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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Non-voting at Reason

I've written elsewhere about my checkered history with Reason magazine. I won't rehearse that here, but will add I'm underwhelmed by Katherine Mangu-Ward's November cover story "Your Vote Doesn't Count: Why (almost) everyone should stay home on Election Day." It focuses on the idea that it is extremely unlikely your vote will provide the margin of difference in any election, so why bother? (As opposed to the idea, also espoused in libertarian circles, that voting is bad because it legitimizes government.)

But that same logic could be applied to any activity in which you're contributing to a collective outcome, and these are not all analogous to being the 101st shooter in a firing squad. Consider, for example, contributing money to Reason magazine. It is extremely unlikely that your donation will make the difference between the magazine staying in business or not, hiring a person or not, or running any article or not. (Unless perhaps you're very generous.) So, why bother?

The answer is because donating money, like voting, is similar to being a construction worker adding bricks to a huge wall. If you don't do it, someone else may do it. If enough people don't do it, it won't get done. How high or solid the wall is, as well as whether it exists at all, are outcomes that depend on numerous people doing their part. The outcomes will differ depending on who does (or doesn't) participate.

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