Mathematical Illiteracy and National Elections
August 3, 2012 § 93 Comments
The contention is often made that because a third party candidate has “zero” chances of being elected President, it is mathematically illiterate to cast one’s vote for a third party candidate. Of course the person making this contention doesn’t literally mean “zero”: he means that the odds are extremely low, akin to the odds of being struck by lightning on a cloudless day. The odds of a third party win are negligible, not zero. So far so good.
But his own argument manifests the very mathematical illiteracy he decries. The odds that his (or my) personal act of voting will determine the outcome of the election are even closer to zero than the odds that a third party will win. It is more likely that a third party will win the election than it is that my personal vote will determine the outcome.
So ironically, the contention that voting third party is only for the mathematically illiterate is only convincing to the mathematically illiterate.
Once again reality affirms that when it comes to the act of voting in a national contest, the effect of your vote on the outcome is materially (and therefore morally, as a matter of evaluating proportionate reason) irrelevant. The effect of an act of voting on the voter himself, and the persons around him, independent of the outcome of the election, is the dispositive moral consideration.