6 Oct 2011


Last month, our dear colleague asked us to vote him as a representative in the Faculty. I could not be more surprised. Clearly not every researcher, including brilliant ones, dreads meetings. Summer bugs cannot talk about ice.

Every year there are at least several entries at the Freakonomics blog on voting. One of the earlier stories goes like this:

An economist met another economist at a polling station. After an embarrassing moment of silence, one of them said sheepishly, “My wife made me come.” The other responded, “Me too.” The first economist came up with an idea, “If you promise not to tell anybody I came here, neither would I.” The colleague eagerly shook his hand and said, “Deal.”

As Steven Levitt explained, the chance of a single vote to change the outcome of an election is infinitesimal. Therefore, at the individual level, voting is almost always a waste of time.

This view is a taboo according to the current general education curriculum. Voting is our civil responsibility. You may also argue that if everybody holds the same pragmatic view and does not show up at elections, the society would be at stake.

Let me ask you a question: Have you helped at an elderly home last weekend? Okay, some of you have. Have you helped in Fukushima then? There are many things ought to be done in this world, but it does not mean we have to do every one of those ourselves. For example, I regularly do volunteer work in some areas, and can feel at ease when I cannot help on other occasions. Of course, it could be problematic if nobody shows up at elections. But would it really happen?

So, did I vote in the end?

What a question! First, I promised to vote. Second, our colleague would make a great representative. Third, unlike a usual election, I need to lower my own chance of being elected.

Congratulations, R!

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