James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the Lottery and Third Parties

How's this for an Election Day Strategy?

1. Today, when you have time to plan, estimate how long it would take to vote, how much it will take out of your day. Perhaps the polling place is next door; perhaps you live in the country and you have to drive. Maybe the only time you can go is after work, when it will be most crowded and there will be lines. In any case, rely on past experience, or, if you've never voted, ask someone who has. For myself, I'm estimating it will be 20 minutes.

2. Select a day before Election Day when you can spare the same number of minutes that you expect you would need to vote (eg, in my case, 20 minutes) by working on a project to improve your life in some small way, preferably by saving money or making money. The tasks I'm talking about can range from clipping coupons to reading an article on improving your resume, to working an extra amount of time if you're self-employed, to making a maintenance repair that, if left neglected, will cost you money. The project you choose to do is up to you, but it should be economically beneficial in some way.

3. Then, estimate how much money your efforts have saved you, or will earn you.

4. Pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment! You may be tempted to set aside more time like this.

5. On Election Day, instead of going to the polling place to vote, go to your nearest convenience store and, using the estimated amount of money you saved or earned doing your project, purchase lottery tickets.

Even if you purchase just one ticket on the game with the biggest jackpot, you have made a far more rational decision, and increased your chances of financial freedom and a better quality of life, than anything you might have done in the polling booth. This is true even in battleground states; your vote is far more likely to go uncounted or miscounted by error or fraud than it has any chance of determining the outcome. Your vote will not be a factor in who wins, let alone what decisions they will ultimately make.

I'm putting this idea "out there" for others to pick up and run with if they choose (though credit and a link back would be appreciated!). There is something to be said for this strategy: what if most people were persuaded, actually did take a positive action step or two in their own life, and played the lottery instead of voted? What if, on Election Day, only one million people cast votes nationwide, while 130 million others bought lottery tickets, many for the first time in their lives?

Talk about a crisis of legitimacy! Imagine a President facing the nation knowing that more than 99% of the people believe he's a ridiculous person who has no right whatsoever to do anything that may impact their lives?

And the advantage of buying a lottery ticket (as opposed to staying home and doing nothing) is that it wouldn't be evidence of apathy, which non-voting is perceived to be. Buying a lottery ticket on Election Day, especially if one never buys it on on any other day, would create a statistical spike that would provide information to the political class, which is: we can't be bothered to waste our time on people like you, and playing the lottery makes more sense than believing we can impact your corrupt and rigged system.

But here's a problem. Personally, I've never been spent any money on lotteries. If I'm not competent to earn millions of dollars, I'd be more likely to squander that amount in lottery winnings, and end up more miserable and unhappy than before. So I'm uncomfortable with my own proposal, even though I can't argue with the logic.

And here's another problem. I agree with the the Four Points of the Green, Nader, Libertarian, and Constitution parties. It is reminiscent of what I wrote four years ago, that the third parties are:

1. For peace.

2. For the Bill of Rights.

3. For balanced budgets.

4. Against crony capitalism - against the web of laws, regulations, taxes, and subsidies that favor corporations over small business and the people.

To vote for one of the four "minor" party candidates is to vote against the System, and to vote for the Four Points.

And here's the math:
  • To "hold your nose" and vote for the "lesser of two evils" will mean you will have a less than one-in-120 million chance of determining the election.
  • To win the "big jackpot" is something like a 1-in-20 million chance, though that depends on the particular game in your area.
  • To vote for a third-party candidate will mean roughly, on average, a one-in-100,000 chance of increasing its influence and the likelihood of attaining "major party status" in your state.
To vote for the Republican or Democrat changes nothing. To choose the lottery option is logically compelling, but would require a mass, organized effort to even be newsworthy. But every vote for a third-party candidate builds momentum for that party and decreases the lifespan of the the Two-Party Monopoly. It is perhaps the only approach that satisfies both personal satisfaction and improves the odds of a better future.

All that said, taking the time before Election Day to improve your life would probably be a good idea, even if you don't choose the lottery option on Election Day.

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