Your Vote Could Be Worth A Million Dollars!

by prash on 05 Oct 2008

Peter Norvig has a fascinating calculation on his Presidential Election 2008 FAQ site that values your single, lonely, solitary vote at about $1,000,000!

In answer to his question “Is it rational to vote?”, Norvig writes:

[…]We can estimate the total monetary value by noting that the current office holder presided over a $3 trillion war and at least a $1 trillion economic meltdown. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) estimated the cost of the Bush presidency at $7.7 trillion. Let’s compromise and call it $6 trillion, and assume that the other candidate would have been revenue neutral, so the net difference of the presidential choice is $6 trillion.

The value of not voting is that you save, say, an hour of your time. If you’re an average American wage-earner, that’s about $20. In contrast, the value of voting is the probability that your vote will decide the election (1 in 6 million) times the cost difference ($6 trillion). That means the expected value of your vote is $1,000,000. What else have you ever done in your life with an expected value of a million dollars per hour? Not even Warren Buffett makes that much.

[Is it rational to vote?]

The assumption behind this calculation stems from your being in a swing state, but if you are a citizen of the United States and if you lived through the tragicomedy that was the 2000 Presidential Election, then this might not be such a far-fetched valuation after all.

Let’s get it started!

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