A fascinating idea from Glen Weyl, an economist and professor at the University of Chicago, as reported by Andrew Sullivan at The Dish and Freakonomics author Steven Levitt on his blog:
Glen Weyl proposed a voting mechanism where every voter can vote as many times as he or she likes but is required pay each time. The trick is “the amount you have to pay is a function of the square of the number of votes you cast.” Steven D. Levitt summarizes:
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say the first vote costs you $1. Then to vote a second time would cost $4. The third vote would be $9, the fourth $16, and so on. A person who cast four votes would have to pay a total of $30 (1+4+9+16=30). Twenty votes would cost $2,870. One hundred votes would cost you more than $300,000. Five hundred votes would cost more than $40 million. So eventually, no matter how much you like a candidate, you choose to vote a finite number of times.
Levitt defends the idea against charges that the system favors the rich:
In our existing system of campaign contributions, there can be little doubt that the rich already have far more influence than the poor. Presumably in our current system if a rich person spent $40 million to try to influence an election, that rich person would surely hope to change the way more than 500 people vote, whereas in this system that is all the votes you get to cast for $40 million. So restricting campaign spending, in conjunction with this voting scheme, might be more democratic than our current system.
Levitt acknowledges that “it is much cheaper to buy the first votes of a lot of uninterested citizens than it is to pay the price for my 100th vote,” and is unlikely to be implemented any time soon. That’s putting it mildly.
From an email I wrote to a friend last week, who, in the words of Mitt Romney, is “severely conservative,” in a way that Romney himself never actually was:
So I read your articles, which wasn’t a problem, since reading articles is what I do with a large amount of my time lately [the articles he sent me are here, here, here, and here.] I don’t have any interest in or support for a particular candidate, though, I’m more interested in the machinations of politics, the strategy and tact that goes into elections and governing. I myself would of course never run for anything – just imagine that for a minute, what the attack ads against me would look like. Which brings me to my first point…
I am not an Obama supporter. I’m not. I voted for him, but I am not the person who thinks he has all the answers, or that liberalism and progressivism are the only paths to enlightenment. I was in 2008. I bought in to the whole hope and change, let’s-elect-the-first-black-president, history-making craziness of it. Not that my support was a whole lot of help, as I spent most of my time at that point trying to figure out if I could, in fact, ingest my own body weight in, uh, jelly beans before my liver gave out – 2008 was not a good year for me – and was just generally a worthless human being. I actually saw the final election results in Troy, where my dog-man dwelleth, rather than at home, and I never actually made it to the polls to vote for anyone. But I am not a supporter now. I think he’s made a lot of mistakes, that there are a lot of things he could have done better, that he is not an infallible individual (when he got the Nobel prize I thought that was RIDICULOUS). I think he has no where near lived up to the hope and promises he made in 2008.
From emails I sent to my mom on election day, in response to her difficulty in understanding how any of our relatives who are concerned with women’s rights could vote for Romney:
The forward thinking in-laws very well may vote on different issues than you do. I’m sure Grandma is in favor of women’s rights – I’m sure Grandpa is too, and so is dad. They would probably even agree with you that Obama is best on that issue. But they’re not voting on that issue – that’s not what is most important to them. To them, it’s probably the economy – at least I know it is for Grandpa, because he told me he’s voting Romney because Grandpa’s been a businessman all his life, it’s how he provided for his family, and Romney is a businessman too, and that is what he thinks we need to get the economy going again. That is what is most important to him. As I said in my last email, it is a question of priorities.