Heres a sad truth: if youre going to vote in the 2012 election because youre afraid the Right Candidate wont win (or the Wrong Candidate will) if you dont, then youre wasting your time. The probability that you die in an auto accident driving to the polling place is higher than the probability that you cast the decisive ballot. I ll be blunt: if you vote for Obama because you re afraid of a Republican win, or if you vote for the Republican because you re afraid of an Obama win, then you re wasting your time.
Youre also wasting your vote. Youve probably heard the claim that politics is too partisan, too nasty, and too disingenuous. This is perhaps to be expected; to paraphrase the philosopher Jason Brennan (whose excellent The Ethics of Voting I just reviewed for Public Choice and will discuss here in greater detail later), elections encouraged civilized conversation and thoughtful, reasoned reflection the way fraternity parties encourage temperance and sobriety. This is especially true of Presidential elections.
Despair not: Presidential elections tend to attract a lot of candidates representing a wide variety of views. This isnt usually true of state, local, and congressional elections, but Presidential elections can be referenda on worldviews. If you have unorthodox preferences, there is probably a candidate on the ballot in your state who more closely represents you than John Jackson or Jack Johnson. You can, with impunity, vote for whoever best represents your preferences. You can vote for third-party candidate Fry Zoidberg without losing sleep over whether your vote will hand the election to the greater of two evils.
Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford Universitys Brock School of Business.