Sunday, November 23, 2008

To vote or not to vote - for what?

Megan McArdle has some buyer's remorse about her electoral choice. In an electoral system system with only two viable options, there is always the temptation to view those options on a single dimension spectrum - after all two points define a line, but not a plane, much less a space of higher dimension. This time, for example, Megan looks at the dimension competence vs. "painting a pretty picture for voters." I would argue that, before the actual results are in, the utility of viewing any candidate in American politics through this prism asymptotically approaches zero - or you could just use the simple proxy of "has/doesn't have a campaign strategist."
Moreover, such a strategy - prioritizing one dimension, with maybe a couple more as tie-breakers, without accounting for spreads between positions and for absolute position on an axis - can lock a voter into a pattern of "practical voting" that can turn out very ugly in the long run. Perry de Havilland of Samizdata summarizes it superbly
here. An excerpt:
Guys, you have been voting for the lesser evil for so long you may have lost sight of the fact that you have been voting for evil, just a tiny bit less than the other guy."
PPAA prefers to look at Nolan charts, only of the multi-dimensional kind, along the lines of the ones suggested by the Friesian Institute, and his default position is to not vote - it is up to a candidate to convince him that he or she is good enough, not just better.

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