The iron law of electoral influence

October 14, 2016 § 26 Comments

Participation in mass market elections in a modern liberal democracy involves asserting your own personal influence in pursuit of some specific outcome, given the options on a preselected ballot.

Your individual influence is negligible: you can only assert meaningful influence as part of a group effort. The more influence you hope to have on an election outcome, the more you must first ignore, and then embrace and affirm, liberalism.  The objective potency of your affirmation of liberalism always vastly outweighs your objective potency in terms of determining the outcome.

So here is the iron law:

Your personal influence over modern election outcomes is proportional to, and always infinitesimal in comparison to, your personal affirmation of liberalism.

§ 26 Responses to The iron law of electoral influence

  • Zippy says:

    Notice how vast numbers of the powerless affirm and embrace liberalism. Embrace and affirmation of liberalism is a necessary concomitant to having even the most infinitesimal amount of power to influence political outcomes in a modern liberal democracy.

  • […] am not voting and cannot be convinced to vote, for reasons I’ve explained many times. That doesn’t imply that I have no opinions on the […]

  • domzerchi says:

    You don’t have to choose from the options on a pre-selected ballot, since the last option in the long list is “write in.”

    Voting for a third party candidate in a presidential election gives you a chance of having a real effect, not on the election in which you are participating, but in future elections. And it’s the only way your vote will be counted if you don’t live in Broward county, Florida. If you vote for a Republican or a Democrat in Minnesota, your vote is insignificant, but a larger-than-expected vote for a third-party candidate can make news and can change future ballots. Your vote won’t be one-in-a-million.

    In the preceding paragraph “you” means “one” not “thou”. I’m not one of the people who are wasting their time trying to convince Zippy personally to vote nor do I even pretend to know who Zippy is.

  • Zippy says:

    The Iron Law still applies: your potency in affecting outcomes is proportional to, and always infinitesimal in comparison to, the potency of your embrace of liberalism.

  • domzerchi says:

    That isn’t correct mathematically. Numerically, the relative effect of your (one’s) vote is greater when you join the smaller group. Also, I’m sure the machines that count the votes aren’t programmed to weigh them by how powerfully their electors embraced liberalism. Perhaps there is an obscure platonic sense what you are saying is meaningful?

    If attempting to responsibly use the minimal amount of political power God thrust upon us by putting us in this time and place is precisely what you define “embracing liberalism” to mean, embracing liberalism is something someone who fears God and occasionally reflects on the reality of the final judgment might decide he must do, since Zippy won’t be there to keep him from falling into Hell.

    All that being said, you still ignored, as usual, the existence of multiple (more than two) choices on election ballots, which is all that I was whining about.

  • Zippy says:

    What, precisely, isn’t correct mathematically?

    Stipulating a mathematically reductive model to begin with – which already grants to much – lets suppose that you have the potency to produce outcome independent results and also to produce results which depend on your influence over the outcome. The former are not attenuated by the electoral process. The latter are attenuated by your ratio of influence over the outcome as it passes through the electoral process — influence which is negligible in a mass scale election. No signal attenuation vs orders of magnitude of signal attenuation does make the latter signal far smaller than the former, even if the former starts out stronger.

    So even if this were reducible to a strict mathematical model of commensurable signals (outcome dependent signal attenuated, outcome independent not attenuated), which it isn’t, all you’ve shown is that you don’t understand math.

    And if you don’t grasp that adding entries – including write in entries – doesn’t change things, then you simply haven’t grasped the argument.

  • domzerchi says:

    A mathematical model is not at all reductive when it comes to voting. Counting votes is a mathematical operation (summation and, well, just counting). Voting with a smaller group is more powerful, has a greater effect, than voting with a larger group–adding your write in vote for Zerchi to just one other elector would literally double his total for example. Of course the most powerful vote of all, being powerful in the sense that matters most, is the one that changes the results of a ballot that is literally just that close. Of course there would be know way to know in advance that a particular election were THAT close, unless you knew all the electors very well.

    Anyway, you have the power to vote, and in so doing, have the power to increase the yeas, the nays, or the count for your candidate. Those totals really are determined by simply counting and adding–that is the usual electoral process. The relative influence of your vote can be mathematically calculated by, in one sense, dividing by the total number of voters and, in another sense, dividing by the number who voted the way you did. It’s more complicated than that in some more complicated kinds of electoral processes–presidential elections and party conventions–although those results are also determined by simply counting and adding, basically.

    The ultimate potency, that of determining the outcome, would be something you would only have in the situation (rare in the election-day popular ballots you were referring to) where it was just so close that your voting vs not voting changed the outcome, where it were literally that close. You can have more influence in certain sorts of outcomes, like giving a third party enough votes so that it is able to get on the next ballot, since a relatively small number of votes are required.

    If you don’t understand that adding entries does change things (“officials” are actually elected, and they have significant governing and legislating power, for example), you don’t understand a very basic and essential point about the power of elections. Elections do make a difference.

  • Zippy says:


    A mathematical model is not at all reductive when it comes to voting.

    If you can’t grasp that elections are not reducible to math and nothing but math, then it is no wonder that you don’t grasp the point here.

  • Ian says:

    This is a good post. I was trying to explain to a fellow traditionalist (actually several) your position on voting (which I’ve adopted), and while he conceded that a single vote is ineffective, he responded that a single vote isn’t really the point, it’s more about “who do we support” and that this collective action could be used to prevent a catastrophe.

    But to my mind, 1) any ‘collective’ action is being done collectively with almost entirely liberals since traditionalists are too small a group to matter, so it is still mainly a liberal collective action, not a traditionalist collective action, and we thereby contribute to liberalism by partaking in this collective action; and 2) in hypothetical bizarro world where there were enough traditionalists actually to accomplish some effective collective action, it seems still they would be more effective in using their influence to convince people not to vote.

  • Ian says:

    I was trying to play devil’s advocate with myself: there are other individual actions that are negligible, but not collectively.

    For instance, take a war: maybe there are two sides that are both evil, but one is more evil than the other. You join the army of the nation that is the ‘lesser of two evils’, because you believe that the other nation is even more evil and must be stopped. Perhaps an example would be someone fighting for the Soviets in WWII to stop the Nazis because he believed the Nazis conquering Europe would be a worse outcome.

    But his joining the war effort has a negligible effect. So should he do it?

    If yes, is the difference that joining the army does not express the same support for a nation’s governance that a vote does?

  • Zippy says:


    The question is whether, empirically, in the particular war, something like the Iron Law applies. Is the ‘less evil’ side fighting a just war? Does it require you to make a ritual expression of loyalty to evil ideology? Are you entirely free to volunteer or not? Is your own home in imminent danger of being overrun by invaders? Etc.

    Shorter version: the particulars matter.

    We can come up with abstract scenarios where refraining from voting is not the best choice. The Iron Law is an Iron Law about a particular: about the modern liberal mass market democracies which actually exist, in which voting is strictly voluntary, liberalism dominates, etc. It isn’t an abstract law which applies to every conceivable abstract case of democratic elections per se. It observes that in modern liberal democracies like ours, your personal political potency is proportional to the potency of your personal embrace of liberalism, and at the same time is far less in magnitude than the potency of your personal embrace of liberalism.

    If that were true in a particular war – if the potency of your personal fighting for good was always proportional to and far less in magnitude than the evil effects of you fighting – then you should not fight.

  • Ian says:

    Thanks, Zippy, that is helpful.

  • domzerchi says:

    I’m surprised that you think that one’s political potency is “proportional to” the potency of one’s personal embrace of liberalism. That would seem to contradict the idea that liberalism is regnant, that it is the majority opinion.

    Joining a large majority doesn’t make you potent, it is an impotent move. The majority doesn’t need your help, it’s already won without you, and your joining it makes it more potent, not you. Joining the minority is a potent move in that you thereby move the minority in the direction of becoming the majority.

  • domzerchi says:

    “Proportional to” in quotes because I’m not sure what you mean by it, except that you surely must not have meant mathematical proportion.

  • Zippy says:

    Try running for the local school board as an out and proud monarchist. Just to test your assumptions.

  • Zippy says:

    I just mean your capacity to influence political decisions.

  • Zippy says:

    I have compiled a comprehensive list of vocally anti-liberal politicians in positions of significant power in the US government, who rose to their positions despite vocal and unequivocal rejection of liberalism.

    Here it is:

  • domzerchi says:

    It seems to me that joining the majority won’t make you more capable of influencing political decisions. Since it’s already the majority, the decisions were made before you joined, and all you can do is add your small voice to the rah rah. Only challenging the status quo would actually result in “influence,” that is, any kind of change.

    I’m just not getting your point; it doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I don’t know what you mean by “influence.”

  • Zippy says:


    That you don’t understand is manifest.

    Again, test your assumptions by running for local school board as an out and proud anti-liberal monarchist. See how far you get and how much capacity to make meaningful political choices you accumulate.

  • […] it is not rational as a means to oppose evil in politics through a willingness to compromise, either as an individual or as part of a group […]

  • […] Social media amplifies the personal effects of participating in liberalism’s liturgy – which are the only effects of any appreciable note – while at the same time destroying personal, Church, and family relationships; that is, […]

  • […] its own excesses as it continues to dominate more and more of reality.  We are witnessing how it absorbs and repurposes any possible incipient opposition, turning the energy of that opposition toward […]

  • domzerchi says:

    You obviously define “influence” and “potency” to mean “submitting to the majority and not making waves” which is contrary to and inconsistent with the dictionary definitions.

  • You obviously define…

    Spot the problem.

  • Zippy says:

    No, by potency I mean potency: capacity to affect important political choices.

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