Weekend voting?


Whyteusday.org proposes that elections be moved to a weekend instead of a Tuesday to make it more convenient for Americans to vote. Earlier this year, President Obama endorsed similar action. There’s even a Ted talk on it! However, most of the arguments for such a reform miss a vital point. Voting is an economic activity. Because government is the instrument of coercion in the marketplace, there is an incentive to keep voting. Whereas most defenses of these proposals center on some sort of egalitarian ideal, they need to be based off of economic realities. While moving voting to a weekend would make voting more convenient, it also has to be paired with a promised real economic outcome in order to spark voter interest. Americans vote when there is more of a perceived benefit to them then the effort used to vote, therefore they vote when they are aware of the issues, care about the issues, and voting is convenient.

People of higher education statistically vote more frequently than other demographics. No doubt this is due to 1.) People of higher education generally have more property or debt i.e. they have more to gain by voting. 2.) They are more aware of how the government can effect their livelihood, and therefore the perceived benefit of voting is higher than for other demographics. These facts are born out by the fact that Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul have been the most popular candidates (if I do say so myself, I offer a better argument than the linked article) among college students in the most recent elections. Since they offered the most economic change, they were bound to be more popular among different ideologies than the more moderate candidates.

Income has also been pointed out to be a factor in determining voter activity. This is also due to primarily two reasons. 1.) More property and debt, just like those of higher education. 2.) The cost of voting is more offset as a percentage of income. Therefore, those of higher income perceive the value of voting as higher. So it is not that there is an economic ruling class that suppresses the vote of the lower incomes, it merely makes sense given an examination of praxeological marginal utility.

The last issue, that of convenience, is the only issue addressed by the weekend voting proponents. Although they do have an argument from economic convenience, their reasoning is egalitarian. Their basic supposition is that if voting were made an absolute convenience, our politicians would have more moral authority because more people would elect them. But if voting is made an absolute convenience, than those who have very little at stake when voting still perceive voting as valuable via marginal utility. This encourages institutional theft since the government is the force of coercion in the market.

In conclusion, the weekend voter movement is inherently flawed due to a romanticized view of voting. However, their proposal might be useful if the government monopoly of education was broken up so that big government indoctrination was a non-factor in the perceived benefit of voting. Therefore, bringing voting closer to the level of absolute convenience would not pose the threat to property rights that it otherwise would given the small stake that some new voters would have in voting. Finally, if they were truly consistent with their ideal of getting the most possible people to vote, they would advocate extreme decentralization of decision making because the value of voting would skyrocket for the average American. His vote would not be blunted by a Leviathan of bureaucracy, therefore improving the marginal utility of his vote in his mind.

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