MaxBarry.com
if you were him you'd be home now
Barcoded EarthWhat Max Reckons

Blog

Wed 04
Jun
2008

Scraping the Barrel

What Max Reckons I decided to stop doing those blog posts where I pontificate about how the world should be. Because reading those back, they even annoy me. And the ones that annoy me the most are when I start yapping about politics. I mean, please, like the world needs another shrill, ignorant opinion on that.

Well, maybe just one more. Don’t you think it’s strange how often people vote for somebody they don’t like? Elections should be simple, shouldn’t they? We vote for whoever we want to win, and the popular choice prevails. But in practice, you often have an incentive to vote “tactically.” For example, if you’re electing the US Democratic nominee, there’s no point voting for your favorite candidate if he or she has no chance of defeating the Republican nominee in the General Election. You should only vote for someone who can ultimately win. So now your vote has to not simply express your own preference, but be modified by what you believe everybody else prefers, too.

Anywhere there’s plurality voting, you can’t safely vote for your favorite candidate unless you’re confident enough other people will too. Otherwise, you’re smarter to vote for your least-hated candidate with a practical chance of victory. (Or vote swap.)

Now, in my experience, any time someone expresses an opinion they don’t personally have, but think others do, it’s a terrible opinion. For example, I’ve seen it produce some pretty ugly book covers. And I’ll ignore it in any reader feedback I get on my story drafts. People who try to guess what other people want end up settling on the dullest, most conservative, and uninspiring choice available, even if none of them personally prefer it.*

I get that there’s no such thing as a perfect voting system. Some are more warped than others, but, okay, it’s surprisingly difficult to create a fair, practical voting system. Still. How disturbing is it that on top of every other form of corruption inherent in the political process, it can be completely reasonable for you to walk into a ballot room and vote for someone other than who you want to win?

(* That’s one of the reasons Hillary got so close to Barack. There, I said it.)