03 Nov 2008

Gordon Tullock on Not Voting

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Here is a short PBS video featuring Gordon Tullock and the typical game theory critique of mass voter turnout; HT2MR. (Incidentally, for my “third year paper” at NYU I came up with a way to get arbitrarily large voter turnout–where each voter only cared about the outcome–so long as certain conditions were satisfied in the voters’ preferences. Naturally the journals were not interested, even though I have heard plenty of economists say in conversation or in front of students that the result is impossible.)

One warning about the video, at the end the narrator seems to think he’s come up with a clever immanent critique, along the lines of, “If everyone followed Tullock’s advice, nobody would vote. But then it would be rational to vote, so…everyone would vote.” There’s no contradiction here; the game theorist would say you need to allow mixed strategies to get a Nash equilibrium. The narrator could just as well rip a game theoretic analysis of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Tomorrow I will blog my own personal reasons for not voting. It relies partially on the Tullock view, but it’s more than that.

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