Sunday, October 21, 2012

Philosophy Professor Says We Should Let People Sell Their Vote

No, kidding, really. See The argument for vote buying by James Stacey Taylor, an associate professor of philosophy at the College of New Jersey. I hate it when philosophers work my side of the street. Oh, well, Adam Smith was a philosopher. At least Taylor uses economics jargon like externalities. Excerpts:
"Of course, there are objections to this vote-buying plan — you’re probably thinking of some right now.

One common argument is that, if vote-buying were allowed, elections would always be won by the wealthiest candidate, rather than the person with the best policies.

Another objection is that vote-buying would lead to the disenfranchisement of the poor, because they would be most likely to sell their votes and thus would lose their political voice.

And another objection is that allowing vote-buying would lead to what economists call negative externalities — bad effects that will occur for people who don’t participate in the vote-trading.
They’re all reasonable arguments — but none shows that a market in votes should be outlawed.

For starters, allowing vote-buying would not result in public offices going to the highest bidder. Some people would still refuse to sell their vote, giving it away just as they do now — and not necessarily to the wealthiest candidate who offers them the best deal.

There’s evidence all around us: Consider low-income Republicans who vote for candidates who will shrink entitlement programs; or consider wealthy Democrats who votes for candidates who will raise their taxes.

Political ideologies transcend straight cost-benefit calculations, which is why we can be sure that people with the freedom to sell their votes would not necessarily offer them to the highest bidder.

Allowing a market in votes also would not disenfranchise the poor: Candidates would compete for their votes, just as they do now. Currently, they can legally offer to enrich the poor via government policies.

But why compete only on policies? Since poor voters decide which “bundle” of policies they prefer, why shouldn’t they be allowed to choose from different bundles of policies and prices in a market for votes — especially since this will give them the immediate benefit of the price of their vote with money that hasn’t been plundered from taxpayers?

The last objection — that a politician could buy his way into office and favor some over others — has merit. But it also happens already."

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