How Much Is Your Vote Worth?

 

shutterstock_162124301In a recent, brilliant column Thomas Sowell argued something I’ve felt for awhile: that we should encourage people who feel they’re getting a bum rap in our society to leave.

[Leftist academics] teach minorities born with an incredibly valuable windfall gain — American citizenship — that they are victims who have a grievance against people today who have done nothing to them, because of what other people did in other times. If those individuals who feel aggrieved could sell their American citizenship to eager buyers from around the world and leave, everybody would probably be better off. Those who leave would get not only a substantial sum of money — probably $100,000 or more — they would also get a valuable dose of reality elsewhere.

Dr. Sowell’s market-based approach has the advantage of replacing American malcontents with resourceful immigrants, but I’d go a step further and allow people to permanently expatriate themselves in exchange for a “severance package” of $100,000 and a plane ticket to their destination of choice. Who could ask for anything more? It certainly beats 40 acres and a mule, which implies a lot of hard work.

This led me to thinking: what other birthrights do we possess that could be either tradable or subject to sale in some sort of Beckerian rational economics?

That led me right down the road to voting.

The Left alleges that Republican calls for voter ID requirements constitute some form of poll tax or intimidation. Never mind that societies as poor as India have voter ID; the richest society on Earth can’t because, well, racism. For fairly obvious reasons, I don’t think this is convincing, as voting is very powerful — more powerful than ordering drinks at a bar! — and should have a modicum of security.

While I follow conservatives’ desire for a law & order approach to the problem, their captivation with that mode of thinking leads them to go about the problem the wrong way. While ex post facto punishment for crimes already committed is an important incentive, it’s very expensive and often does more harm than good, unless we’re talking about irredeemably violent people. Locking up inordinate numbers of not-so-bad people destroys human capital.

With that in mind, I can’t help but think that — rather than trying to keep people from voting who will use that vote to subsidize themselves at taxpayer expense  — we’d be better off just paying people not to vote?

Think about it: how much money would it take to get you to not drop your ballot in the box? Based upon my tax liability, it would have to be a fairly substantial number — say, $7,000 — but many others would settle for far less, perhaps as low as low as $1,000. My guess is that a few of those people would be voting for conservative principles.

There are two advantages to this system. First, it shortcuts the process for a lot of people who are already voting for a living. We would get to eliminate the overhead costs of a lot of the welfare state by simply giving people the money at the wellhead, and their influence upon politics would consequently diminish. They’re free to do with their money as they like and we get to go about our business.

Second, I think this is a way that we can mitigate the effect of the concentrated vs. the diffused interest, which seems like an otherwise insuperable problem. The poor will always — in the aggregate — vote for more benefits at somebody else’s expense and there are always going to be more poor people than rich people. This program would simply encourage such people to be honest about their preferences and make it easier for us to — depending on your preference — pay them off or offer them a humane safety net.

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  1. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Grin!

    • #1
  2. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    TG:Grin!

    That’s it!?!

    • #2
  3. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    The idea makes me grin.  Then, if I start thinking about how it might work in practice … well, in principle we know who the recipients of the cash would be.

    But who pays?

    • #3
  4. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    TG:The idea makes me grin. Then, if I start thinking about how it might work in practice … well, in principle we know who the recipients of the cash would be.

    But who pays?

    We know who pays.  The point is that we might be able to get away with paying less.  If net tax receivers had the choice between voting or just getting the money up front (if there’s no difference in the aggregate) their influence on politics would wane slightly.

    This would be self-regulating – how much do we need to bribe people in order to not make trouble electorally?  We know the number isn’t zero.  That option isn’t on the menu anymore.  But how can we rationally reduce the cost to us as net tax payers unless we convince people who vote for a living to stop doing so?

    • #4
  5. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Do you imagine a federal bureaucracy (plus parallel state-level bureaucracies) to distribute the no-vote funds according to a formula set by elected officials? Problematic.

    Or a “Vote Exchange,” sort of on the lines of a commodities exchange, with “no-vote” contracts bought and sold?  Also problematic, don’t you think?

    Still it’s an interesting thought – someone more clever than I am could work it into a science fiction story.

    • #5
  6. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    TG:Do you imagine a federal bureaucracy (plus parallel state-level bureaucracies) to distribute the no-vote funds according to a formula set by elected officials? Problematic.

    Or a “Vote Exchange,” sort of on the lines of a commodities exchange, with “no-vote” contracts bought and sold? Also problematic, don’t you think?

    Still it’s an interesting thought – someone more clever than I am could work it into a science fiction story.

    I think it could be a federal tax line item.

    Keeping track of people who do vote will be easier than those who don’t, so if you did vote that could flag the secretary of state’s office in your state of residence who could then transmit that to the IRS.  Seems fairly straightforward.

    • #6
  7. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    How about not only being able to sell votes but allowing other voters to buy votes from those sellers. Each voter gist a chit they can use to vote or to sell on the open market. No middle man!

    • #7
  8. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    PHCheese:How about not only being able to sell votes but allowing other voters to buy votes from those sellers. Each voter gist a chit they can use to vote or to sell on the open market. No middle man!

    The only issue then is the problem of the “evil rich” being able to “buy elections” which I’m not insensitive to.

    Trying to set a market-clearing price for votes might be the hardest part, but the good news is that elections keep on happening.

    • #8
  9. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    You way overvalue your vote.  I would easily sell mine for a few hundred dollars.   I am sure that significant portion of the population would sell it for $20 given that less than half of eligible voters actually vote.  You seem to equate economic interests with voting interest.  These are not the same.  People vote against their economic interest all the time.

    All that being said, I suggested the same thing in a comment abut a week ago.  My plan however was aimed at reducing voter fraud by paying people to register and show up at the polling place to collect their $20 for not voting.

    If I had my druthers I would place a constitutional amendment banning mail-in ballots.

    • #9
  10. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Z in MT:You way overvalue your vote. I would easily sell mine for a few hundred dollars. I am sure that significant portion of the population would sell it for $20 given that less than half of eligible voters actually vote. You seem to equate economic interests with voting interest. These are not the same. People vote against their economic interest all the time.

    All that being said, I suggested the same thing in a comment abut a week ago. My plan however was aimed at reducing voter fraud by paying people to register and show up at the polling place to collect their $20 for not voting.

    If I had my druthers I would place a constitutional amendment banning mail-in ballots.

    Yes.  I think how much I value my vote would drop precipitously if government didn’t cost me so much.  As it is, I have a vested interest in voting which is so strong that I paid for access to a website where I can complain about it.

    • #10
  11. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Simpler: One vote per thousand dollars in Net Federal Income Tax Liability paid the previous year – rounded down.

    • #11
  12. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    PHC #7 – ?and just what do you think CHICAGO DEMOCRATS have been doing for the last 60+ years. Daley could count on a PLURALITY of 110,000 votes in any given election by his control of 11 precincts. This was what “walk around money” did – then and now.

    • #12
  13. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Majestyk:

    TG:Do you imagine a federal bureaucracy (plus parallel state-level bureaucracies) to distribute the no-vote funds according to a formula set by elected officials? Problematic.

    Or a “Vote Exchange,” sort of on the lines of a commodities exchange, with “no-vote” contracts bought and sold? Also problematic, don’t you think?

    Still it’s an interesting thought – someone more clever than I am could work it into a science fiction story.

    I think it could be a federal tax line item.

    Keeping track of people who do vote will be easier than those who don’t, so if you did vote that could flag the secretary of state’s office in your state of residence who could then transmit that to the IRS. Seems fairly straightforward.

    Yes, you thought of something less problematic than the general “shape” of implementations that I imagined.  Grin.

    • #13
  14. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    I don’t have the statistics, but don’t the poor vote at a lower rate than everybody else?  I know the largest voting block is the elderly and statistically they’re the wealthiest group.

    • #14
  15. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Thelonious #14 – not in Chicago. Daley’s 11 precincts turn out some of the highest rates of voters anywhere. And they are among the p0orest ones in the city. 5 were black wards controlled by the then black congressman.

    Meanwhile the “rich” wards generally fail to turn out to support any reformers that would like to clean up the city.

    • #15
  16. user_1184 Member
    user_1184
    @MarkWilson

    Majestyk: How Much Is Your Vote Worth?

    How much are you offering?

    • #16
  17. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    thelonious:I don’t have the statistics, but don’t the poor vote at a lower rate than everybody else? I know the largest voting block is the elderly and statistically they’re the wealthiest group.

    They’re also the group which is most likely to vote conservative, AND they probably value their vote much more than the $1,000.  That combination of incentives is critical.

    • #17
  18. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Devereaux:Thelonious #14 – not in Chicago. Daley’s 11 precincts turn out some of the highest rates of voters anywhere. And they are among the p0orest ones in the city. 5 were black wards controlled by the then black congressman.

    Meanwhile the “rich” wards generally fail to turn out to support any reformers that would like to clean up the city.

    They also have the highest rates of dead people who vote.  Chicago is  a bit of an outlier.  They have their own brand of “democracy”.

    • #18
  19. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Majestyk:

    thelonious:I don’t have the statistics, but don’t the poor vote at a lower rate than everybody else? I know the largest voting block is the elderly and statistically they’re the wealthiest group.

    They’re also the group which is most likely to vote conservative, AND they probably value their vote much more than the $1,000. That combination of incentives is critical.

    You’re talking about the elderly amirite?  The elderly vote for their own government financial interests in social security and medicare.  Essentially they would buy another vote who would vote for their own subsidy for their own subsidy.

    • #19
  20. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    I don’t think my tax liability equals the amount of money I would take not to vote. My individual vote has zero effect. That doesn’t make my vote worth zero, but it’s not as if my vote will ever have any effect on my tax liability. I’d likely take a $500 or thereabouts, even though my tax liability is way more than that. Enough to buy myself (or my wife) something frivolous, but nice. Like some jewelry or an Xbox One.

    Now, if I knew someone was paying people like me not to vote in the hopes of changing the outcome of the election, I’d charge much more.

    • #20
  21. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    gts109:I don’t think my tax liability equals the amount of money I would take not to vote. My individual vote has zero effect. That doesn’t make my vote worth zero, but it’s not as if my vote will ever have any effect on my tax liability. I’d likely take a $500 or thereabouts, even though my tax liability is way more than that. Enough to buy myself (or my wife) something frivolous, but nice. Like some jewelry or an Xbox One.

    Now, if I knew someone was paying people like me not to vote in the hopes of changing the outcome of the election, I’d charge much more.

    Your individual vote has zero effect?  Is that because you vote a straight Libertarian/Green Ticket?

    • #21
  22. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    No, I pretty much vote straight Republican. It has no effect because it has not ever changed the outcome of an election, nor is it likely ever to do so, even in a race for dog catcher.

    • #22
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