Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I Favor Votes as Commodities rather than Duties

A couple of days ago, I received an interesting comment from @tirtasusilo on my latest post. His question is: "How would you persuade someone who is against vote buying because he/she considers voting a duty, not a commodity?" First of all, a rational person should not consider voting as merely a duty as I argue here. But surely, giving that kind of answer would be cheap. So I'll try to answer that question through this post.

What would a person think about his vote if he considers it as a duty? My assumption: he takes voting as a way to do the right thing. He votes because he believes that he does something for the betterment of society. Consequently, voting should never be traded. You don't trade what is right only for money. While his notion might be tempting for a lot of people, I'm afraid I have to say that it is this notion that persuades political parties to use vote buying to get what they want.

First of all, we cannot effectively prevent people from picking their own preferences, whether they want to protect the integrity of their votes or they think that voting is a crap mechanism which means nothing, or that voting is a valuable item that can be traded for a good price, etc. The fact that there are many preferences means that sly politicians can use different methods of persuasion for getting as many support as possible from the voters, including building an image as good politicians in front the media to get votes from the duty oriented guys and using tricky methods (including money and political promises) to gain additional votes from the commodity oriented guys. In this case, we are not maximizing the utility of the duty oriented guys, we're maximizing the utility of politicians and commodity oriented guys.

Now, if duty oriented guys really want to maximize their interest, i.e. preventing politicians from vote buying, they should agree with the system that I proposed, i.e. legalizing vote buying with certain conditions. The reason is simple, such system is created for the sole purpose of reducing vote buying, it is created not to let people trade their votes like crazy but to keep people from buying and selling their votes. Think it as a more efficient solution that basically satisfies the interest of the voters (for getting a better election in term of fairness and quality) and imposes significant additional burden to politicians who dare to use money in getting their support.

Sure, we can always resort to the old school style, such as making vote buying as an illegal act and enforcing heavy punishments against violators of vote buying restriction. The question is: will that be efficient in Indonesia case? How much money do you think that we have spent for the entire national and regional election? These costs include campaign costs, the "hidden" vote buying costs, candidates disputes costs, enforcement costs, etc. Not only that these costs are damn expensive, we still end up with buffoons as our leaders. And being rational, these buffoons will most likely try to do anything to recoup all of their costs during the election. After all, no sane people will go and spend most of his fortunes for securing a position if he don't expect some benefits from getting that position. What could be even worse than that?

So, considering the above argument, if these duty oriented guys really care about doing the right thing, would they pick the "right" method that will produce the "not right" results, or would they pick the seemingly "not right" method that will produce the "right" results?


family lawyer perth Wednesday, April 18, 2012 8:56:00 AM  

The key thing here is voters choosing who they want. Throwing money or any form of compensation into the equation I think muddles things up. I do see your point though. However, this will need a lot of studying, regardless of country.

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