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Primary voting, economically speaking

With the primaries underway and everyone starting to convert their bickering over the Republican candidates into actual primary votes, it seems appropriate to take a logical look at what your primary vote means.

I know that people in many states don’t think their primary vote means much, which is why we saw the rash of “Nuh-uh, we want to vote first,” attempts by states to push up their primaries this year.  The process for primary voting is a something for another article entirely.  However, for insight as to what your vote means on a personal level, a little basic economics lesson is in order.

One of the very first principles involved in comprehending economics is to understand why and how man acts.  It is important to realize that man acts in a world of scarcity.  We cannot all posses everything, all the time.  We have to make choices, and those choices are at the root of human behavior.  In order for man to act, he must first be uncomfortable.  Unless we are uncomfortable, we will not act, for there is no inherent reason to do so.  Second, man must believe that his actions will result in some benefit for himself.  If there is no perceived benefit, then there is again no inherent reason to act.  Third, choice has to be involved.  Human action can only be understood through choices.  When compulsion is forcing us to act one way or another, we are not making pure decisions; we are making decisions based on the threat of punishment for non-compliance.

Now when man realizes that he is uncomfortable, say in his current chair, and he realizes that there is another chair that he can move to which may be more comfortable, he must make a split-second decision about the cost of his choice.  No choice is without a cost.  If the man gives up his current chair, he loses the ability to sit in his current chair (because he cannot occupy both chairs at once).  [Yes, he can move back to his original chair, but we are talking about the instantaneous decision to make himself more comfortable in one isolated moment.]  In order to possibly gain more comfort, man must first give up something (his current chair).

In that instant decision, man will always innately choose what he values most.  The value derived from his decision will outweigh the cost to obtain what he wants (otherwise he would not choose it).  This value is subjective for every person, and even every decision.  What is valuable to man may change over time, but in this instant, man will choose what he values most.

Now as this relates to the current primaries, I want to caution you to examine what you really value.  Far too often, people make their decision about who to vote for based on an instant accounting of what they value most.  Some people value voting for the perceived winner more than they value reading up on the candidates platforms and selecting whom they believe will do the best job (Mitt Romney voters, anyone?).  Others value a candidate based on one platform position more than they value a candidate who will honor the Constitutional role of the government (Rick Santorum…anyone?).

What each person values most is subjective, and in the world of identity politics it is difficult to remember what matters most.  We have to nominate a person who will hold our rights under the Constitution more sacred than any platform statement, voting bloc, or campaign donor.  It is not what we want in a candidate that matters; it is the candidate who wants what is right under the Constitution.  We have to mesh what we value most with who we know to be the correct candidate for the office of President of the United States of America. If you want to vote for  President of My Religion, or President of Don’t Cut Medicare, just remember that kind of voting is how we ended up with the President of Hope and Change (and Green Jobs, and Czars, and Regulation, and Continued Unemployment, etc.).

In order to understand the true value of the choices we make, we have to understand that when we make a choice, we are giving up the cost plus the ability to have the next best thing.  Say, for example that you spend ten dollars on a book that you value (the thing you valued most at the moment you decided to spend your money), you are not only spending that ten dollars, but you are also giving up your ability to purchase something else that costs ten dollars (the next best thing).  The cost does not include the infinite amount of things you could buy for ten dollars, because we cannot all have all things at once.  However, you are choosing that one item over the next best thing that you value almost as much – the thing you could have purchased with your ten dollars, but didn’t.

When it comes to voting, remember that you are not just using your vote to select a candidate, but you are giving up your right to vote for the next best candidate.  “Perfect!” you say. “I don’t want the next best guy, I want the best!”  Not so fast.  If your first choice in the moment that you selected for your candidate was the guy who gives you what you want, but not what the nation needs, than the true cost of your nominee could be not only your vote, but the protection of your rights under the Constitution.

So as we enter primary season and the candidates vie to be the one you value most at decision time, choose wisely.  What you may desire in the moment will have ramifications far beyond the day you spend your vote.



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