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[P]
Auctioning your vote

By SIGFPE in Culture
Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 10:11:05 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

In a capitalist economy it seems to me that things always tend towards one economy. What I mean by this is that any attempt to set up any kind of system like an alternative type of economy will always tend to eventually connect to the main economy and pressure on each side will cause equalisation just like the way joining two containers of gas results in one body of gas at constant pressure. A nice example is the game Everquest.


Everquest is meant to be a game completely separate from the real world with its own economy and yet people now pay real money for Everquest items. One thing that makes this possible is the existence of web sites like ebay that allow fast and easy transfers of property. And we're familiar with the way state controlled pricing in many countries over the world always ends up causing an alternative black market.

There is another economy that most of us get to play in. Every country has different rules. In the US everyone gets paid one token every 4 years and they can spend it on collectively bidding for a president. Whichever candidate gets the most bids gets to rule for the next 4 years. But it's hard for an economy like this to exist alongside a normal capitalist economy. For example real dollars get spent on advertising campaigns and this clearly affects how people spend their token. And now, because of the Internet, it is much easier to start trading your tokens for cash for example at www.voteauction.com.

So is this ease of trading going to drive the Western world towards a completely capitalist economy where everything has its price - including presidency? Or is voteauction.com irrelevant? Or maybe we already have such an economy.

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Poll
Should vote trading be allowed
o Yes 15%
o No 79%
o I already do 5%

Votes: 105
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Everquest
o ebay
o www.voteau ction.com
o Also by SIGFPE


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Auctioning your vote | 30 comments (27 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting topic (3.00 / 8) (#3)
by zakalwe on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 07:36:09 PM EST

I've always been fascinated by the various virtual currencies that come up. I think that if we ever reach say Culture level technology and physical wealth is so common as to be valueless, it will be things like this that we trade. Wealth will be simply scorekeeping, basicly we'll be trading reputations and virtual, arbitrary points.

Hmm. Perhaps we all ought to start Karma whoring at Slashdot for when it becomes a sellable asset :-)

Actually I'm not so sure the above is a joke - I remember something about someone offering to sell their /. userid a while back, and it's not so long ago that I'd have laughed in your face if you mentioned selling DNS names for millions of dollars.

hmmm..... (3.33 / 3) (#6)
by TuxNugget on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 08:31:40 PM EST

www.linuxfutures.com <--- Get your Tux Nuggets here.

Money is actually worth more than just for keeping score. You can also use it to allocate who has the right to do things. The person who will part with the most get the right. While the real world does this without thinking about it, it seems a bit unnatural still in the online world.

[ Parent ]

It should be allowed (3.40 / 10) (#5)
by skim123 on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 08:29:19 PM EST

Selling ones vote is akin to selling one's right to effect the government. In a rational society, if one wants to sell this, they should be able to. However, we don't live in a rational society, unfortunately, and I think far too many people would sell their vote (their liberty) for far too low a cost, allowing one person/corporation to hoard far too much of a say.

So, idealistically, yes, vote selling should be allowed. Realisitically, though, it should not be permitted.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Re: It should be allowed (4.33 / 6) (#7)
by zakalwe on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 09:20:42 PM EST

No it shouldn't be allowed, not even idealisticly. A vote is a method to determine the opinion of the governed. Being able to transfer votes wrecks the system - you are no longer getting the opinion of the electorate, you are getting the opinion of those with most money.

There's no 'right' to do this - voting is just a system, and the core of democracy depends on a non-transferable vote. A system so important should be (and is) defended from abuse like this.

[ Parent ]

Re: It should be allowed (2.50 / 4) (#8)
by skim123 on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 09:48:29 PM EST

No it shouldn't be allowed, not even idealisticly. A vote is a method to determine the opinion of the governed

Right, and, as a free person, if I wish to sell my say, my opinion, why can't I have the right to do that? Hell, if I want to sell my head right now (which would obviously mean death once the buyer was ready to claim his good), I should have that right. Of course I don't today, but, idealistically, I should have the right to sell or trade or barter whatever I so choose solongas it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others. Why can't I sell my liberty?

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Re: It should be allowed (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by zakalwe on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:58:46 PM EST

Sure, you have the right to sell your head. ( Well - make that should have.) But that's something that belongs to you. A vote is different - it's an arrangement between you and the state to allow your opinion to be heard. It's not by any means property (or even IP), and it's not something that belongs to you. It's more like a contract between you and the state. A clause in this contract specifies you can't sell the vote ( ie. there's a law against it - basicly another kind of contract between state and citizen)

Admittedly, It's probably impossible to enforce. If some guy gives you a fiver in the pub to vote for his candidate, who's going to find out. But the fact that it's illegal means it can't be done en masse, and the sale of a vote has no legal backing (you can take the money and ignore him) And unless you're buying in bulk, vote buying's pretty useless.

[ Parent ]

Re: It should be allowed (2.00 / 2) (#13)
by bobsquatch on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 01:01:35 AM EST

Hell, if I want to sell my head right now (which would obviously mean death once the buyer was ready to claim his good), I should have that right.

Penny for your thoughts, skim... ;)



[ Parent ]

Re: It should be allowed (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by brainsik on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 04:46:20 AM EST

I should have that right. Of course I don't today, but, idealistically, I should have the right to sell or trade or barter whatever I so choose solongas it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others.

When you have no money, you become more willing to do things that go against your moral, ethical, religious, health, etc., beliefs. By making certain things not available for sale, the government attempts to protect its citizens from being economical forced into doing things that few others would. By allowing anything to be sold, you create the problem that people with little money will become a type of slave, being payed to do what few others will.

To give a concrete example: Sex sells. If someone feels they could never prostitute their body, they should not have pressure applied to them to do so just because they need the money. By making prostitution illegal (and I'm not saying I agree or disagree with that policy, I'm merely using it as an example), you prevent (to the degree that enforcement of this law allows), people from being economically forced to prostitute themselves.

All in all, the balance between freedom and protection is very, very hairy.


. b r a i n s i k .
[ Parent ]
Re: It should be allowed (1.50 / 2) (#17)
by skim123 on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 05:44:08 AM EST

By making certain things not available for sale, the government attempts to protect its citizens from being economical forced into doing things that few others would

Sigh. I wish fewer people had the notion that it is OK for government to rob them of their rights in the name of "protecting themselves." Please. I am a rational being, and I can make my own decisions. I don't need the government telling me what decisions I can and cannot make. If I want to prostitute myself, I should have every right to. If I want to work as a sales exec., I should have every right to. If I want to work as ________, I should have every right to. I can make up my own mind, for who knows me better (and what decisions for me are best) than myself?

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Re: It should be allowed (2.50 / 2) (#18)
by brainsik on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 02:23:34 PM EST

Please. I am a rational being, and I can make my own decisions. I don't need the government telling me what decisions I can and cannot make. If I want to prostitute myself, I should have every right to

Let's say the government gives you the freedom to prostitute your body. That's wonderful if that's a freedom you want. But what if you don't want to prostitute your body, but you have no money and their is an agency willing to pay you a fair sum of money to do so. In this situation you have gained the freedom to do something, but lost the freedom to not do something.

It is the balance between being allowed freedom to do and having protected the right to not do that is the crux.


. b r a i n s i k .
[ Parent ]
Re: It should be allowed (2.75 / 4) (#19)
by skim123 on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 03:29:25 PM EST

It is the balance between being allowed freedom to do and having protected the right to not do that is the crux

I do not need any "giving" me the right to not do something. I can make that decision myself. If you are strapped for cash today, what do you do (since prostitution is illegal)? You... uh... get a job. Perhaps you work at McDonalds. Now, if prostitution was illegal and I was strapped for cash, and I was morally opposed to prostituting myself, why wouldn't I just get a job at McDonalds like I would now?

Children need to be protected by having rights not to do something... adults, on the other hand, can and should be able to make their own decisions. What if someone decides that keyboard usage leads to carpal tunnel syndrome, therefore the government - to protect your wrists - will make it illegal to use a computer.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Re: It should be allowed (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by 0x00 on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 08:06:06 PM EST

When I think of a company with enough money to buy votes, Microsoft instantly comes to mind. I know most of the people here wouldn't sell their vote to Microsoft (its akin to selling ones soul) but there are 280 million people in America, most of them idiots.

--
0x00

"No, I don't ride a kanagroo to school" - 1995, reply to American exchange student.


[ Parent ]
Stratify. (3.33 / 12) (#9)
by your_desired_username on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:10:47 PM EST

void take_over_world()
{
  do
  {
    buy_lots_of_votes();
    use_votes_to_pass_laws_to_make_it_easier_to_buy_votes();
  }while(!ruler_of_world());
}


Well... (2.60 / 5) (#10)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:58:38 PM EST

Morally, this is wrong. But legally, there's nothing to stop the person from voting differently than they were "bought," and it's not like the buyers would have any way of knowing they voted differently than they were paid for... right?

Too bad I'd only get $6 for my vote, living in New Mexico. Poo.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

The problem with vote-auction... (4.11 / 9) (#12)
by bgalehouse on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:02:51 PM EST

Is that there is (intentionally) no way to verify that you voted as you said you would. Voting booths are private.

This is, of course, to prevent people from being forcefully coerced (or embarrased) into voting a certain way. But it serves to keep somebody from voteauction verifying that their money was well spent.

This was actually brought up in some reading that I did. I think it was 'Secrets & Lies'. The point made there was that online voting changes this situation. If you vote with your home computer, you could be paid to install monitoring software and vote a certain way. Or you could be terrorized into doing the same thing...

Re: The problem with vote-auction... (3.75 / 4) (#14)
by zavyman on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 07:54:40 PM EST

From what I have heard, the prospective vote seller requests an absentee ballot, fills out the headers, signs it, and mails it to the recipient. That way the vote is sold and guaranteed, plus is also private. How can you beat that?

Though (if you ask me) that is a pretty shady deal.

[ Parent ]
Re: The problem with vote-auction... (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by bgalehouse on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 01:14:48 AM EST

Shady? Go through the press section of the site itself, and look at cnn articles. There are several, one is here. It is only up at all because it moved offshore.

Basically, most states and the federal government make this illegal for good reason. Besides felony convictions you risk loosing your vote altogether.

Like voting over the net, absentee ballets allow new attacks on the system - attacks which are protected against with traditional polling stations. Polling is a system which seems simple, and is very political, with ever changing admins. In computers also, this is a recipe for bad security.

Not having used absentee ballots, I don't know for certain, but one simple countermeasure would be to require the voter to seal the envelope himself and sign over the flap seam. Doesn't prevent somebody from sitting there and watching you send it, but it would make it much harder to do en mass.

[ Parent ]

Econ 101 (3.50 / 6) (#15)
by tom0 on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 11:37:43 PM EST

You have discovered a fundamental concept of economics. Of course anything can have value- whether it is your time (traded for a salary), your car, or an Everquest character... It so happens that the world has a standard set of units (currencies) to barter in, but it really boils to one big market- not "separate" economies. Sure, you can't pull an EQ item out of your monitor to hand over to someone, but there's really only a small artificial obsticle to overcome to complete a trade (for "real money" or whatever else)- an inefficiency in the market, but not a completely separate one.

It is naive to think that this overt "I'll give you $6 to vote Bob Dobbs" is some sort of new phenomenon. Think about it- what are the big promises made in elections all the time? "I will do X for you." X might be "lower your taxes", "increase your FOO benefit", "fight crime"- it might be a direct promise to somehow increase your income, or make you feel more secure, or give you some other warm fuzzy. Economics tells us these are all things with utility (value) to many people.

Back to the $6 (someone else mentioned that figure)... $6? Cripes, that's not worth the bother of the whole thing. I'd rather take my chances with the politician's "bribe" (of course, they never quite follow through with all the things they say they'll do).

Re: Econ 101 (3.33 / 3) (#20)
by SIGFPE on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 05:30:12 PM EST

It is naive to think that this overt "I'll give you $6 to vote Bob Dobbs" is some sort of new phenomenon. If that is the case then why do most people recoil in horror at the thought that votes might be traded? The secret ballot is seen as one of the great symbols of democracy and liberty in the Western world. Why is this the case if vote trading (between individual at least - vote trading between politicians plays an important part in politics in many countries) isn't new?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Re: Econ 101 (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by tom0 on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 07:40:59 PM EST

If that is the case then why do most people recoil in horror at the thought that votes might be traded?

Who knows... I suppose they don't look at the current situation from a purely economic point of view. After all, when a party has a "get out the vote" drive where they cart a bunch of people to the polling place and tell them our candidate will "lower your taxes"/"increase your benefits in the Foo program", how different is it, really?

These promises, if fulfilled, can actually have a much greater economic effect on individuals- if, for example, Bush wins the US election and gets his tax reforms passed, I'll see an effect much greater than $6 in my paycheck. Of course, were I on Social Security, I might see the increase if Gore wins.

The thing is, you can't eradicate these promises from the campaigns. The candidates have to talk policy. Sure, some 3rd party could buy votes for a candidate, but is the candidate then beholden to that group? I don't necessarily think so. Is Al going to say "Screw the environment" because Big Oil bought him 10k votes? Riiiight, I can see the attack ads in 4 years (remember "read my lips"?).

I guess if people don't see that thier vote is worth more than $6, though, we might be in some big trouble.

[ Parent ]

Re: Econ 101 (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by SIGFPE on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 04:36:48 PM EST

These promises, if fulfilled, can actually have a much greater economic effect on individuals

Actually that $6 is probably larger than your expected gain from voting. Your expected gain from voting depends on the probability of your vote making a difference. Multiply this by what you expect to gain and unless you're in a very marginal region your gain is pretty small. Often much less than the salary you could earn in the time it takes you to vote. The paradox of people bothering to vote has been noted in political science books before and it seems to indicate, as you mention, a certain irrationality on the part of voters. Not surprising given how many people gamble for a negative expected profit.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Re: Econ 101 (none / 0) (#27)
by tom0 on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 05:50:13 PM EST

Of course the schemer in me is now thinking of conspiring with all the people in my district to have our own little vote, decide who should win, then manipulate the polls to a dead heat and start selling some votes. We might get the candidates to pay top dollar, since they think the race is tight, then on election day the "bought" people all vote as paid, the rest of us make sure the original outcome stands, and we split the pot. But I digress...

Yes, you're right, the less competitave a race is perceived to be, the less inclined people are to actually show up (to vote for either side). Of course, if enough people thought this way, they would be setting up the perfect circumstances to prove themselves wrong, so it would make sense we could never have this condition perpetuate if enough people were displeased with the choices of those who did vote (setting aside grand conspiracy theories, of course).

People act irrationally more often than not, at least in my opinion (and I'm as guilty as anyone). Think about religion: as far as I know, nobody has scientifically proven a religion "correct", but billions of people have faith in them. (Flame retardant: personally, I love just about all the basic values the various religions promote, with the notable exception of the whole "holy war"/Inquisition-type catagory, and, though I don't believe in any, I think they have a positive affect on the world in general). The lottery, though, is one of the great examples, since it can be shown that it is a net (expected) loss to play when the pot is below some critical threshold... Of course, the combinatorics is beyond many people, and the thought of a cool million is both powerful, and easier to imagine than the astronomical odds.

[ Parent ]

Re: Econ 101 (none / 0) (#30)
by SIGFPE on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 01:03:48 PM EST

You've got me thinking now.

Suppose on some remote Isle where vote trading is allowed there are two candidates: Gush and Bore. The voters consist of 6 Borites and 5 Gushites. The Borites stand to gain $100 each if Bore achieves power and 0 otherwise. The Gushites stand to gain $100 if Gush wins and 0 otherwise. Now suppose I'm a Borite and that everyone is a naive rational voter: then clearly I should vote Bore because then he'll win and I get $100. But suppose I am the only islander smart enough to know about tactical voting and to think of vote trading. Then I can do something like charge the 5 Gushites $21 each in return for voting Gush. I stand to gain $125 by voting against my obvious preference and the Gushites will each gain $79 instead of zero. Depending on the numbers involved it might be worth my while getting some more Borites to vote Gush and share the profits.

Now here's the interesting thing: if everyone is a bargaining tactical voter it's probably worthwhile the Borites and Gushites getting together to share out the profits so that everyone gains $50 rather than $100 being concentrated in one group or other. So the net effect of vote trading is to result in greater equity. Without vote trading it's in the interest of parties in a two-party democracy to bribe only 51% or so of the population. With vote trading you need to be able to bribe everyone because if you don't bargaining will go on.

Of course I'm sure the Libertarians would tell you they knew that already!
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Voting from the Computer (3.00 / 4) (#22)
by 0x00 on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 07:52:50 PM EST

By voting from your computer, this would instantly involve some sort of verification system, and this could be continually linked to you after you have signed(?) it. It would be much much easier for the government to log who was voting for who - a little like someone always watching over your shoulder in the voting booth, or them ticking your vote off next to your name on the ballot role.

I'm not saying they would do this, but I don't think that I would trust them not to. It would be way to tempting for any goverment to just create a huge list, put your voting statistics on file and have them as a permanent record.

If an online voting system came in, I'd definately still be driving down on saturday morning to place my vote on a piece of paper.

Maybe I'm just paranoid.

--
0x00

(I'm Australian - I've been watching those American elections. It makes me feel better about my own country)

[ Parent ]
Don't auction your vote - spend it. (none / 0) (#26)
by itsbruce on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 04:50:45 PM EST

The proposal doesn't go far enough. If votes can be tradable commodities, why not treat them as currency?

Issue each citizen a set number of votes when they reach maturity and then let them spend them as they wish. I did consider having the votes expire with the citizen but I realised that a good way to bankrupt your enemy would be to kill all the people whose votes he held. Giving votes an unlimited lifespan introduces inflation - which is good, since people then can't just sit on the votes they've accumulated but have to make them work and keep them in circulation. To compensate for that, though, you'd have to index-link the number of votes given at maturity. Which would cause more inflation, I suppose. That, at least, would give big business an interest in keeping the birth rate down - although there's a tension there, since they also need consumers to sell to. Hmm. How long before they suggest sterilising the poor (who have already spent their votes on basics and no longer have any influence)? Ah....

Ok, Ok, renting your vote, that's the answer. Must be...

--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
Re: Don't auction your vote - spend it. (none / 0) (#28)
by SIGFPE on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 06:53:40 PM EST

Well what I'm arguing is that you can't make an artificial currency - there is only one market and hence one currency (unless you have enforceable laws to dictate otherwise). If you're going to allow people to spend votes you might as well just give them money and have them buy the right to vote.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Re: Don't auction your vote - spend it. (none / 0) (#29)
by itsbruce on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 07:25:21 PM EST

Well what I'm arguing is that you can't make an artificial currency - there is only one market and hence one currency
LETS?

--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
Auctioning your vote | 30 comments (27 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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