Friday, July 22, 2016

The Instrumental Value of One Vote

Over in this Leiter thread, some philosophers seem to be dismissing the instrumental value of voting (for Clinton over Trump) for misguided reasons:

(1) That a marginal vote is "astronomically unlikely to change the outcome."

This is not true,* at least for those who are able to vote in a swing state. According to Gelman, Silver and Edlin (p.325), the chance of a marginal vote altering the election outcome is as high as 1 in 10 million, depending on the state.  Given that the outcome will in turn affect hundreds of millions (or even billions) of people, voting for Clinton in a swing state arguably has significant expected value.

(2) That the system is not sensitive to a single vote, and anything close to even will be decided by the courts or the like.

The claim that insensitivity undermines marginal impact is generally fallacious.