Voting does not equal speaking your mind

Not voting is an interesting experiment.

Having voted in every election since I turned eighteen, two years ago I opted out of two in a row — a civic election and a federal one — to see how it felt to know that what I did on election day didn’t matter.

A few months earlier, it had been pointed out to me by a well-spoken smartypants that my voting had never influenced public policy in any way. Removing my vote from the totals would have resulted in the same results — the same government, the same policies — in every election I’d ever voted in.

I kind of knew that, but I didn’t quite grasp what it meant. It meant that if I believe having some influence on society is important, I can’t possibly rely on my vote to do that. But voting still somehow conferred a feeling of involvement, of participation in the shaping of society. So I did it anyway, even though the math shows that if I had chosen to clean behind my stove each election day instead of voting, society would have progressed the exact same way, while the state of my kitchen would have improved considerably.

The following election I stayed home, to be sure I knew how it felt to choose to be only a spectator. I had a creeping feeling that I always had been. I didn’t clean my kitchen.

It feels bad, if you’ve never tried it. It sent me into a bit of a cynical spell on the whole matter of electoral politics, and I wrote about it here: If the election really mattered to you, you’d do more than vote. I think my logic is still solid, but I do regret the antagonistic tone of it. The comment section contains some pretty rich arguments, if you like arguments.

I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to approach the next election where I live, but I will vote. I’m pretty sure I’m always going to vote now, for someone, even if it’s just to enjoy the walk to the polling station. I still believe that in order to be involved in the electoral process in a meaningful, consequential way, a person has to do much more than vote. I can’t vote for our next president tomorrow because I’m Canadian.

There may be other reasons to vote, even if you understand that your chances of influencing the outcome of the presidential election are much smaller than your chances of dying in a car accident on the way to the poll. For some people, voting time serves as a reminder to re-familiarize themselves with the big issues and personalities in the news, by researching platforms and watching debates. It also feels good, it really does. It feels good to talk about. It feels good to find people who think the same way about something as you do. It feels good to see the whole populace (or maybe half) appear care about the same thing. 

As well, the mathematical insignificance of your vote is not necessarily a reason not to vote. I don’t see a lot of reasons to abstain from voting. But one of them is a good one: to confront the reality that you are essentially a non-participant in the game of influencing society’s policies, if your only pointed attempt to do so is to vote in the election. You only have to abstain once to know what that feeling like, when everyone’s talking about nothing else the next day, and you didn’t play the game.

When I abstained, it made me realize that if I truly do believe I ought to bear some responsibility for the state of society, I must do more than vote. I have to either increase my level of participation in the electoral process, by offering more of my time or money to it, or I have to find other ways to influence the course of society. Otherwise, in the years I do vote I’m effectively no less a spectator than I was the year I didn’t vote. I do believe the world would be slightly better off if instead of voting each election day, I had taken the same hour to give blood. For an individual, simply casting a vote a handful of times a decade is an extremely convoluted, low-leverage way to attempt to change public policy.

Again, that’s no reason not to do it. A group of thousand people like you does stand a chance of making a difference to the result. It just doesn’t stand any more of a chance than the other nine hundred ninety-nine did already.

We get a bit hysterical about voting. It’s very much tied up in our emotions, because we know there’s a tremendous difference between having the right to vote and not having the right to vote. We imagine that choosing not to vote in a given year is somehow dishonoring those who have made considerable personal sacrifices to earn us the right to vote (some might argue that a vote for Mitt Romney dishonors them slightly more). The fight for the vote has always been about the fight to be recognized as citizens, and with the right to vote comes the right to not vote, the right to vote in an uninformed and hysterical way, and certainly the right to vote for terrible candidates.

The reality is we have at our feet all kinds of avenues for effecting social change. For most of us, the electoral process is never going to be an avenue where we have much power or leverage, although we always have the right to pursue more of that kind of power by lobbying or volunteering, if that’s where we want to apply our energies. It’s disturbing how often election day is talked about as our one precious chance to be heard, to represent our values to our society. What a naive thought. You have all kinds of opportunities to do that every single day of your life, if it is indeed important to you.

This is not a suggestion not to vote. Vote. Public policy is important. It’s decided by our elected officials, and our elected officials are determined by elections. The outcomes of elections do matter, irrespective of your ability or inability to affect that outcome.

But let’s not forget why they matter. They matter because we know the condition of society matters. What it’s like to live in this delicate interdependent network of human lives we call a society — the weather in this bubble we all share, so to speak — is so huge. So much joy and suffering hinge on it.

Public policy is only one factor that influences society, and elections are only one way to influence public policy, and casting your vote in an election is only one way to influence an election — and honestly if that’s the only action you take towards influencing society, then you stand only an astronomical chance of your contribution changing the weather in here.

If you ask people why they vote you’ll get a lot of responses, but most of them can be boiled down to this: we vote because we want to take part. We want to steer, just a little bit. Some people talk about the squandering of a vote as if it’s a tragedy. So why doesn’t anyone make a big deal out of people squandering any of the other precious rights we can exercise every single day: to protest, to boycott exploitative companies, to start responsible businesses, to overcome destructive habits, to consume fewer resources, to write books, essays or songs that move people, to invent something that makes other lives easier, to make something beautiful, to do work that you love, to be a better friend to your friends and a better partner to your partner, to get to know your neighbors, to be more approachable and more forgiving, to be the one to reach out, to start a movement, to raise your standards for how you spend your time.

The truth is that exercising these rights takes more effort than voting, they have a greater effect on what it’s like to live in society, and so most people do not find themselves compelled to do them. High-hanging fruit.

None of these incredible opportunities mean you shouldn’t exercise your right to vote, whatever it’s worth to you, but it’s strange how that’s the only one for which you will be shit on by ordinary people if you don’t exercise it. If the reason you vote is because you feel some kind of social duty, I hope it’s a small part of it.

***

Photo by Alex Barth


Buck November 5, 2012 at 12:38 am

David,

Your posts are beautiful. Taking a difficult issue, stripping away the pettiness and the judgement, and illuminating the reality behind it.

It seems like the voting phenomena gets placed on a pedestal because of all the buzzword sensationalist media hype. Other more subtle avenues of change get overlooked.

Why is it so difficult to remember what is really important? How can we incorporate more sanity into society?

David November 5, 2012 at 7:15 am

I think we have a habit of taking other people’s word for what is important, especially people who don’t know us and who are speaking to millions of others at the same time on TV.

Will November 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

How many readers have you got David? 10,261 votes can make a difference. ;)

David November 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Exactly.

Jay November 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm

This post is devoid of pettiness and the judgement?
I am not sure about that.

Vilx- November 5, 2012 at 4:42 am

Thoughts like this always make me ponder – how could we restructure our entire system of living (aka government) for the better, especially considering the opportunities presented to us by today’s technology? And how do we go about implementing that? And then I realize that my head is floating in the clouds, and come back down to the ground do the only thing I can do – vote. :P

(P.S. For the record, my best ideas so far are to have lots and lots of small near-autonomous communities (city-states or similar) with a very loose central government which doesn’t have much control but just keeps things together (more like a coalition really); and an electronic system where everyone can vote everyday for issues that are important to them. Like, when you read the morning news, you also do a few vote clicks along the way.)

David November 5, 2012 at 6:57 am

I think the issue is not what utopia would be like, but what we should do with our lives in the real world, the way it is now.

Vilx- November 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

Yes, but shouldn’t our actions be aimed at that Utopia (ultimately at least, after a million tiny steps in between)? If so, then shouldn’t we start with an idea of where we are going?

Doug November 5, 2012 at 7:24 am

Quite honestly, I’m sorry to say but if this were to happen, America would completely break down. Think about it; we live in a country where everyone has an opinion of how things should be run. Generally speaking, we can lump our ideas together without two much hostility. But you have your ideas, just like I have my ideas, just like David has his ideas. So what you feel may be better for government may be something I don’t agree completely with, or may be something that David abhors. Compromise quite honestly sucks a lot of the time, but for the advancement of America, it must happen almost all the time.

Vilx- November 6, 2012 at 7:27 am

I don’t see how my ideas would encourage hostility or prevents compromise. But then again – as I said, I haven’t got very far with these daydreams, so maybe what you’re saying is right. :)

David November 5, 2012 at 5:46 am

You make a very good point.

Another point is that it actually can be rational to vote. The smartypants that proclaim that it is isn’t probably doesn’t know enough math to really know what they are talking about.

Here is googles director of reasearch – a guy who certainly knows math – take on it:
http://norvig.com/election-faq-2012.html#rational

David November 5, 2012 at 7:11 am

His math is very clever, but his expected value figure includes the “miracle decisive vote” scenario, which he admits takes forty million years of elections on average. Some might say it’s just as accurate to presume it will never happen. And it’s only for voters who live in swing states.

He also didn’t address the risk of car accident and/or shooting incident at a polling station, which is a major oversight given that his argument requires him to account for the extremely unlikely.

meg November 5, 2012 at 7:40 am

It’s a paradox–the philosopher Eubulides’ Sorites Paradox about a heap of sand, comprised of a million grains of sand. If you remove one grain, there is still a heap of sand. Now remove another, and another, until there is only one grain left. It is not a heap. When did this happen?

Our votes are like those grains of sand. One grain/vote does not make public policy, but at some point enough grains do.

David November 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm

But you do not get to remove another grain. You are only in control of one of them, if your only input into the electoral process is a vote. And that grain doesn’t make a difference in what kind of pile it is or what that pile does. Some people seem to be content with needing ten thousand people just like them to make a meaningful difference.

Meanwhile, Super PACs are dumping and removing truckfuls while you watch nine hours of debates deliberating where to place your speck :)

meg November 6, 2012 at 6:23 am

Read your reply while taking my first sip of coffee this morning, and I’m still coughing. Thanks for the chuckle ;D To be honest, I didn’t watch any of the debates after the first five minutes of the first one. This is the first election in my entire life that I’ve stepped back from political dialogue (I watched the Kennedy-Nixon debate as an inquisitive 5 year old, still remember it vividly and how intense all the adults were while watching it, too), as I’ve been one of those grains of sand blowin’ in the winds of change this year.

Nonetheless, I will humbly vote this morning, aiming for the pile I usually aim for. Both piles look much the same, except the one on the right has more nasty bits in it.

Terri Lynn November 5, 2012 at 7:46 am

I agree that we have a habit of taking other people’s word for what is important, especially people who don’t know us and who are speaking to millions of others at the same time on TV.

Isn’t that what the zombie apocalypse is all about?

How can I take action and influence society and make a contribution? The question is the answer. How many people wake up in the morning and ask this question? We’ve become lazy and made it someone else’s job. If we ask this question, we will be more apt to be paying attention to all of the opportunities that are granted to us every day. Opportunities don’t need to be created, they are right there in front of us but only those who ask the question can see them, and act on them.

David November 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

So what’s the date of the next zombie apocalypse. I’m going to put a sign on my lawn for it.

Terri Lynn November 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm

All you have to do is drive by a Tim Hortons drive thru… ;)

Jim Coy November 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

David, thanks for a very lively and intelligent discussion on a topic that is such a complex and intricately interwoven fabric in the lives of modern humans. Perhaps another perspective worth a tiny note is that of those who are governed by chronic suspicion and/or cynicism regarding most human activity. Their general theory seems to be the elusive ‘illusion of control,’ where we’re all made to believe that we have some influence. Some say that the two-party system itself is a charade to give the masses a viable sense of choice, kind of like Coke and Pepsi being owned by the same company, yet the dueling, upstaging ads give the impression that there are two entities competing. But whether or not we now (or ever do) live in The Matrix (or anything like it), I believe the simple, wholesome things you suggest for really making a difference in the world will work. It is we on the down trickle who need desperately to keep in touch.

David November 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I don’t think it’s any kind of conspiracy, but I do agree with that perspective in general. You can bet both major candidates want you to vote in droves and avoid making big waves as individuals, unless it’s to move votes in their favor. So they vastly overstate the importance of your individual vote in the big picture, to a) convince you it’s worth your time to show up at the polls, and b) to satisfy — hopefully — your ambition to make a difference in society. They begin to lose control when individuals start doing things that will make a difference on their own.

In other words, we can’t vote our way out of most of our troubles. Policy does change things, but the larger cultural conditions (how people live their lives, relate to each other, and pursue happiness) is much more responsible for the health of a society than the difference in policymaking between the two political administrations on offer. Those cultural conditions determine who appears on the ballot in the first place.

Julie November 5, 2012 at 9:23 am

While not voting is as futile as voting, it nevertheless preserves my self-respect. Arthur Silber’s argument in support of this point-of-view begins in the third paragraph: http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2012/11/against-voting-as-long-as-we-live-we.html

A small story, lest anyone think my disavowal is due to apathy: I’m 42, and I’ve voted in every election since I was 18. I rode my bicycle to town to vote Green Party in the ’08 U.S. presidential election. It was a symbolic vote and a symbolic ride, meant to convey support for policies that were vastly unpopular in my conservative Southern state, not to mention my tiny rural town. I knew that my vote was mathematically futile, but I didn’t yet trust myself enough to bow out of the proceedings entirely. I feared that by voting I was taking the psychologically easy route, so I rode my bike to ensure that at least I wouldn’t be taking the physically easy route. But this story is beside the point. Mainly, I just want y’all to read Silber’s argument.

David November 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Everyone should read that.

Danny Tumbleweed November 5, 2012 at 10:05 am

Here’s what I do for most elections:

I go to the polling place. I fill out my information on the ballot. If there are propositions I care about, I vote one way or the other for them.

But as far as voting for people? I either leave all choices empty or punch them all (to prevent possible fraud like someone punching one for me if I leave them empty).

It’s my personal form of protest, my way of saying, if you gave me someone I thought was worth voting for, well, I’m here, I would have done it. But…you haven’t given me that, at all.

David November 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I wish we could vote on propositions here. I’d be far more likely to put time into activism for (or against) a particular proposition than a particular candidate.

Trish Scott November 5, 2012 at 11:17 am

I live in Utah THE Redest of RED states. Being a liberal in UT is just a joke. My vote for president does not mater AT ALL. There is a local Proposition though, that matters a lot to me and our little town so of course I voted. My vote really matters on that one tiny little percentage of the ballot. AND it matters that I don’t have to listen to any of those jokers who say stupid shit like, “If you don’t vote you have forfeited your right to have a political opinion.” And as you say David, it feels good. Yes, there is a sense of community in the act of going to the polls and voting. That is worth something.

David November 5, 2012 at 7:15 pm

As I said to Danny above, I see propositions differently. They are a direct mechanism for policy change, and an activist can probably find more leverage advocating a particular proposition to others than trying to get people to go from lifelong red to lifelong blue. Totally different ballgame, as far as activism goes.

ronii delemain November 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm

hey TR–
I feel your pain–i can one up you–i am a conservative in the bluest of blue states. I can only leave the house at night–so it goes in massachusetts. not worth voting here.

Nitya November 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Your original post suggesting that a lone vote was futile, really raised my ire. I thought about it for a long time, devising fictional arguments in my head. I even recall some of the wording I used in a vain attempt to make you see the folly of your proposal.
I’m very pleased that you’ve decided to express the counter argument this time. As with the rest of humanity , I prefer to agree than disagree , though the latter stance probably makes me dig deeper into my reserves of persuasive rhetoric.
Australia is one of a handful of countries where voting is compulsory. It is still possible to express ones lack of engagement by putting a blank vote in the ballot box ( or a scrawled obscenity, if preferred), though surprisingly few take this option. Most of the population have an opinion. As I said a couple of years ago, the conservative voice is the one urging people to squander their vote…always!
I live in a conservative electorate. The conservative candidate always gets in regardless of my vote. The handful of labor voters probably all know one another and share a bond of those out of kilter with the rest of the community. However, it still gives tremendous satisfaction to know that someone is going to count my vote, someone else is going to scrutinise the ballot paper and my vote will join the number on the stats.

David November 5, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I remember how emotional you got ;)

Compulsory voting is the dumbest thing ever. It only ensures that the average voter is even less informed and less interested than they already were, and further dilutes the value of each vote. Just because someone checks a box does not mean they have an opinion. They’re already at the poll anyway, because the government will fine them if they don’t, so why not check a box, because who cares? It would make the trip feel a little more worthwhile, at least. The satisfaction you get from voting the way you do is exactly what they want you to have, but it does not change the way your country works.

To be clear, I am not expressing the opposite argument in this post, not at all. I’m just not taking an adversarial tone, because then people get emotional and stop listening.

Again, the question behind this post: if squandering a vote is a big deal, then why isn’t it a far bigger deal to squander even a single to opportunity to exercise one of your many other rights, when there’s so much that could be done for society?

Nitya November 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm

“The dumbest thing ever”?! Now there’s an inflammatory statement aimed at eliciting an emotional response. If, for no other reason than saving a large amount of money on advertising to lure people to the polls, it is a great idea. When a participation rate of 58% is considered a good turnout, something is amiss.
Unfortunately the segment of the community with the smallest voice is the one to opt out of voting if at all possible. It takes confidence to insist on having one’s voice heeded. Compulsory voting takes the place of the confidence that comes with affluence and a good education.
There are certain spokespeople in the media who are equipped with ready made slogans to encourage people to waste their vote. Slogans such as “a pox on both your houses ” and “don’t vote, it only encourages them” are deliberately aimed at having people throw away the privilege of having a say.
There have been tremendous changes in our society since the First World War. Changes for the better. But they haven’t been given freely, they were all hard fought battles. It is disingenuous to think that these entitlements will survive if the sort of apathy that you suggest, becomes the norm.

David November 8, 2012 at 7:01 am

You are ignoring the main point again. If you want to change things, you must do more than vote. I am not suggesting apathy, not at all. This is not difficult to understand

Garrison November 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Thanks for this post! Great stuff on the whole, although I don’t quite agree with your assertion that one vote doesn’t matter much – that’s like saying one more pound of CO2 in the atmosphere doesn’t matter, or one drop in the ocean doesn’t matter. Ultimately the ocean is made up of drops, global warming is caused by many seemingly insignificant emissions, and candidates are elected by individual votes. And even when your candidate is guaranteed to lose, it still sends a signal to the people of your community, and the world on the whole. Think how different it would have been if in 2000 George W. Bush had been elected with 95% of the popular vote instead of half – technically America would’ve had the same president, but we’d have sent an entirely different message to each other and the world. (That’s why third-party votes aren’t wasted.)

That said, I’m not voting. (In short, because I do not want to be complicit in the punitive justice system.) But I want to make my non-vote count, so I’m doing two big things.

One, I filmed myself burning my ballot. Check out my YouTube video (which explains why):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT0MF67WZaQ

Two, I’m spending all day tomorrow (the whole time the polls are open) doing things outside my daily routine that make the world a better place. I made a Facebook event encouraging others to do likewise:
https://www.facebook.com/events/292364554205215/

David November 8, 2012 at 7:06 am

The “pound of CO2″ analogy is not an accurate one and I explained it several times in the previous post I linked to. There is an immediate and meaningful difference between 10000 pounds of CO2 and 10001. There is no difference between a candidate winning by 10000 votes and 10001.

The Fuddler November 5, 2012 at 11:06 pm

“…And if I am elected, no stove in America will ever again have years of crud behind it!”

Seriously, as Ralph Nader once observed before he overdosed on his own ego, voting for Tweddle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum by itself won’t accomplish jack. As an Egyptian activist observed recently, voting for soem fat cat every 4 years or so isn’t democracy. Democracy is letting elected officials know that the great mass of citizens won’t tolerate bad policies. That too many Americans have fallen down on this most important task is beside the point.

The Fuddler November 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

“…And if I am elected, no stove in America will ever again have years of crud behind it!”

Seriously, as Ralph Nader once observed before he overdosed on his own ego, voting for Tweddle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum by itself won’t accomplish jack. As an Egyptian activist observed recently, voting for some fat cat every 4 years or so isn’t democracy. Democracy is letting elected officials know that the great mass of citizens won’t tolerate bad policies. That too many Americans have fallen down on this most important task is beside the point.

Apiwat November 23, 2012 at 7:59 am

Okay, Casey. That trailer was one of the fuinenst things you guys have done yet!I have to say, you were the most AMAZING air-guitarist in the competition the only thing you were missing is a really tiny tank!

Erica November 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for this. I’m starting a website on just this topic and have linked to this article.

Jeannette November 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thank you for this article.
I do remember, though, a municipal election in Allentown PA, where I lived for 30 years, which was decided by just 5 votes. Five.
Now in that case again, one person’s voting or not voting would not have changed the results, but still…
My grandfather mentioned to me once that after women got the right to vote, my grandmother never missed voting. There have been times that I have not felt like leaving the house to go and vote, but I do it in honor of my grandma, and in honor of all the women who once did not have that right.
Sentimental? Sure. But it is sentiment, after all, that enriches our lives.

David November 8, 2012 at 7:09 am

If it was decided by 5 votes, all the more reason to do more than vote. One person could have changed the result, but not if that person just voted and went home.

>Sentimental? Sure. But it is sentiment, after all, that enriches our lives.

This is true and that’s reason enough.

Julie November 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

great topic….i did not vote…sadly it would not matter…but other things do matter….i will do more of those.

Chris November 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I agree that these are not good reasons for shaming of vote squandering:
* Whether rights should be exercised
* Weighted pure-utilitarian value (chance of being the decider)

However, I think these are decent reasons:
1. Like you said, it is low-hanging fruit. It’s not so believable that you have a good excuse for not picking at it, while there may easily be decent reasons why you are not getting the high-hanging fruit. Not a solid reason, but it makes sense when forming an outside judgmental view.
2. Weighted moral responsibility over the final results. While probability mathematics can reduce the pure-utility of your vote to something negligible, do you think it works the same way for dividing up aggregate responsibility into individual responsibility? Can the sum of our individual responsibilities here total to less than 100%?
3. Your other good contributions to society cannot generally substitute here, because the responsibility isn’t as simple as contributing to the condition of society. Suppose that my elected official does something horrendous to some citizens of another nation. Can I say to those citizens, “Even though I didn’t vote, I am absolved of the responsibility of what happened to you because I instead did bigger stuff improving social conditions at home”?

To be fair, not voting is not bad in itself as long as you are still considered responsible for the winner’s actions.

Russell November 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm

The one thing that I ask of anyone that takes the position of representing me is integrity. Even if giving up leadership is to follow in behind my partner on a trail, the only thing that I expect from this arrangement is the integrity of the person I’m following. Great leaders have accomplished great deeds, but nothing establishes them as great leaders more than their personal and professional integrity.
The difference between sheep and humans is not in our willingness to follow. We are content to keep our heads down, out of harms way and let someone else make the decision regarding direction, but that does not let us off the hook of responsibility. Lead or be led, the responsibility to act is still an individuals, and comes down to each and every one of us in the making of our choices. Realizing that choice is what differentiates us from sheep.
That is why it’s possible to stand on both sides of the voting discussion, or any discussion of relevance and still maintain a position of integrity. Voting is not as important as we make it out to be. It is something that is expected of us as responsible citizens, but nobody died to give us the right to vote.They died because the people they voted for used there lives to solve political contention.
Perhaps the thing we should be asking ourselves is whether or not it’s a good idea to support a system with such little claim to integrity with our votes. Nor is there any intrinsic responsibility regarding the act of filling out a ballot. It can be done with the same mindlessness as taking out the garbage each week. Perhaps as we argue over this relevance we are missing an opportunity to do or see something else? Whatever that might be.

Jessi Tidwell November 9, 2012 at 12:23 am

I admire your patience, David.

Great post once again. :D

Partha November 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm

While this is admittedly at a bit of a tangent to the topic here, one measure that makes sense — and which activists are trying to get introduced in my part of the world — is the negative vote. You have two candidates, and you as a voter can do one of four things: a positive vote or a negative one for any one candidate. The negative vote will subtract one from the candidate’s tally.
Another is the requirement of 51%or more of the vote (and not just more votes than the other chap). This makes abstention as active (or potentially active) a choice as voting is.

Partha November 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

The CO2 emission issue is a more exact analogy of Meg’s grain-of-sand example than voting.
True, 1000,001 units is more than 100,000 units: but the difference is not significant, is it? No more than the probability of your vote making a difference.
Think about this in terms of probability and of statistical significance, and you’ll find that one man’s CO2 emission is indeed akin to one man’s vote.

Todd Waldorf November 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

Yep, many of us feel like we are just one tiny little voice. My vote won’t count. If my Dad votes for A and I vote for B and A=1 and B=1 then A-B=0. My vote doesn’t count.

Our opinion on our vote says a lot to us about ourselves. Where are we at in our lives? Perhaps if we say, “Every vote counts–including mine!” then we are an optimist and doing our best to be positive. If we take the road of “I’m a tiny voice and my vote doesn’t count” then maybe we are feeling the glass is half empty.

Do it. Inaction is the worst kind of action. Your vote does count. Everything you do counts. This applies to ever facet of your life. A wave that crashes onto a beach is made up of individual molecules of water. Each one of those drops do very little on their own–but they are not on their own. They are a collective and a part of something bigger and powerful.

Never think that anything you do doesn’t count, because it does. Everything counts. Life is fun. Enjoy it. Be a part of the wave and participate and leave the “Why?” for the individual drops of water.

Todd

David November 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

>Do it. Inaction is the worst kind of action. Your vote does count. Everything you do counts.

Well by that logic I could say that what I do counts, even if during every election all I do is sit in my living room and clap for my candidate during the debate. I am optimistic and supportive. According to you it counts, and therefore not only is it worthwhile, but I can be satisfied with my contribution and should not feel like a non-participant. Am I a participant if I do fifty pushups for my candidate?

No, not everything counts. If your contribution has only an astronomical chance of making a difference to the outcome, you have chosen to be a non-participant.

Álex Domínguez November 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I would like to share my experience about voting.

In my opinion, the act of voting as we aknowledge it on this time it’s an emotional act. It also envolves some degree of reasoning, but that is not mandatory.

Since I was 18 til I was 27 I skip all the elections. That had been my decision. I used to agree with Arthur Silber argumentation, if you vote then you are legitimizing the system, actually, I still do at some degree, but my lecture of H. Arendt is a bit different from his. Politics are not voting. Politics is in every interactive human action, voting included. But also in talking, arguing, singing, or whatever.

By voting I’m not trying to change the system, I mainly use my vote for improving my painting skills and shocking the mind of the persons making the counting. So, these last two elections, I painted some fictional characters and voted for them. If I can shock one person’s mind with one of my votes, even if it’s only by that person thinking the picture is nice, that would be more than I was aiming for; if I don’t, well, I’m still practicing my painting skills, regardless of its influence on other human beings.

Leia December 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Interesting…I feel that both thoughts are valid. Though your vote may not have elected a canidate (In the US our Electoral votes pick the president, not the population); however…when the population largely does not want a president the Electoral does – I think that is a HUGE eye opener for everyone and can inspire several people to get off their butts and become a bit more proactive in choosing their Electoral leaders, etc. And, at the end of the day – you chose to make a difference. Right, wrong, or indifferent, you made a choice. Now, on the other hand, you can choose to never vote. You can start small volunteer or community projects (like gardens to feed the homeless and those less fortunate in your area) and make a huge impact more than you would have for voting. Perspective :) Excellent things to consider in your post – thank you – inspired me to think about a few things differently!

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