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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Another example of economics stumbling over itself

As a follow-up to my most recent post, I came across this which talks about when it is rational to vote in elections. This is just something I came across, and I'm sure there are others. This has been a hot topic in economics and game theory for more than a decade now.

In fact, I remember one of my econ profs during my undergrad days talking about this talking and talking about how he was completely dumbfounded by the idea that people voted - he just didn't understand why they would. Afterall, "rational" people think at the margin, and voting is hardly an excercise where one vote counts for much.

And I remember thinking at the time, "uhh, what's so hard to understand? Do economists really think people really go to vote JUST for the purpose of hoping to help enact X legislation or install Y governor? How ridiculous.

People of course vote for numerous reasons including: something to do, feelings of patriotism, feelings of community, an excuse to take off work and not feel guilty... ie, the additional costs of transport, lost wage, and/or time are exceeded by the benefits of all the mentioned items plus I'm sure others. Of course voters are rational --- just not confined to the small space that some economists want to put them in. This is just a typical case of an economist's assumption (that a person votes only for reason X) being, well, just plain silly. But notice feelings of community etc are not things easily modeled by math, hence the reason economists tend to ignore that and the like.

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