Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Small Sacrifices for the Common Good

A non-partisan note on the election:

I am hearing reports of lines hours long. NPR says that some people actually slept at polling places so that they could be assured of being able to vote before having to go to work.

As one who often finds myself taking pot-shots at modern American society, I just want to say that I am proud of the American people today.

Law and economics scholars have repeatedly informed us that the act of voting is not in a voter's "rational self-interest." In everyday language, there ain't much in it for the voter personally. No one vote has ever decided a national election. Consequently, some L&E scholars have gone as far as to call voting "irrational."

But I prefer to think of voting as heroic. We vote because it is our social responsibility and for the common good -- in spite of the fact that it isn't in our selfish interest. Just as individual acts of selfishness create great social sins in the aggregate, individual acts of self-sacrifice create justice in the aggregate. Our voting has the potential to produce just and responsive government.

In my often-pessismistic stance, I hope I always remember that today the American people gave more thought to their country than to their own time or comfot.


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