Why Swing State Voting Is Not (Usually) Effective Altruism: The Bad News about the Good News about Voting

Monday, October 25 at 12:00 PM

A Policy Lunch Seminar with Jason Brennan, Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Recent arguments allege that the probability of casting a decisive vote in a key swing state is higher than traditionally thought. In light of these arguments, a number of philosophers and social scientists such as William MacAskill and Aaron Edlin, Andrew Gelman, and Noah Kaplan have defended what we will call theCharitable Voting Hypothesis: casting a vote in a key swing state is like donating thousands of dollars to charity. We contend that the argument for the charitable voting hypothesis fails. First, advocates do not account for the untrustworthiness of voters’ assessments of the value difference of candidates. Moreover, their basic model of the expected social value of a vote is incomplete because it examines a vote in isolation, neglecting how voter turn out affects which candidates parties run and what sorts of platforms the parties espouse. We also explain why positive and normative uncertainty about the welfare effects of different policies makes voting a morally risky activity, particularly compared to conventional forms of effective giving.

Watch the event coverage here.