Let’s say you live in a small town during a mayoral election. There are only two candidates running for mayor that have any chance of winning.

The first candidate is a convicted child murderer, having murdered 40 kids in his past. This is not an accusation, it’s a matter of fact and record. The guy doesn’t even deny it (though obviously he doesn’t like talking about it).

The second candidate is also a convicted child murder. He’s murdered 35 kids in his past. Again, this is a matter of record and isn’t disputed by anyone, including people in his own campaign.

You’re a registered voter in your town, and want what’s best for your town. How do you handle this odd scenario? Both candidates are clearly evil people who have done evil things and are likely to do evil things in the future.

If you were irrational, you would do the following…

You would go on the attack against the guy who murdered 40 children, and spend the next several months telling everyone you know about how horrible the town would be if this horrible child murderer got into office. You’d go online and research all the horrible things this murderer has ever said and done and throw it in the face of everyone you talked to.

If anyone countered you, saying that you’re supporting someone who has also murdered children, you’d snort and say that your guy was “better” because he (or she) “only” murdered 35 children. You’d be sure to put the word “only” in front of that 35 number to make the number sound less significant.

If you were really pressed on it, you might grudgingly agree that voting for a child murderer might be a bad thing, but you’d quickly add that a person who’s murdered 35 kids is clearly less bad than someone who’s murdered 40. If we’re going to have one of these disgusting murderers run our city, you’d say, we might as well vote for the one who’s done less murdering.

You would keep saying this, over and over again, to the point where you actually believed it. Soon, you would end up actually wanting the 35-child murderer for mayor and be very scared and/or angry at the thought that the 40-child murderer might be elected.

Let’s say that in the next mayoral election, once again, two child murderers were the only two candidates with any chance of winning. Let’s say that you kept right on voting for the murderer who you thought was “better,” or at least “less bad.” This kept happening to this town over and over again.

Obviously, the voter I just described is a madman. This voter would willfully vote for child murderers repeatedly while brainwashed into thinking he was doing something good.

Soon, the city government would be full of child murderers, and many children would start dying mysterious deaths. Yet this voter would keep voting for these people, with great fervor.

Since everyone kept voting for the lesser of two evils, the town would slowly become more and more evil, until it collapsed entirely. There is no other possible result. 

That’s if you were irrational. What if you were a rational, clear-thinking person instead?

First off, you wouldn’t even consider voting for anyone who’s murdered any children in their past, for any reason. It wouldn’t matter if the person had murdered 40 kids, 35 kids, or even one child. Watching people people actually engage in debate about murderers of 40 kids or 35 kids being better or worse would confuse and sicken you. You’re not going to go vote for child murderers, period. Even the thought of doing so would be abhorrent to you.

The next thing you might do is to see if there was a third option you could vote for, someone who hasn’t killed any kids. However, as I said above, you happen to live in a town where either no one else is running, or where the rules are such that only child murderers ever have any chance of winning. Therefore, voting for a third option might feel good, but doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

Lastly, you’d look around, and see all of your fellow townspeople scream their heads off about how we all need to vote for the person who’s “only” murdered 35 children. Then, if you were a rational person, you’d say, “I live in a town full of insane people. I need to forget about these horrible elections and need to make plans to move somewhere else.”

8 thoughts on “Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils

  1. This is a terrible though exercise. First of all it doesn’t really make sense to assume that the person who killed 35 kids is better than the person who killed 40. The numbers are both absurdly high and quite close. But let’s pretend there was a more clear difference. Like one candidate wanted to increase the amount of money taken from me and increase the laws regulating my behavior and one wanted to decrease taxes, reduce regulations, and maybe do something I don’t like such as wasting money on an already huge military. I do not like either of them but one is clearly far more destructive and will make my life worse. Sure I could move but as you know preparing to move takes time and in the meantime if I am going to ruled I would rather have a say in who rules me.

    A much better argument against voting would be that most of us do not live in swing states thus at the national level voting for most of us is a waste of time. But in a small town where you vote and campaigning efforts are somewhat meaningful to not try to choose the better ruler is stupid.

  2. Your analogies for human irrationality are hilarious. 2 + 2 = 5 was probably my favorite, but this and Rock-shitting Wongles are great too.

  3. @Terrible Arguement

    I think you’re missing the point of the article. NEITHER of the two candidates described by Caleb are “better” than the other. They’re both evil bastards who don’t deserve support. Even if one is “less evil”…..they’re still evil. Why would any rational person throw their support behind either candidate? It wouldn’t make any sense.

    Regarding your two suggested hypothetical candidates, there’s still no reason to vote for either. Neither of them jives with what you, the voter, actually wants. Choosing one because they’re “less evil” is not the smart move. There are other options for you as an individual voter.

    A) Seek out a third option and support their campaign. Find a candidate who advocates best what you desire in a leader (i.e. supports the most personal freedom, favors the least amount of taxes, etc.)

    B) If there is no third candidate who fits the bill, and you can’t opt out of having the laws enforced upon you by the “evil” candidates, then it would be time to move to a place where their influence wouldn’t have any effect upon you at all (or at least VERY little).

    Bottom line, if the candidate you support doesn’t stand for the majority of issues important to you, then it’s irrational to support them.

  4. What if you live in a country where voting is compulsory and you can’t or don’t want to move?

  5. This country needs a “none of the above” option on the ballot. It’s essentially a vote of no confidence in the governing body which is what these jagoffs need to see. Some countries do have this very option when voting. I hate the lesser of 2 evils argument. I’m not voting for either candidate.

  6. a small town where you vote and campaigning efforts are somewhat meaningful to not try to choose the better ruler is stupid.

    Yup, you irrationally think one of the two evil candidates is “better.” Thanks for proving my point.

    Regarding your two suggested hypothetical candidates, there’s still no reason to vote for either. Neither of them jives with what you, the voter, actually wants. Choosing one because they’re “less evil” is not the smart move.

    Correct, because continuing to do so slowly creates an evil town. Or country. No other result is possible.

    If a voter wanted an evil town or country, then he/she would behaving rationally in voting for a less evil candidate. But then, such a voter would not perceive such a candidate as evil.

    There are millions of people who think Hillary Clinton is actually a good candidate, for example. They don’t view it as voting for a lesser evil at all. Therefore voters like this are misguided, but not irrational. The irrational voter says, “This person is evil but I’ll vote for them anyway since the other person is (in my opinion) more evil.”

    What if you live in a country where voting is compulsory and you can’t or don’t want to move?

    Then that’s your fault, isn’t it?

    You’re choosing to live in a country that is slowly becoming more evil with every national election.

    This country needs a “none of the above” option on the ballot.

    I’ve thought this for many years, ever since I’ve heard Jesse Ventura suggest it.

    It’s a nice thought but the elites will never let it happen.

  7. Problem is, there are not many towns (countries) that are a lot better than the town we live in. We have to weigh the dysfunction of the town against moving to a foreign land where we may or may not know the language and where none of our friends live. Lets face it. Moving to a new location where you don’t speak the language, the laws and customs are different than at home can be a huge hurdle. Do I need a lawyer to rent a place? What if the contract has gotcha’s in it? Do I need to bribe the police if I get pulled over for traffic stop? Do I tip the waitresses? What the fuck does that sign say? It is exhausting.

    Sometimes you just have to suck it up and live with the child murderer.

    We’ll see. I have not decided whether 35 child murders is enough to get me to move yet. Maybe when the whole town is in danger of going bankrupt it will be motive enough to move away.

  8. Problem is, there are not many towns (countries) that are a lot better than the town we live in.

    Have you not been reading my Moving Out of the Country series? There are plenty of places that are fine to live in outside of the US/Europe.

    Sometimes you just have to suck it up and live with the child murderer.

    Living there for a time before things get too horrible is one thing. That’s what I’m doing.

    Voting for that child murder is something else. That’s that I’m talking about in the article.

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