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Politics 2.0: Hack the Vote

Politics 2.0: Hack the Vote

Hack the Vote

    On Election Day, millions of people will go to the polls and vote for either Republican candidate John McCain or Democratic candidate Barack Obama. And they will do so for the wrong reasons. Instead of voting for the candidate on the ballot who would best represent their views, they will vote for McCain or Obama because they fear that if they don’t vote for one of them, they will help the wrong guy win. They will vote based not on their beliefs, but based on their fears.

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    This is both unfortunate and unnecessary because in spite of its numerous fundamental flaws, the American political system provides voters with an outlet by which to express their preferences about policies and political philosophies. Unfortunately, many of us will waste this precious opportunity on Election Day by voting for a candidate who do not represent our views. Of course, if Obama or McCain do represent your views better than any of the other candidates, then you should vote for one of them. I fear, though, that this is not the case for most voters. American voters deserve better.

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    One of the great things about Presidential elections is that they attract candidates from across the ideological spectrum. There are many, many alternatives, and regardless of your political persuasion there is likely to be a candidate out there for you. In the internet age, it takes minimal effort to find out who is running and what they stand for. You might find that you most closely agree with Cynthia McKinney. Or Bob Barr. Or Ralph Nader.  Or Chuck Baldwin. Or Lobsterman. Or even John McCain or Barack Obama. Regardless, you should vote for the candidate who most closely represents what you believe in without worrying about whether your non-traditional vote will help “the wrong guy” win.

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    In addition, looking at standings in national polls is the wrong way to decide because of the Electoral College. What matters is the race in your state of residence and people’s estimates of what will happen there. In my state, Tennessee, the prediction markets at www.intrade.com are predicting an 80-90% chance that McCain will win Tennessee, where I live. They are making a similar prediction about Obama’s chances of winning California. To take just two examples, it is virtually certain that McCain will carry Tennessee and Obama will carry California. For that matter, McCain is a virtual lock to take the entire South while Obama is a virtual lock to take most of the Northeast and the West Coast. When you vote, you can safely treat these outcomes as foregone conclusions. You can rest comfortably with the knowledge that your vote will not have any bearing on the final choice.

    The probability that your vote will affect the outcome of the Presidential election is, for all intents and purposes, zero. For your vote to be decisive, the election has to be decided by fewer electoral votes than your state represents, and your state then has to be decided by exactly one vote. Even in Florida in 2000, a single vote would not have mattered. If I remember correctly, George W. Bush won the state by 166 votes. An additional vote for Al Gore would have meant that Bush won by 165 votes. An additional vote for Bush would have meant that Bush won by 167 votes. An additional vote for Ralph Nader or Patrick Buchanan or any of the other candidates would have meant that Bush won by 166 votes.

    When we go into the polling booth, we should take others’ votes as given and then vote our consciences, knowing full well that our individual votes will not make a difference with respect to the outcome of the election. Paradoxically, this is extremely liberating because it removes the strictures of choice in a two-party system, opens up a world of possibilities, and elevates the level of political discussion.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

    Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

    Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

    What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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    If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

    Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

    These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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    Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

    On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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