“Wasted vote” talk is a great big joke

November 6, 2012 Off By admin

Suppose there were three options, A, B and C. Suppose you rank them as follows C > B > A. Suppose that if you choose C, there’s no chance of C obtaining. Suppose choosing B, instead, meant there was a one-in-60-million chance of B’s obtaining because you chose it. If someone were to tell me that I should choose B in order to be “effective,” I’d think it were some kind of great joke.

Whatever “effectiveness” means, one-in-60-million is way, way outside of the criteria for “effectiveness.” Choosing any option, once it’s beyond what can reasonably be described as “effective” for reasons of “being effective” is like arguing that you should throw food in the air, rather than on the ground, in order for it to reach a starving infant on the other side of the world. Sure, there’s a one-in-60-million chance that a gust of wind will take the food will turn into a hurricane will travel over the oceans and land before a starving infant, and there’s about a one-in-a-trillion chance that the earth will open up and quantomly transport the food to the other side of the world if you throw it on the ground, but if you’re going to throw your food to alleviate starvation on the other side of the world, “effectiveness” has exactly nothing to do with why you ought to pick tossing it up or throwing it down.

And so it is with this, and all other, elections. Pick a candidate for whatever reason, but don’t get suckered into “effectiveness” talk. Treat that kind of talk as it should be treated — as a great joke. And laugh with me.

If I were voting in the U.S., I’d be voting for Gary Johnson. I like Gary Johnson. I like him a lot. When it comes to determining the outcome, casting a ballot would be just as good as not casting a ballot at all — the difference between 0 and 0.00000006 is not a difference worth talking about. I wouldn’t be voting to change the outcome of the election, because I’m no fool. I’ve never voted to change any outcome of any collective decision when there are more than, say, 40 or so participants. Once my vote is beyond the one-in-40 threshold, I’m just noise, no signal.

So when I hear people tell libertarians to vote for some mainstream Republican or other, I just laugh and laugh. And when I hear progressives urging other progressives to abandon voting for Johnson or Jill Stein in favour of Obama, because that way their vote matters, I have just as hearty of a chuckle. You might as well stay at home and throw food in the air for all the good it’ll do anyone.