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Political Beliefs, Uncertainty, and the Expected Value of Paralysis

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Jason Brennan argues that most people can't have the faintest clue about the expected value of voting for either candidate in an election:They don't know the difference in the value between the candidates and they don't know they probably of being decisive. If it's not rational to buy a lottery ticket in such situations, why would it be rational to vote?But I think his framing is misleading.  It's true that a robust, precise, and dialectically persuasive estimate would take a lot of work.  But it would also take a lot of work (much more than Brennan does here!) to show that most people have no good reason to think that one candidate would be better than the other, or that they epistemically must be indifferent.  Yet that is what Brennan really needs to show, if he is to undermine the rationality of voting.(It's actually a bit unclear what Brennan's target is in that post: he moves back and forth between talking about whether voters know whether it's rational to vote and whether it is rational, given voters' knowledge, to vote.  These are not the same thing!  To be clear: I'm concerned with the latter.)To justify acting, we do not need to know the precise "difference in value between the candidates" or the precise "probability of being decisive".  Given how many people are affected by the results of a major election (like the U.S. Presidency), it suffices to have justified credence that (i) one candidate is overall better than the other, and (ii) the contest is likely to be close. (For the latter: Zach Barnett shows that granting the underdog so much as a 10% chance of an upset win typically generates a sufficient chance of "difference-making" for these purposes.)And I think it's perfectly commonplace for these two conditions to be met!  It's generally public knowledge which elections are expected to be close. As for the value claim, in contrast to Brennan's "unknown lottery" analogy, I would think any. . .

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