The latest Freakonomics missive in the “New York Times Magazine” asserts that voting is pointless. Of tens of thousands of elections covered in the study cited in the article only one had been decided by a single vote, ergo voting is a waste of time and effort because your vote will not decided the race. To prove it the authors noted that voting levels had actually decreased in some parts of Norway after a vote by mail system was contrived. Evidently, the incentive to vote is to prove that you are a part of a civic tradition, not to decide elections.
The logic of the argument is sound, but it also pales when brought against horse sense.
It is voting blocs, not individual voters, who have tremendous stakes in their vote. Win or lose environmentalists, unions, teachers and public employees will vote for Democrats. Lazy mammoth industries, anti-abortion zealots, and gun nuts will generally vote for Republicans. None of these groups represents anything close to a majority of Americans, but it is the voters in these groups that continue to have their interests counted when laws are being made because they vote. Coalitions are comprised of voting blocs; the start stuff of voting blocs is voters. Voting matters.
Voting coalitions are not unlike a product’s demographics. A new soda will be concocted and packaged to appeal strongly enough to a group of people to get them to spend money on it. To an agonizing degree, a politician’s ideas will be expressed and packaged to appeal to a winning coalition of voters. If you don’t drink soda, or do not belong to a group that typically does, no manufacturer will make their soda for you. If you do not vote few politicians will try to express your ideas and issues. Purchasing a soda is to select the means of delivering caffeine, sugar and flavor to your body. Choosing a president is to decide issues of life, death and the future.
If voting didn’t matter why did the South labor so hard to stop blacks from doing it? Why were thousands disenfranchised in Florida in 2000 and 2004?
Freakonomics dude is interesting, but it is telling that he needs someone else to express his ideas for him. Being lost in the abstract netherworld of the market can yield insight, or nonsense.