24 Nov 2010

Poll results -- Voting regret

Hey! There's a new poll (Giving thanks?) on the right sidebar -->
I have regretted a vote that I made in the past...
Once 26%26
Sometimes 38%38
Often 6%6
Never 30%30
100 votes total

Most economists (and mathematicians) know that voting "doesn't matter" in the sense that a single vote rarely decides an election, but most of us vote for other reasons: We want to participate in civil society, we want to express our opinions, we need an excuse to know a little more about political and legal issues, and because we want to associate ourselves with the winning side.

It's on this last reason that I make my choice for this poll. I voted for George Bush in 2000 and regret that I did. My vote made no difference in California (where he lost by a wide margin), but it still annoys me that I "did not see it coming" when he went nuts with a lot of bad policies (bad fiscal policies, domestic spying, crony capitalism, etc.) and actions (invading Iraq, torture and suspension of habeas corpus, etc.). I am just annoyed at the thought that I associated myself with his administration. (Ironically, I've "thrown away" my vote on libertarian candidates before, so this was a conscious decision.)

At the time, I was thinking Bush II would be like Bush I, who would not have been so bad as an Al Gore who would -- in my view -- do anything to get or keep power. Gore's flexibility wasn't as appealing to me as Clinton's, taking it for granted that all politicians have some quality of flexibility.

Case-in-point, we have Gore's recent admission [read this and this] that he only supported corn ethanol because he wanted to win votes in Iowa. I wish that Mr. Inconvenient Truth has said something before we got one of the most destructive agricultural programs out there!

Sorry if seems more confessional than analytical, but I want to be clear on how these regrets work, if only with one data point. Do you have a story to share?

Bottom Line: Sometimes we make voting mistakes. Learn from them. (Corollary: Sometimes politicians make policy mistakes. Take away their power :)
Addendum: Read this great piece on the contortions of ethanol lobbyists trying to defend their $6 billion (plus!) boondoggle.


  1. Those subsidies are set to expire at the end of December. What do you think the odds of Congress renewing them are?

    Assuming that they are allowed to expire, how large do you expect the impact on global food prices to be? Could a dip in those prices be interpreted as deflation by the FED and lead to another round of QE?

  2. The more local an election, the more your vote counts. That's why I find it strange that people skip non presidential elections, primaries, and local elections, where their votes count more. I live in a rural part of the county, and we have elections for Fire Commissioners. One of the locals who had been a volunteer firefighter until he was caught stealing gas from the fire station ran for Fire Commissioner just so he could exact revenge and fire the people that fired him. He spent a fortune on signs, leaflets, and negative ads about his opponent in the local weekly paper. He lost by two votes. One of those was mine; the other was my husband's. (At least we chose to look at it that way!)

  3. I regret my vote for John Kerry in 2004 - It was definitely an anti-Bush vote, but Kerry was such a crummy politician (like AL Gore as you say - trying to not step on anyone's toes and sacrificing beliefs to get elected).

  4. @FMF -- agreed.

    @Robpublican -- which subsidies? On ethanol? I doubt that world prices will drop by much (read the addendum, the Congress is STILL distorting the market by forcing ethanol mix). If ethanol went away (yay!) then, corn and some food prices would drop. If it's world wide, then the Fed would NOT do more QE, since it's aiming at US deflation...

  5. I voted for Jimmy Carter.

    At the time I was an engineering student and thought he represented a different approach to Washington politics.

    It turned out that 4 years of moralizing and micromanaging resulted in stagflation, high inflation, and high unemployment.

    OTOH, the Carter Administration may have given us the only real dergulation known during my lifetime as both the airlines and the trucking industry were freed of many unproductive regulations.

    Carter is the only presidential candiate I voted for who was ever elected. I feel partly responsible for encouraging future candidates.

  6. @dz

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. These subsidies: click.
    If both the subsidies and the tariff expire, then I expect US gasoline producers will switch to Brazilian (sugar cane) ethanol. World sugar prices will spike (hardly noticed in the US) while corn prices fall (definitely noticed in the US). How much and for how long is what I'm wondering.

    Seriously, you are the first person I've heard suggest that DEFLATION is the aim of QE2. Theoretical, practical, political, and anectdotal sources all seem to agree that inflation is the goal or at least the FED are desperately trying to avoid deflation. Why do you say that the aim is deflation?


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