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Do Not Worship False Gods

Here’s a letter to CNN’s John King:

Mr. John King, Host
Inside Politics

Dear Mr. King:

Interviewed this election day on Washington’s WTOP radio, you exclaimed, with seeming conviction, that “of course” each person’s vote matters.

I’m sure that you understand that the probability of any one vote truly mattering in any political election in the U.S. is practically zero.  So I suspect that you, like many other people, justify your public insistence that each vote matters as being a noble lie – a claim that, while objectively false, inspires people to perform socially beneficial actions that they would otherwise be less likely to perform.

But why assume that voting is socially beneficial?  Why assume that your lie is noble?  If you instead told the truth about voting – namely, that any voter who feels that he or she has a meaningful say in electoral outcomes is deluded – people might become less enamored of politics.  Enlightened about the reality of voting, ordinary people might come to depend more on their own trustworthy personal initiative and less on the untrustworthy initiative of power-craving strangers; depend more on the very real affections and friendships of their families and neighbors and less on the fake, theatrically proclaimed affections of politicians; and depend more on merchants and employers who must compete daily to satisfy each customer and each employee and less on politicians who compete only each electoral cycle, not to satisfy each individual, but merely to win the approval of the crowd.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Jason Brennan is especially insightful on this matter.