Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Democracy And The Prisoner's Dilemma

A recent story that touched on motivations for voting one way or another has reminded me that elections can be seen through the lens of the famous Prisoner's Dilemma psychological game. In that game, two "criminals" are offered plea deals to turn in their partner but both will go free if neither confesses, and neither knows what the other will do.

It seems to me that there is a similar game people need to play when they vote because they do not know for sure how everyone else will vote--or how many people will vote. If someone wants to vote for the person they feel is the best choice but know their vote might be more strategically placed for someone who is less desirable but far more acceptable than someone who is completed unacceptable, what does one do? Do you take the "deal" and accept something less-than-perfect in order to be sure the worst choice doesn't win, or do you hope that the votes in the unknown block go with the best choice and give that person the win? How will those people answer this same question?

So, I'm left asking, is the democratic process as we know it doing the best it can do for us? If not, how can it be improved? Should we all get a chance to change our votes after an initial count is made public?

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