Tuesday, November 2, 2010

David Foster Wallace on voting

David Foster Wallace:

In reality, there is no such thing as not voting; you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.

“Up, Simba: Seven Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate,” in Consider the Lobster and Other Essays (New York: Little, Brown, 2007).
[In context, these sentences concern young adults and primary elections. I am taking these sentences out of context to suggest the urgency of voting in any and all elections.]

comments: 9

Anonymous said...

“. . . it lies within the power as well as the duty of all of us to recognize not only the possibility that we might be wrong but the virtual certainty that on some occasions we are bound to be. The fact that this is so does not absolve us from the duty of having views and putting them forward. But it does make it incumbent upon us to recognize the element of doubt that still surrounds the correctness of these views. And if we do that, we will not be able to lose ourselves in the transports of moral indignation against those who are of opposite opinion and follow a different line, we will put our views forward only with a prayer for forgiveness for the event that we prove to be mistaken.”

−George F Kennan

Joe DiBiase said...

Since I can't comment on the 3/18/24 post about how not voting is somehow voting, I'll comment here. I'd rather have a very low information -- or no information voter -- not vote. I realize how that may impact the overall vote totals, but wouldn't someone with little or no information on which to base his/her vote potentially be worse than a non-voter?

To address your limited menu allegory, I find the analogy inapplicable in this way: Your choice of menu item A or B will only affect what dish you may or may not get, and will have no affect on what other diners in the restaurant get. That's not how voting works.

Michael Leddy said...

Maybe I should have left comments on for that post, but I didn't want to engage anyone about the merits of third party candidates.

I think low-information voters make it more urgent for well-informed people to vote. If they don't vote, they're ceding even greater power to low-information voters.

You're right about the menu and about what other diners will be getting. I was thinking only about the individual choice: if you don't choose A or B, you give up any possibility of choosing something that's available. Do you think an allegory about ordering for the table works? (I'm serious.)

Joe DiBiase said...

Low-information voters SHOULD make it more urgent for well-informed people to vote. But I'm not certain that that's how people think.

An individual diner may choose A, B, or X. If A contains peanuts, B contains shellfish, and X contains neither. If the diner is allergic to peanuts and shellfish, X is the only rational choice. But the diner has no chance of getting X, so what does that diner do? S/he doesn't go to the restaurant.

In the present political climate it appears that many diners are allergic to peanuts and shellfish.

A variation on that scenario is that A contains peanuts, B contains something very objectionable to the diner, and X contains neither. The diner is allergic to peanuts. Since the diner has no chance of getting X, S/he chooses B and chokes it down. Or, doesn't go to the restaurant.

In my opinion, diners are tired of choking it down.

The problem, as I see it is, how did the restaurant decide to only offer A and B? It seems like a bad business model to me.

I'm not sure what you mean when you ask about ordering for the table. Can you elaborate?

Michael Leddy said...

I'm replying really quickly before a concert (audience, not performer): by ordering for the table, I meant making a choice for everyone, deciding on something that everyone will share. I agree that a menu with two attainable items is far from ideal, but given that that's the system in which we're operating, that was the basis for the analogy. If I got more thoughts, I'll add them much later tonight, or tomorrow.

Michael Leddy said...

“If I get more thoughts” — I told you I was replying quickly (dictating and correcting). Just one more thought: what I had in mind with that allegory is that there’s no point in ordering a dish that will never come to the table, something other than A or B, when A and B are the only real options — and there are no other restaurants.

Joe DiBiase said...

From an individual perspective, of course it makes no sense to order a dish that will never come to the table. If everyone limits their choice to A or B, i.e., less than desirable, or even objectionable, dishes there'll be less enthusiasm for going to the restaurant. Potentially, fewer and fewer diners will frequent the restaurant. That would be the restaurant owner's fault by staying with a bad business model. However, if more diners made their dissatisfaction known (not going to the restaurant isn't doing that, as the owner wouldn't know why people weren't coming to the restaurant), a smart owner would make more choices available.

Ordering for the table ... hmmm. I think there's a good chance that there'd be significant dissatisfaction for table mates. Not because their choice has been made for them, but because, for some, there are no good items from which to choose. In that case the only reason to go to the restaurant is to mingle with your table mates. Some may think that it's not worth going to the restaurant, and what may have been a group of friends or family members now becomes splintered and divided.

I hope the concert was good.

Michael Leddy said...

Really pursuing the allegory makes it fall apart, as there is no owner for the restaurant, only the system itself. And I agree that a two-party system is far from idea.

What I like about this allegory, imperfect as it might be (no consideration of unpalatable dishes, food allergies, prices, any of it) is that by writing it I persuaded myself about how to vote. I’ll quote what I wrote in the first allegory post: “the real choice remains,” in other words, the choice between candidates that have a realistic chance of getting elected.

Michael Leddy said...

The concert was wonderful: Ballaké Sissoko (kora) and Derek Gripper (guitar). They’re on tour and all over YouTube.