Because you are highly unlikely to cast the deciding vote in the next elections, it is often said that you don’t have a reason to vote in order to change the outcomes. In a recent paper, however, Zach Barnett forcefully argues that this is a mistake. He shows how it follows, from rather conservative assumptions, that in many real-life cases the expected social value of voting is higher than its cost.
Barnett is successful, we believe, in showing that the commonly held belief – that voters do not have a reason to vote in order to change the outcomes – is way too hasty. However, Barnett is – we argue in this paper – too quick on one key premise, and once this is noticed, it becomes unclear how often Barnett’s reasoning can point to a justification of voting to change the outcomes. Barnett’s reasoning, we conclude, may apply to significantly less real-life scenarios than he suggests.
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