I Don’t Think They’re Listening

Everybody enjoys voting right? We go out and get to voice our opinion, make change, revolutionize the world, and really make a difference in our communities. Feeling like you’re being an active voice in our democracy doesn’t always make it true. Yes, it’s fantastic that we have the right to vote and choose our own officials – If not for the results at least for the principle. If we didn’t have a voting system set up, our government would abruptly take away what voice we do have and we would immediately realize the errors of our ways. All that being said, I wouldn’t tell anyone they have to vote. This is a situation where I don’t think the “principle of the matter” should affect our judgment either. If you feel like voting is important, well that’s great. It’s even better that you are allowed to vote and you can go out there and vote to your heart’s content [probably only once a year]

Before you go out to the battlefront and parade your way to the ballot box I just want to make you aware of the costs and benefits of your actions. Just a simple economic analysis if you will. If after reading all of this you’re still “gay” for voting then go vote. At least after you’re done reading this you will be aware of the choice you make. I’m also about to show you how one of our basic rights as American Citizens, this beloved right to vote, isn’t exactly as “free” as it seems.

Instead of beginning on the negative side of the tracks I’ll side with the optimists and talk about the positives to voting. Obviously, and we all know, voting is essential to run a democratic form of government. There is no need to list all the hypothetical situations that would have surfaced over the years if we didn’t have this element to our country’s structure, but this isn’t a talk about the overall value of voting. This is about one individual vote – your vote. The positive side to your vote [or, from here out referred to as, the benefits] is the sense of community and respect for your own country and the pride that you feel you’ve had your voice heard. But any other real positives, in your own personal life, that you can think of will follow suit in they are only intrinsic in value. This is where the real problem arises because everyone sets the value of that benefit differently – this value usually decreases when they take a glimpse at the costs of voting. We’ve all heard the cliche “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”; this scenario is a perfect example of those words in application.

We also have to take a moment to observe how much influence your individual vote has on the results. For simplicity’s sake [and you can reapply this to any situation] we’ll look at the presidential vote, mainly because that is the vote we are more concerned with as a society. If 25% of the 50 million residents in your state go to vote then you have made a .000000008% difference in the result. Mind you this is also only for the state of your residence’s electoral votes – not an real vote for the president. If we were to calculate the actual value then it would be microscopic. [not to mention variant on which side the state settles on: your candidate or the opposition]

When comparing costs to benefits it’s also common to assign dollar values to everything. We do this because it’s fairly easy to determine and it gives us a universal unit of measurement so we can compare anything we want. You can’t compare apples and oranges but even a small child can decide the value comparison of apples and oranges. This is what we’re going to do with the voting process.

The first cost that we experience is the time invested. There is more to this than we think too. There is the time waiting in line, the drive to the polling booths, the time we invest to make sure we’re making the right vote, and even the time in filling out the ballot itself. The easiest way to assign a value to this is to match the number of hours spent to your hourly wage at your job. [if you’re unemployed – sorry for the rough patch, it’ll get better – just make up and arbitrary number and play along. Stop swimming in your sorrows] So if you make 10$ an hour and in total you spent five hours between researching, the long lines, and the drive over, then you have a cost of fifty dollars already. Most of you probably make more than that so you may find the cost of voting even higher than this example.

While I could go one into great details about the costs and benefits of political alignment, group discussions on politics, the mental anguish we suffer from the concern over the process, and every other mental or social toll we take in this “glorious” voting process, I won’t. I feel I have a good enough answer for you now. Does it seem like a worth investment of your time and resources to go vote [spend 50$ of your time] for a .000000008% say in the descision?

This brings us back to the intrinsic values of voting. If we have arbitrarily set this “cost of voting” at fifty bucks then we need to ask ourselves: is this process, for me as an individual, of taking the time to go vote worth at least fifty dollars of intrinsic value to me? What benefits are valued at what to you? If you don’t take any pride in voting because you’re a realist [pessimist, whatever you want to label yourself as] then the choice is probably simple for you. Think of it this way – If voting was taken away as an essential freedom of our country but we could vote if we paid fifty dollars, would you? Is that an investment that you consider worthwhile or would you trust the decisions of your peers and the media to elect the right officials to run this country. It’s just another way to think about it before you make the call that’s right for you.

Don’t go vote just because you can and certainly don’t go vote because your friends and family pressure you into it. South Park is right: most of the time the election is between a “giant douche” and a “turd sandwich” and if you really don’t care which one of them wins the election then don’t compromise that and vote out of necessity. Staying home and not voting can send just as much of a message as going out and filling in the bubbles on a piece of paper. If you do really want to make a difference then align yourself with other people and help with the campaign so you can increase the dismal value of your one vote. So go all in or go all out floating around in lukewarm water will get you nowhere. You have the right and you also have the right not to. Choose for yourself and be proud everyone. That’s right don’t vote and be proud you didn’t.


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