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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 September 15, 2020

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

    Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

    We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

    We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

    Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

    Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

    Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

    We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

    Give yourself more credit than that.

    You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

    Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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    When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

    When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

    Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

    4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

    Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

    Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

    6. Effort Matters, So Use It

    It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

    Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

    Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

    Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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    Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

    And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

    7. Start With Something Manageable

    You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

    Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

    You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

    More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

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