Why Vote

Naturally on election day, I’m seeing a lot of talk on econ and political science blogs about the question of should people vote — either as a measure of self-interested rationality or else as a measure of rational altruism. I think there’s a lot to be said for the second account, but it’s worth saying that I’m not even sure voting is really even a costly activity. I had to stand on a relatively long line this morning and wait about 75 minutes. I think that’s an unusually long amount of time. But how costly was it? Well, the time cost has mostly been deducted from time I would have spent at the gym and from time I would have spent at work. Going to the gym and going to work are good things for me to do, in the long run, but they’re not especially awesome and I’m not sorry to have given them up for a day. The alternative, standing in line while reading the paper, saying “hi” to neighbors I know as they join the line, chatting with the people next to me about the election, etc. was perfectly pleasant.

I wouldn’t want to do that every morning by any means. But as a once-in-a-while activity, it’s social, neighborly, and totally fun.