.