jump to navigation

That thing the blogosphere does November 11, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, blogging, ideas, politics.

I dont know. I dont know anything. Sometimes, I just dont have an opinion, or I hold several views that seldom reconcile – either because I consider myself insufficiently informed or because thats very much the nature of the problem.

One of the consequences of being a blogosphere freak is being reminded of the above again and again. Mainstream media is elitist, there is nothing you can do about that. But with the blogosohere, people who would otherwise never be relaying their views do so, creating such a diversity of views that you actually get to see democracy in action. ( okay, that was some exaggeration there :)). Anyway, let me get to the point.

Consider this post from Mankiw Chacha, my very Indian way of referring to one of my favorite bloggers !

Sometimes the most responsible thing a person can do on election day is stay at home.

…So the next time a friend of yours tells you he’s not voting, don’t try to change his mind. It’s a good bet that if he’s not voting, he’s not been following the election closely anyway. Maybe he watched a baseball game instead of the debates. Maybe he is bored silly with all the talk of targeted tax cuts, privatized social security, and campaign finance reform. Maybe he’s as ignorant about public policy as those focus groups of undecided voters that are the media’s latest darling.

So rather than pushing your friend to the polls, perhaps you should thank him for staying at home. He’s making your vote count just a little bit more.

Yeah, its that last bit there – you already see this is getting controversial since what is implied is that some votes are actually more important than others. Blasphemous, isnt it ? No wonder, this article he wrote in 2000 US presidential election eve wasn’t approved for publication by his editors at Fortune.

Setting aside all political correctness, (of which I have been accused of having little) , my first impression was maybe he is more right than wrong. But lets come to that later, for now head to the comments section.

Commenter 1 explains it as ‘Crowd-think’, or a sense of belonging.

I suspect a lot of people vote for the same reason I do – they want to “cheer on” policies and politicians they support and feel like they belong to something larger.

Commenter 2 thinks like an economist

You’ve made my point: the “feeling” you write of is based on fallacy. If you really go to the polls to enjoy the fruits of camaraderie and groupthink, then the actual process of casting the ballot would be irrelevant. You could simply go to campaign rallies and prance about like a good little cheerleader. Alternatively, you could go to the polling station to take in the atmosphere, then leave when the marginal cost of staying equals the marginal benefit. The casting of the ballot would be irrelevant at best and a time-consuming diversion at worst.

Commenter 3 treads the middle-path between symbolism and pragmatism

The reason they want more people to vote is because that lends legitimacy to the elected government, meaning that the state is free-er to do whatever the hell it wants. The majority of people just want to get on with their lives, without having a bunch of politicians running around changing stuff for the sake of it. There is no way of voting for this in a democracy, especially in the media age, as democratic politicians have to sell themselves as proactive and exciting in order to get the people out and voting.

Commenter 4 flames Mankiw Chacha

Why is it that whenever I hear someone advocating that some people shouldn’t vote (or worse be allowed to vote) they are always concerned with the intelligence of the other guy? This idea that people don’t vote because they aren’t well enough informed just sounds wrong. I’m an advocate of voting. There are two reasons I’ve heard from people who don’t vote: 1) My vote doesn’t count — this is the mistaken notion that their 1 vote out of millions doesn’t mean anything; 2) Politicians are crooks and I’m not going to legitimize a corrupt system. To be sure, those are paraphrases of answers that might be very involved. But, oddly enough, no one answered the way Mankiw’s article suggests.

Commenter 5 is the politician’s worst enemy – a fresh perspective

You should vote, and encourage your friends and neighbors to vote, regardless of how many issues they in fact vote on or which side they vote for. The reason is that politicians appeal to large groups of likely voters with policy proposals and legislation. The elderly vote; therefore, there are many laws and proposals to benefit the elderly. Twenty-somethings do not vote, so politicians ignore them. You as an individual will benefit by getting lots of people like you to go to the polls — doesn’t matter who they vote for. Once you get people to the polls, politicians will bid for their votes.

Coming back to the original point of the article, I think it makes sense. My uninformed vote would dilute and distort election results. But unless it is impressed upon the citizen that voting is his duty, he will unlikely ever take up upon him the task of informing himself so that vote can count. The line of reasoning would be something like this – “Well, my uninformed vote is a danger to democracy. Therefore, I will not vote.” – instead of – “My uninformed vote is unhealthy to democracy but voting is my duty. Therefore, I will keep myself informed so that the next time I can vote.”

Yes, hanging around these topical and intellectually stimulating blogs, and the comments section that are high on intellectual exchanges laced with humor/tongue-in-cheek likely improves your analytical and debating skills and might even increase your knowledge. There is however a risk of turning you into an intellectual snob. Now lets get really tongue-in-cheek here – the only people that the blogosphere does no harm are those who are intellectual snobs already, others beware !



No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: