Size Does Matter

November 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

I keep encountering what strikes me as a bizarre resistance to the manifest proposition that as the scale of an election goes up, other things equal, an individual voter’s influence over the outcome goes down. In an election with a hundred and fifty million voters a single voter has far less influence over the outcome than in an election with ten voters. Some folks do not want to accept this as manifest. I have a very difficult time taking such resistance seriously, but I’ll give it one last shot.

Imagine that we are faced with the following scenario:

A vote is to be held to overturn Roe vs. Wade. There are two options. Either the entire electorate will vote on the question, or 9 individuals will vote on the question. You are one of the nine.

Do you think your personal influence over the outcome is greater, less, or the same if the issue is decided by the committee of nine on which you personally sit, or as one individual voter out of a hundred and fifty million voters? In which scenario do you personally have more influence?

If a voter’s influence over election outcomes does not attenuate with the scale of the election, then a Supreme Court justice has no more influence over cases brought before the Court than the average voter has over the outcome of a Presidential election.

Obviously this is ludicrous, whatever arguments are rallied to attempt to support it. If an argument comes to a contrary conclusion that means the argument is suspect, it doesn’t make the principle suspect. So can we put this one to rest?


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