This election season is predicted to be the most expensive in human history, with about $6 billion spent from all sources on ads, voter drives and other campaign techniques. $6 billion sounds like a lot, but if you divide it by the approximate number of registered voters in the country (210 million) it works out to about $28 per voter. I would gladly pay $28.00 to have my personal airspace clear of stupid, misleading or merely anxiety-provoking ads telling me to either do what I was going to do anyway, or what I can hardly imagine myself doing. It gives me no pleasure at all to think that somebody out there thinks each of us is worth $28 of broadcast lies and distortion.
So let’s be more rational about it. Perhaps 10 percent of the voters, or 21 million, are really undecided. Then saving the pot for them would result in a great benefit of $280, which could pay somebody’s cable subscription for six months, or cover a month or so of heating oil in a Northeastern state. Old-fashioned bribery would at least confer something of use on the lucky undecideds. For the transaction to be rational for both sides, however, the vote would have to be sold in an observable, verifiable way. Perhaps corruption teams could go door to door and, in order to maintain the appearance of fairness, give paired presentations (perhaps concluding with a binding offer) before the lucky voter casts the ballot and collects the prize.
Another side effect: there would be no advantage in party membership any longer. It would be advantageous to be undecided. And pretty soon it would be obvious that a mere $280 wouldn’t buy much of anyone’s vote. We’d be on the way to the $6 trillion election season; the whole economy would turn itself inside out and be dedicated to buying off the undecideds who convey temporary ownership of the Treasury, the courts, the army, the national parks, and other valuable properties.
Serious electoral reform would be more sensible. And it would leave us more time to do interesting and useful things. I hate to think of the amount of time I have had to devote– me, the least undecided of voters– to reading the emollient blab emitted by those cheapskate investors in my time and vote.