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January 27, 2010


phil jones

Sure, but what makes people NOT start and build the kind of parties worth voting for? Or standing as independents?

If people don't think their votes count, that's because they don't see them in context. The context is that you have to gather together a party of people who believe in what you believe. You have to go out and campaign. You have to win other people over to your point of view.

As far as I can see, assuming that democracy is meant to be a kind of vending machine, where you put your vote in the slot and get back the kind of society you want (giving up in disgust if you don't), is very properly diagnosed as a desire for instant gratification.


You're wrong Chris. Clearly the reason I don't vote, as Harris explains, is because I used to buy records from HMV, but now I download them, which is far more convenient. Its been the ruin of me.

Actually, I suspect my apathy to politics began when CDs replaced vinyl and I no longer had to get off my arse to turn the record over half way through.

Luis Enrique

"I live in a safe seat. It’ll make no difference to the result whether I vote Tory, Labour or not at all. The only reason to vote lies in what Nozick called symbolic utility: to get a warm glow from identifying with particular people or values."

Doesn't it make sense to observe rules of conduct? The only reason you live in a safe seat is because more individuals vote for one party than another. If all individuals follow a rule "vote", then the outcome reflects the views of individuals. It makes sense to follow rules like "vote" because when we follow that rule, we get a good outcome. Surely you can justify observing such a rule with more than "symbolic utility"? There is actual utility when a set of individuals agree to abide by a useful rule, even if individual defections from that rule do not change the outcome in most states (and here's the important bit) conditional on others observing the rule.

Luis Enrique

I'm sure lots of people have thought about this before ... but what's the stability here?

If people start to think "I won't vote because this is a safe seat", will the seat stay safe? If stopping voting is independent of political alignment, then you'd expect the seat to stay safe but the gross number of votes to fall. But if that happens, the vote could be more easily swung if a number of minority supporting individual decide to vote.

Or, are people who decide not to vote, more likely to come from the incumbent or the challenging party?

alanm crisps

Or are the parties in the mushy middle ground so it doesn't matter that much who gets in? They used to be more polarised in the 70s/80s.

People might have got off their backsides to vote over Clause 28, nuclear disarmament, Clause 4 or not.

Now it's just management of targets isn't it?


Excellent analysis.
Also Tom Harris doesn't grasp that, for instance, the lowest turnout was at the 2001 election. That was BEFORE the internet became a routine part of our day. It obviously existed and it was getting more popular by the minute, but it had yet to (allegedly) affect our behaviour so comprehensively.


Contempt is more accurate than apathy, certainly. Jo(e) Public will more often come out with "Can't stand any of them" than "Its all fine, so it really doesn't matter" or "I'm just not interested".

Instant gratification is insignificant. This government came out and said one term isn't enough, we have a 10 year plan (think transport, famously) so you'll need to give us more time.
We did and got naff all for it.

We'd happily wait 10 years to fix a long term problem, we just lack any faith that it will come to pass.

2001 was down to that. Labour hadn't done enough wrong to get them shipped out. Tories hadn't done anything to indicate they'd be any better (and they still weren't forgiven for the 18 year administration).

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