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A new electoral system?

Economists tend to believe that voting in today’s electoral systems is a waste of your effort and time. Mathematically speaking, that’s technically true. If there’s a million people in your economy voting for a specific party, how’s your vote going to have any impact on the outcome of such an election? Might as well use the time you spent going to voting booth to do something more worthwhile, like watching cat videos or keeping up with the news on who punched whom.

Another characteristic of economists is that they love (like, I mean actually LOVE) efficiency, specifically efficiency in allocating resources. The method to achieve this utopian, perfect use of our resources is through something called the “price mechanism”. Just so that I don’t go on an excessively prolonged fangirling rant over the perfection of this mechanism, I’ll keep the description of the system short: everything is determined through prices. If you can afford the product, you should have the right to purchase it. If you can afford to produce the product at that price, you should have the right to sell it at that price. And so, the market “automatically” adjusts itself based on who can afford the product, creating a perfectly efficient interaction between consumers and suppliers.

Let’s just get to the point already. If this system is so perfect, why not have a price mechanism in our electoral system? ​ This idea was introduced by Freakonomics co-author, Steven D. Levitt, in his book “When to Rob a Bank”. What if we had to pay for our votes? Sometimes in today’s political system, you may have certain people voting just for the sake of it, maybe because all their friends are doing so. As soon as you attach a price to your vote, then only the people who actually care will vote. Another aspect of this system is that you can vote multiple times, with each new vote getting exponentially more expensive. For example:

  • Vote 1 cost $1

  • Vote 2 costs $4

  • Vote 3 costs $9

  • Vote 4 costs $16

​ And so on. Hence, your desire for a certain party to win can be reflected by the amount you spend on it. At the end, all of the funds would be collected, and would be equally dispensed to all voters.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… Rich people will have an advantage here! They will be able to spend excessive funds on their votes and sway the election in their favour! But I mean… don’t they already have substantial influence over elections anyway? Politicians spend BILLIONS of dollars on electoral campaigns. Maybe this new system will be more democratic than our existing one, if of course campaign spending is strictly limited… If this system is truly as efficient as the price mechanism, maybe we can effectively “allocate” political influence and really have socially desirable leaders in power.

Besides, the rich already consume a lot of everything, why not let them consume more of political influence?

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