The Economist's Apprentice

In which a little girl confronts the world and battles the anti-humans.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Voting Lotteries

The average voter spends little time accumulating knowledge that would be useful for selecting candidates. This is not surprising given that each individual's vote is next to worthless, given that the probability of affecting the outcome is close to zero.

One way to encourage policy education by voters is to limit the number of those eligible to vote. The smaller the electorate, the more important each vote becomes. In order to preserve the principle of equality, the right to vote can be allocated through a random draw. Right after a presidential election, a small number of people could be selected, perhaps one per congressional district, who would have the right to vote in the next presidential election. Given the advance notice, they would have the chance to educate themselves on the relevant issues. Non-profit groups would probably be created to facilitate the education of voters. Public interest groups might even finance sabbaticals so that voters could study policy without the distraction of work.

Voters would be able to accept money for listening to policy presentations from special interest groups in the same way politicians accept campaign contributions. Given a secret ballot, these contributions could not buy votes, they could only buy access to present the special interest's story.

Currently, impersonal polls dominate the coverage of elections. Under a franchise lottery, voter surveys would be replaced by human interest stories, as each elector would hold immense sway. Moderate voters would become celebrities, as America would watch every aspect of their decision process.


At 11:33 AM, Blogger Andrew Marx said...

One question I have is this: is it rational for me to risk entrusting my share in democratic participation to a geographic constituency selected at random? What if Broward County is the big winner? We'd probably see FEMA's hurricance relief budget grow 1,000-fold.

If raising the stakes of voting at the district level would really help to make the electorate better informed, then I suppose we need to make the House of Representatives more powerful.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Miss Emily Anne said...

If one person is allowed to vote per congressional district, I don't see how any geographic constituency would get increased power.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Andrew Marx said...

You've outwitted me once again! I misread your proposal.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Miss Emily Anne said...

I love how my picture appears next to my comments. I'm so freaking cute.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Steamboat Lion said...

A better approach would be to require those who wish to vote to complete appropriate training. A foundation course in economics, politics and law, plus a bi-partisan briefing on current issues would suffice. Then we would have an electorate that is highly motivated and knowledgable.

Of course it ain't gunna happen and even if it did, those who pursue power for it's own sake would soon find a way to pervert it. Democracy is fundamentally flawed, but unlike other forms of government the people tend to get the government they deserve. It is entirely our fault that we are governed by men and women who pander to the worst in our nature - greed and ignorance.

At 8:31 AM, Blogger John T. Kennedy said...

Or how about this: What if nobody gets to vote, and individuals arrange their lives through voluntary transactions of their own choosing?

Just a thought.


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