2 Nov 2016

I voted for Hillary Clinton

Economists say that voting is "irrational" because the likelihood of one vote affecting the outcome is zero, and that's particularly true in my case.

(My California absentee ballot adds about 0.0000001% to Hillary's 100% chance of winning California.)

But there are other reasons to vote.

The first most important is that voting, by forcing us to make a decision, also forces us to think about the candidates or topics at hand. Although those thoughts are not going to deliver the wisdom of crowds,1 there's still some benefit to us and our community from having at least an idea of the people and policies that affect our lives.

Second, voting helps politicians understand how popular (or not) they or their policies are. A landslide approval (or defeat) makes it clear where they -- and others -- are going right (or wrong). California's 1982 vote on the Peripheral Canal was interesting for the northern population's 90+ percent opposition to a canal. Sadly, that issue is "back in play" due to the assiduous lobbying of farmers for unsustainable withdrawals of water to be delivered to them by other people's money. It would be great if California voters would punish the politicians helping special interests over the majority of the population next week.

Third, voting keeps us involved in the people or policies that we supported or backed, just as we pay more attention to news from the schools we attended, the countries we visited, etc. That attention means that we are more likely to make a better choice when a similar situation comes up again.

Moving to the candidates, I am voting both FOR Clinton and AGAINST Trump.

In favor of Clinton are her experience and [hard-to-see] leadership skills; the against (her email shenanigans, paid speeches to Wall Street, etc.) is not very remarkable to me when held up against common practices in US politics.2

Against Trump is everything I stand for. He's a lying, sexist, racist populist authoritarian.3 Even worse, he has no concept of economic policy, as can be seen in this open letter from 370 US-based economists [pdf],4 which rebuts his misleading lies in two pages and ends with this:
Donald Trump is a dangerous, destructive choice for the country. He misinforms the electorate, degrades trust in public institutions with conspiracy theories, and promotes willful delusion over engagement with reality. If elected, he poses a unique danger to the functioning of democratic and economic institutions, and to the prosperity of the country. For these reasons, we strongly recommend that you do not vote for Donald Trump.
Although I can't be certain, I am pretty sure that Trump as president would be a disaster for the US population (including the "less-than-college-educated white men" backing Trump), as well as the world. It may be good for rich people who can capitalize on the resulting chaos (a la Oligarchs in Putin's Russia), but I'm not in that class. Even if I was, I wouldn't want to destroy my country (or see my native country destroyed) for such a tiny personal benefit.

Bottom Line: Don't vote until you think of the direct impacts of your vote. If you're mad "at the establishment" then don't put an egotistical lunatic in charge of the establishment.

  1. The wisdom of crowds works pretty well for simple questions. In the classic case, someone asked 100 people "how much does that bull weight?" and the average of their guesses was within 1 percent of the actual weight. That method does not work so well with "should we elect George Bush president?" or "should the UK leave the EU?" as those questions involve multiple factors as well as unknown future events and decisions. (I voted for Bushes in 1988 and 2000, but not in 2004, as I found out how different terrible Bush II was.)
  2. The US system was already screwed up by gerrymandering that has resulted in 97 percent re-election rates in the US Congress (I was shocked to not see Barbara Boxer on the California ballot; she decided to step down as Senator) as well as the baleful impact of money on campaigns (and thus dependency of candidates on donors who want something in return).
  3. I have some background working with real estate developers (here's my paper describing their impact on water and urban sprawl), which helps me see how The Donald doesn't care about the wreckage of his projects, as long as they make him money.
  4. I would have signed it if if I was working in the US.
Addenda: Here's an environmental economist's perspective on how bad Trump would be, and Mathbabe discusses how Facebook distorts news and views to worsen partisan divisions (connecting this post with my post on anti-social media).


Anonymous said...

"The first most important is that voting, by forcing us to make a decision, also forces us to think about the candidates or topics at hand." - it is assuming that voters actually think about what they choose

Tina Reine said...

Your points are really good.....I wish more Americans could have read this before election day. The apathy of democratic voters is disheartening.

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