Mother nature flings horse chestnuts down from the trees to konk you on head. “Winter is coming!” So too society has arranged warnings of that an election is coming. Society is throwing about all the old chestnuts.
Sorties paradox is back for a visit. You remember old sorties don’t you? A grain of sand is not a heap. I add a grain. Still not a heap. So! Argh! It’s hopeless I’ll never get a heap. Heaps don’t exist. They are impossible. Might as well give up on the heap thing. Move along. Nothing to see here.
The election version of this silly chestnut substitutes votes for gains of sand, and heaps for political power.
The story goes like this. The chance your vote will effect the outcome of the election is very small. So it’s value to you must be small. So be sure to make the cost/benefit analysis before you bother to go vote.
The problem with arguments like these, so popular with the self ascribed rational man, is that in the rush to get a sweet little model we had to kill the patient.
Voting is not a game you win. Voting is one of the rituals performed to denote your membership in the body politic. That body is already heap and to think usefully about it’s function you must focus on the body, not on single cell. The argument is like saying “You don’t need that skin cell over there do you? … So see you don’t need skin.”
Chestnuts like this are deployed to a purpose. In this case the purpose is not to amuse or be cute. The purpose is to suppress turn out. High turn out is good for one side and bad for the other. It serves the same purpose as Republican resistance to simplified voter registration, or deploying a heavy police presence at polling places in black neighborhoods on election day.
It’s purpose is to shape the body politic. Like much of the rhetoric of the right it’s disingenuous. The Right isn’t anti ‘big government” it’s just against a big, diverse, body politic. A small uniform loyal body is easier to coordinate. Everything you have been so carefully taught about how politics is evil, and government is bad – it’s purpose is to convince you to volunteer to exit the body politic. Collective action is not evil. Hard? Yes. Evil? No.
That guy? The one arguing that heaps don’t exist. He’s defending his heap.